By Kyra Young
Beginning in January 2015, OSU will welcome a new head of the Department of Physics. Dr. Heidi Schellman is a fellow of the American Physical Society, and does international research on high-energy physics. She has chaired the physics and astronomy programs at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University since 2010. While there she created smaller class sizes and drop-in tutoring for undergraduate students, as well as increased funding for graduate students, and she also developed courses designed to help underrepresented groups succeed in courses of study, among other notable accomplishments.
A math major as an undergrad at Stanford, she worked as a programmer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator after graduation, and decided that she liked the mixture of theory and practice in experimental physics. She describes her love of physics succinctly: “Physicists get to build things!”
Schellman touts physics as a good combination of the theoretical and the practical. While she began as a mathematician and still loves math, she enjoys that physics gives one the ability to use both math and practical knowledge of the world together. Her husband is also a physicist, and though they don’t work on the same official experiments together, they “have a lot of fun together figuring out how everyday things work.” Both of Schellman’s parents were chemistry professors at the University of Oregon, so she was always around labs growing up. Her mother was a postdoc with Linus Payling at CalTech University in the 50s and became one of the first women in the physical sciences at University of Oregon. Schellman’s Oregon connections run deep.
At Oregon State, Schellman says her goals surround “building on the existing commitment to education.” She hopes to add new initiatives like eCampus courses. She has a lot of praise for the program already, saying, “The department is already in really good shape! They’ve hired some great young people and a large part of my job will be helping them move to the next level.”