For the last few years, Associate Professor of Physics Markus Greiner has been hot stuff on the physics circuit.
“Every year, the American Physical Society holds a conference for Atomic Molecular Optical Physics. When he speaks ... he fills the room, even at an 8 a.m. talk,” said M. Eric Tai, one of the graduate students working in the Greiner lab.
Despite his fame in the physics world, Greiner’s greatest appeal to students seems to come from his down-to-earth attitude. At the end of a class, he takes his undergraduates out to ice cream. He also invites his graduate students to lunch on a regular basis. “He is so laid-back [that] you wouldn’t expect him to be so good,” said Tai.
Besides being approachable, he is also committed to sparking passion for learning. “My approach of teaching is as much hands on as possible, as much intuitive as possible, as much to foster creativity as possible ... so students can explore how exciting physics can be,” said Greiner.
His methods appear to be working. “I didn’t understand how to visualize what he was deriving for us, so Professor Greiner built a laser setup and brought it in to class,” said Vijay Jain ’11, a former student. “We learned directly from the table ... rather than long, drawn-out derivations.”
For Professor Greiner, the purpose of physics is not to get stressed out about grades or to find the perfect internship. Rather, it is about exploring unsolved mysteries and remaining curious about puzzles.
“Sometimes it is not just important to have straight A’s,” said Greiner. “It is sometimes important to be creative.”