PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century
Gregory J. Falabella
F21 Class of 2004 Statement
What is your vision of a robust research-rich learning environment?
As an undergraduate I went through the required courses earning high grades but no true appreciation for the sciences and how they impacted the world in which we live. My employment in industry immediately following graduation was my first true exposure to problem solving. The challenge of applying all that I had learned, and not just a small piece of the puzzle, piqued my curiosity and motivated me to further my education. Since then I have been a firm believer that students should be exposed to more than just textbook problems.
Upon accepting a tenure-track position at Wagner College in 1999 I revamped the physics laboratory curriculum so that introductory laboratory sessions bridged the gap between what the students were already familiar with and the new concepts being taught. As I explain in the preface of my book, Laboratory Experiments for Introductory College Physics, students need to begin with tools they inherently trust and rediscover for themselves basic concepts. It is only then that they can make the connection between the textbook and the real world. The set of experiments I designed not only reinforce classroom material but also broaden the student’s background. With the help of my mentor and distinguished colleague Otto Raths, the intermediate and advanced labs have also been transformed and now acquaint students with state of the art equipment and engage them in the pursuit of new knowledge via independent projects.
Most importantly, however, I have played a leadership role in promoting undergraduate research. As Campus Coordinator for the Eastern Colleges Science Conference (the largest undergraduate research conference in the United States), a member of the ECSC Board of Directors, co-chair of the Committee for Undergraduate Research and coeditor of the Wagner Forum for Undergraduate Research I constantly encourage all students to pursue their passions and become involved in extracurricular activities. I have personally involved physics, mathematics, pre-med, computer science and even non-science majors in credible research projects leading to theses and presentations at conferences. Just last year one of my physics majors received an award for his outstanding work on aircraft icing.
In so far as future goals are concerned, I hope to sustain an atmosphere of scholarly research among our students and perpetuate an even greater appreciation for the sciences at Wagner. I plan to do this through the design of interdisciplinary courses specifically geared towards non-science majors. I would also like my work to spill over into the local community and impact K-12 education. Having already coordinated several science workshops for elementary school students I am optimistic about the future.