Physics major awarded scholarship

Student sets sights on teaching high school, wins national education scholarship


Photo by Glen Olson

Michael Yohn, junior physics education major, holds the halfpipe built to study liquid flows. © 2014 Glen Olson

Story by Glen Olson, Staff Writer

Junior physics education major Michael Yohn was awarded the Barbara Lotze Scholarship for Future Teachers last month.

Yohn is the first person from UW-Eau Claire, and one of only five students nationally, to receive this scholarship.

The American Association of Physics Teachers gives the scholarship to future high school teachers.

Yohn said he knew he wanted to focus on education even before college.

“In high school, I started off just helping people who were in classes with me,” Yohn said. “It felt good to help people understand what I felt was so cool about what I was learning.”

J. Erik Hendrickson, a physics professor and Yohn’s advisor, said over the past several years, he saw Yohn’s aptitude for teaching and connecting with classes grow.

“He just blossomed,” Hendrickson said. “As he finally figured out his way of being in front of

Hendrickson said although Yohn hasn’t done any student teaching yet, he has been able to get experience working with students through the physics department as a lab assistant and member of the Society of Physics Students.

In one of those classes, Physics 100, Yohn worked as a lab mentor answering questions and doing reviews for freshman outside the physics major.

Yohn has experience explaining and reviewing physics with students, who like high school students, aren’t focused on a physics degree.

“That was highly enjoyable,” Yohn said. “It was pretty much the pick-me-up of my Monday.”

Matt Evans, who enlisted Yohn  as a lab assistant, said Yohn, then a freshman, did research with him on liquids and halfpipes.

Yohn has been involved in the department ever since he arrived, Evans said.

“We all saw how he evolved from someone who came in without much knowledge, to someone who really tries to help his fellow students,” Evans said. “As a lab TA and really went out of his way to be a resource for other students in both physics and at the university.”

Yohn came to the university with almost junior standing through retroactive credits, which  he used to take more classes, do more in physics and gain more experience working with other students and explaining material.

In addition to working with the physics department and being a member of the Society of Physics Students, Yohn is also a student member of the American Association of Physics Teachers and Sigma Pi Sigma.

Yohn said acting as an ambassador for physics to high school students is tough but rewarding.

“You have to figure out how you’re going to make what you love relevant to them, and just make it as awesome for them as it is for you,” Yohn said.