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The Following are excerpts from comments that alumni made about the Paradigms program, to be included in our article in Physics Today.
The paradigms helped me understand the material better through visual aids and computer simulations. When you see it graphically, the physics of the problem becomes clear and gives life to the derived mathematical expressions. The project also helped students learn how to teach one another. Due to the rapid pace, everyone at some point in the program found themselves lost in the material. This provided multiple opportunities for fellow students to teach concepts.
—Tyson Olheiser, graduate student in physics at University of Illinois
The Paradigms program was very good about teaching me to use my resources, whether it be professors, texts, or journal articles. The program overall built my confidence because it was challenging. In retrospect, having the shortened, more intensive classes kept us on the ball more. Subjects were fresh and there was those elements of excitement and uncertainty going directly from finishing a difficult Paradigm to starting a new one with a new professor.
—Megan Kalstadt, graduate student in Bioengineering at Arizona State University
Prior to these classes, my only physics had been a first year calculus-based intro course. The experience in Paradigms was a complete departure from this. There wasn't much in the way of plugging things into formulas, but rather a focus on how to attack problems as a physicist would attack the problem. There was one other thing about the paradigm courses that really impressed me, and that was the way it drew all the majors together to work on things. There is nothing like this in mathematics, and it impressed me greatly.
—Sam Cook, graduate student in mathematics at Oregon State University
One of the best things about organizing the classes by "paradigm" rather than by application was that each concept was applied to different areas of physics in rapid succession. This encouraged me to see each concept as a useful tool rather than as a math trick specialized to a narrow set of problems. Learning this way was extremely exciting and I remember toying with the application of basis functions, vector fields and canonical ensembles to diverse things like taste, color, economics and evolution. I learned faster in paradigms than at any other time in college.
—Ethan Bernard, graduate student at Cornell University
The paradigms program exposed us to the necessity of time management and prioritization. We always had something due, and we needed time everyday for something that was due or to simply catch up. This is immensely useful now that I am in grad school. As we had the class everyday, it was generally easy to follow from one day to the next. When I have 3 to 5 days between classes, I have almost no recollection of the specifics from the previous discussion.
—Rachel Bartlett, graduate student in Medical Physics at the University of Wisconsin
Coming from the Paradigms background, I immediately felt comfortable working in a team atmosphere: sharing ideas, problem-solving, double-checking your work with others. The other benefit of the Paradigms program I have found was becoming accustomed to the quick turn-around between projects. Since the classes were only 3 weeks long, you got used concentrating heavily on one area, then switching focus to another concentration. This, I have found, is exactly what the production environment is like.
—Mike Joyer, engineer at aerospace company
The Paradigms curriculum constructed my knowledge from a fundamental level, with each paradigm building on the last. The emphasis on big-picture learning and universal problem-solving carries over in my graduate studies today. Additionally, I feel the pace and difficulty prepared me for the challenge of graduate school.
—Loren Linden-Levy, graduate student in physics at University of Illinois