is a great way to learn. I have students every day—electricians,
mechanics, builders—who ask me questions I never thought
about. Perspective is extremely valuable in the study of physics.”
or intimidating? As in most areas of physics, there’s a razor’s
edge to walk when the subject is presented in the classroom. For
Fay Lai, this is the ‘thin ice’ where she loves to skate.
“Physics has a tough reputation with students because they
think it’s the hardest subject at the university. Many dread
it because it’s required for transfer to engineering school,”
she says. “But it’s not as bad as people think. And
I want my students to know that my classes will be as fun as possible.
When you enjoy a subject—and feel free to laugh in a classroom—you
will learn it much better.”
for Fay, is as much about learning as it is about directing inquiry.
“Students with poor math backgrounds or who are weak in sciences:
They ask the most provocative questions,” says Fay. “So
I have to be aware of their viewpoints and bring that into the
class.” But the great cross-section of students at SMC—who
show up from every walk of life—has Fay feeling enthusiastic
about her teaching and learning options.
has really wonderful technological support, like the VOH (Virtual
Office Hours) site where students can check in with instructors
via the Internet.” But Fay, who is from Taiwan, states that
Asian students can get the most out of SMC through face-to-face
meetings, both with teachers and with American students. “Our
culture and the language difficulty make us shy; they are related
problems,” she explains. “But when Asians learn English
quickly, it opens them up. And it’s this openness that leads
to everything becoming easier.”
Professor Hsu-Feng (Fay) Lai began full-time at SMC in Fall ’99.