Mats Selen - Student Introduction

Remarks by 3a
Former student of Mats Selen
2015 Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year

Good afternoon. I am honored to introduce you all today to Professor Mats Selen.

I heard of Mats before I ever met him: amongst the physics undergraduates at the University of Illinois, it is generally agreed that Mats Selen is one of the best professors you could ever meet. After having him for my freshman physics class, I would have to agree. This was a lecture with over 300 students. But with Mats standing at the front of the room, the class didn’t feel so large. His lectures were always full of energy. He made my first college physics class fun.

I wasn’t the type of student who frequented office hours, so I got to know Mats through a different venue: Physics Van. Physics Van is an educational outreach group that Mats started back in 1994. We travel to local elementary schools and perform fun physics demonstrations that cover forces, electricity, states of matter, and more, with a couple of liquid nitrogen explosions to close out the show because, let’s face it, it’s fun to go out with a bang. With Physics Van, we teach the students basic physics, but even more than that we try to show them that science is fun. That sense of fun and excitement is the spirit that Mats encapsulates.

I was one of the student leaders of Physics Van during my last two years at Illinois, and Mats was our advisor. It was always clear that he trusted us to run the group that he created. He gave us the freedom to lead Physics Van and make it our own. But if there was ever a problem, or if we were planning something new and wanted advice about how to proceed, Mats was available and ready to help. He was always very encouraging of all of us students in Physics Van.

Working with Mats and seeing the lasting impact he has had with education and outreach at the University of Illinois and the surrounding community has given me a model to aspire to. As I become involved with educational outreach groups in Tucson, I constantly find myself looking back to the skills and the passion that I learned from Mats.

Mats is truly a wonderful mentor and teacher. I can think of no one more deserving of being the Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year. Please join me in welcoming Professor Mats Selen!