(As originally published in the spring 2013 issue of etc magazine.)
Lane Seeley, Associate Professor of Physics
Hometown: Tacoma, Washington
How do you help students not be afraid of physics if they don’t consider themselves “science types”?
An art major might say they don’t think scientifically, but the truth is they’re really good at visualizing things or creatively modeling things. I help students see that they can apply the tools that they do have to the sciences. Rather than learn about science, we do science — and learn about science in the process.
Some people think the sciences and faith don’t mix. What do you think?
Through physics we can get a glimpse of the elegant and subtle patterns that help us make sense of the physical world. God blessed us with a natural world that everyone could begin understanding — but nobody will finish understanding.
You’ve been at SPU since 2001. How have your students changed in that time?
Today’s students have never known a time when they couldn’t access any information that they needed at the touch of a button or Google search. I think that changes the dynamic of the classroom. We as teachers can see ourselves more and more helping students make sense of the information that they have available rather than be the only source of information.
What kinds of jobs do your physics majors go into after graduation?
We have a number of students who go into teaching; others go into graduate school. One student was a runner, and she became a researcher for athletic shoes.
Is it true you run marathons?
I did an Iron Man Triathlon in 2008, and I may do another one. I swam and ran in high school and college, and picked up cycling after that. I’ve never been very fast, and so I’ve always done better when the distances are longer. The Iron Man took me nine hours and 21 minutes to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then run a marathon.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a physicist pretty early on. My grandfather was a physics professor and he’d come up with fun contraptions. He rigged his TV so he could control the volume with a light switch, and he put outlets on the couch. The other career I considered was being a cowboy.
Who’s your favorite movie character?
Indiana Jones. He might also be one of the reasons I went into academics. He was a professor and he made it look really good. And he never had to grade assignments or publish papers.