"Discovery is thrilling. When you are teaching, you get to help people find that same thrill of discovery every day."

Professor of Physics and Astronomy Tom Solomon's office overflows with dunking birds, yo-yos, Slinkies, rubber chickens, tops and scores of other toys-all in the name of teaching physics.

"I'm known for having the messiest office and the biggest toy collection on campus," Solomon says. "Physics is not just a textbook subject. I like to relate it to the real world by using demonstrations with toys."

For example, says the accomplished scholar in the field of chaotic mixing and front propagation, there is a tremendous amount of physics in the dunking bird, which demonstrates how a heat engine works. "It's also incredibly cool," says Solomon. "I mean, it has a top hat and everything!"

Solomon says he came to Bucknell 19 years ago because the University was – and remains – one of the few places where he can both teach undergraduates and run a cutting-edge research program. In fact, for Solomon, research is a powerful form of teaching.

"Undergraduate students play an important role in every aspect of our research program, which has received awards from the National Science Foundation and Research Corporation and is considered among the world's leading in our field," says Solomon. The students plan and design experiments, construct and test apparatus and data acquisition devices, write results for publication, and present at conferences. Of Solomon's 20 journal publications since coming to Bucknell, 19 of them have undergraduates as co-authors.

"Discovery is thrilling," says Solomon. "When you are teaching, you get to help people find that same thrill of discovery every day."

Posted November 2012

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