What can a business student learn from a physicist?

Miika Korppi, Douglas Osheroff, and Antti Halme

This summer we have had and will have a chance to meet and get to talk to four Stanford faculty members. This past Wednesday a bunch of international students got together with Prof. Douglas Osheroff. He has been awarded numerous honors for his research in physics – among those Nobel Prize in Physics in 1996. What makes Mr. Osheroff special is that he knows both how to do science but also how to teach people. Indeed, that is an uncommon gift. These are the three key takeaways from his speech.

Stanford University gave Mr. Osheroff their Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1991. In his presentation, Mr. Osheroff talked a lot about his past teachers. First of all, a good teacher is capable of engaging the audience. A good teacher is able to cut away the extra material and start off with fundamentals. Mr. Osheroff said that his mission for the time being is to communicate young people around the world that science is exciting and not impossible to do. I found it surprising that Mr. Osheroff got me engaged talking about super fluids – given that my last memory in physics takes place back in 2007 in high school when we would entertain our fellow physics students by throwing rubber balls around the classroom.

Consequently, if there are teachers that have made a difference in the way you think, let them know. Teachers deserve more support than they get. Indeed, for a student, it is no big effort to send a letter or email but the letter will most likely make your teachers really happy.

Mr. Osheroff stressed that one can learn in many ways and from different people. His father got him interested in physics by simply showing his son everyday phenomena and explaining why things happen the way they do. What he said resonates with me. When I was young, my dad and mom would tell me interesting details about the nature. Learning was natural and easy. Before I left for Stanford, I remember asking my dad ”Why don’t I hear birds singing as much abroad as they do in Finland?”

Hilla Pyykkönen