Michele Gressman (UMN Physics MS)
Physics Teacher, Spring Lake Park High School
As a child Michele was always asking “why?”. A physics and engineering course in high school set her on the path to studying physics and astronomy
“For me, physics has always been about pursuing the answers to my ‘why’ questions. It made me want to learn even more about not only the world around me, but the entire universe as well.”
She double-majored in physics and astrophysics at the U, where she discovered how much she enjoyed research and doing experiments. Love of research led her to graduate school, where she taught her first class as a teaching assistant, thus changing her career path.
“[I] realized that although I enjoyed research, my true passion lay with teaching others how to answer their own “why” questions through learning physics and astronomy.”
Michele earned a MSc in physics from the University of Oklahoma, then returned to Minnesota for a Master’s of Education specializing in science eduation, and a teaching license. She teaches general and AP physics, and credits her MS in physics for being able to better prepare her AP students for college level physics.
“The critical thinking and problem-solving skills that come with learning physics are used in so many areas, from engineering to medicine to the corporate world. These same skills also allow students to be more adaptable, especially when looking for answers to their own ‘why?’ questions, even if those questions aren’t physics related.”
Paul Nyhuis (UMN Physics MS)
Professor at Concordia College in St. Paul and Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights
Care Pastor at Last City Church in St. Paul
Paul's interest in atmospheric physics and astrophysics led him to the U, where he graduated with a Master's degree in physics. Throughout his studies, he noticed that he had a knack for helping people.
"As a grad student, I worked as a teaching assistant and lab instructor and greatly enjoyed helping students."
Building upon his strengths, Paul continued on to an instruction career, teaching physics and math at Concordia College, and later physics and astronomy at Inver Hills Community College. He earned several Instructor of the year awards.
More recently, Paul began doing pastoral care for a large church, including visitation in the community, and counseling. He later started working with the Dakota County Jail, offering visitation services and leading a recovery group. Paul says that his background in physics has helped him make connections with the men he mentors.
"My background in physics enhances my credibility, and I often use interesting topics in physics and astronomy to connect with incarcerated men...The men tell me that my friendship and mentoring is having a very positive impact in their lives, helping them find meaning and enabling them to make better choices."
Paul Way (UMN Physics MS)
General Manager, Engine Liquid Filtration at Donaldson, Minneapolis MN
Paul's first encounter with physics was an AP class during his senior year of high school. During his college orientation at St. Olaf, he attended the physics department's introduction and made connections with faculty. After receiving an offer to become a physics TA in his first semester, he quickly decided to become a physics major, later adding a second major in philosophy.
Paul chose the U's graduate school over industry at first, feeling that it was the better choice for a more science focused career. He decided to change course after achieving his master's degree, feeling that a PhD was great for academia, but not needed for his intended corporate career.
"[My advisor] had a great group of students, and I was able to learn some hard skills around electronics, instrument design, analysis, and computer programing. I think it's a common physics skills set that I've found plays well in industry."
Paul worked as a physicist for the Environmental Protection Agengy, and more recently at Donaldson, Inc., a global filtration solutions company based in Minneapolis.