The St. Andrew's community welcomed Dr. Aatish Bhatia to campus for the annual Crump Physics Lecture on Thursday, February 8. Dr. Bhatia, Associate Director of the Council on Science and Technology at Princeton University, spent three days on campus; visiting classes, leading student workshops, and urging the community to be more curious.
Director of Academic Innovation and physics teacher John Burk stated, "To me, the most amazing thing about Aatish's visit was how he was able to make curiosity more contagious than the flu. You could see this in his every interaction with students. They would ask a question, he would offer an incredible response, and then every time, ask the student for his or her name, and later in that day, reference that student in a later conversation."
Burk continued, "Aatish's genuine curiosity about the world around him, about St. Andrew's, and about the people he met and their interests was infectious and left us wanting to look at the world around us with a better sense of wonderment and curiosity. He shared photos of the scientist he worked with to figure out the nature of the water repelling leaves and talked about the inspiration and ideas he draws from being able to take ideas and share questions with scientific experts around the world on Twitter. He even tweeted about Nadia Holcomb '19 and her interest in bugs, in the attempt to connect her to other experts in the field!"
Students were inspired by Dr. Bhatia's workshop, where he taught a group of students how to build an electric piano out of paper and circuits. Participant Heleah Soulati '21 reflected on the lesson by saying, "The word I would use to describe the electric piano workshop would be 'eye-opening'. I never knew about the role of coding in electric circuits and the power of charcoal and led. I am so grateful I got to participate in this amazing activity."
After his visit, Dr. Bhatia reflected on his visit: "One of my favorite moments was our impromptu discussion after my talk where I was blown away by the inquisitiveness, maturity, and earnest enthusiasm that the students demonstrated. St. Andrew's really is a very unique learning community, and I'm glad to have had the chance to spend time there and learn more about it. I came away inspired by the depth of inquiry and learning that I encountered, and by the rich conversations that have given me so many good ideas about what hands-on, inquiry-based learning looks like."
Dr. Bhatia focuses on improving science instruction, developing deeper appreciation and understanding of STEM, and finding connections with other disciplines. He also oversees Princeton's Makerspace Studiolab, which brings together students from all disciplines for some impressive collaborations between STEM, Humanities and the Arts.
Burk noted, "I've followed Aatish on Twitter for the better part of a decade and always found him to be an inspirational and generous thinker. About four years ago, I had my students read his story about the physics of the Archer Fish, and one of my students, Millie Spencer '16, became so inspired that she wrote up a summary with some of her own questions about the Archer Fish on a blog. I shared the post with Aatish on Twitter, and he wrote her back. Then when Aatish visited, he remembered not only that moment but Millie's name. I was flabbergasted."