May 01, 2023

Physics lecturer Joanna Woo receives an Early Career Award for Excellence in Teaching

Physics lecturer Joanna Woo is known for her involvement and enthusiasm for Starry Nights at the Trottier Observatory.

Physics lecturer Joanna Woo is one of three recipients of the Early Career Award for Excellence in Teaching.

She is an outstanding lecturer and outreach enthusiast known for Starry Nights, SFU’s weekly star parties, where she enjoys connecting with people through her passion for astrophysics.

“When I go out there with the crowds and talk about space and look at the sky and look through the telescope, there's just a certain energy to it that. No matter how long of a day I've had, it energizes me. To be able to explain certain topics that are really amazing and mind blowing to people who hadn't thought about them is really gratifying.”

She constantly challenges herself and experiments with new ideas to deliver the best learning experience for her students. In her newly created course, PHYS 391 Observational Astrophysics, Woo incorporates the use of the SFU Trottier Observatory, which she also manages.   

In addition to improving her teaching and sharing her knowledge and expertise, Woo is experimenting with different teaching approaches to address student skill differences.

“I’ve been experimenting with active learning and getting students to do more things in class. It has helped a lot, and it really showed on the midterm with one concept that we covered in class. Basically everyone got the question right.”

Woo also emphasizes promoting inclusion and diversity in her typically male-dominated field.

“I would love it if every single person got an A in my class. One of the things that was important to me was to give students in larger classes the platform to be able to ask questions anonymously. Women and minorities in physics tend to ask a lot more questions if they can ask anonymously, and it benefits the majorities as well.”

To learn more about Woo and her work, read about her on the department of Physics' website.