Brosing named Professor of Year

Physics professor, known for potato guns, fudge and summer camps, is first at Pacific to receive statewide distinction.

Juliet Brosing stands out at formal academic events.

In contrast to the somber regalia that adorns so many of her peers, Brosing’s academic robe is bright in its fuchsia, blue and gold hues.

It’s not a choice, really, just a result of receiving her Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia.

“They’re more flamboyant (in Canada),” says the Pacific University physics professor. “It’s really quite spectacular.”

As of November, Brosing stands out in another way: as the only Pacific University faculty member ever to be named Oregon Professor of the Year.

Brosing received the 2012 title at an awards ceremony Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C. The distinction comes from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support Education. Statewide awards were given to only 30 professors in the country this year.

Brosing is the senior member of the Pacific University Physics Department, where she’s worked for 25 years. She is one of the original proponents of the department’s project-based approach to teaching the subject, which has resulted in the development of a curriculum that is almost devoid of lectures and that relies, instead, on labs and realistic simulations that help put physics in a real-world setting. 

For example, Brosing was one of the principals on a grant received to revamp the modern physics course to base it in the context of health applications. The content is the same as a traditional modern physics course, but the labs are designed to tie to healthcare applications, such as one that challenges students to identify hidden radiation sources much in the way a medical scan would.

“There is real value in these types of projects,” Brosing says. “They are learning the same physics, but in a context. They will retain more. They learn other valuable skills. And they have fun, they really get into it.”

Surprisingly, Brosing never intended to be a teacher. She completed her bachelor’s degree in physics from Humboldt State University and a master’s from Florida State University. She did her doctorate work at the University of British Columbia and post-doctorate work in New York. Her Ph.D. research centered on the biological impact of radiation, including work around measuring the impact of oxygen in the process of treating cancerous tumors with radiation.

That biological bent in her application of physics is, in part, how she ended up at Pacific, where a large percentage of undergraduates have interests in the health professions.

But when she started out, she really was just interested in doing science, she says. Part was the unadulterated love of science and math. Part, though, was the self-proclaimed “flower child’s” rebellion against expectations in a male-dominated profession.

“Since I was one of the few women in the profession and felt I needed to prove myself as a scientist, research won hands down,” she says.

As a teacher, Brosing still finds herself for advocating women in the sciences. In the 1990s, she was involved with a Department of Energy grant to support a summer science camp for middle school girls.

“When girls came to camp, they’d say, ‘I didn’t know there were other girls like me,’” Brosing says.

Her longitudinal study, later, of the participants found that a higher than average number of the participants went on to study and work in science and math, and many credited the camp for helping them stay interested in the field.

More recently, she and Dr. Shereen Khoja, in Pacific’s Math and Computer Science Department received a National Science Foundation grant to conduct a similar camp focused on computer science for middle school girls.

Brosing says that it’s disturbing that girls are coming in with the same preconceptions about their welcome in math and science fields 20 years later. But, she says she hopes that this camp will have similar positive outcomes.

“We want to give them ammunition before they get into high school,” Brosing says.

Whether she’s working with 13- and 14-year-old girls or college undergraduates, Brosing has come to love the vocation of teaching. She earns high ratings from students in her course evaluations, is known for bringing fudge to class on test days and attending her students’ plays, concerts and sporting events, and received glowing recommendations from alumni as an adviser.

“The hardest thing is to give up the idea that you can be the best teacher for everyone,” she says. “But the best thing is that, for some students, you really can touch lives and make a difference.” 

Posted by Jenni Luckett ( on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:31 AM

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