Whether blazing through campus on his three-wheeled scooter, wearing tie-dye, or playing substitute for professors in foreign countries, physics professor Brian Jones is always in his element.
While best known for carving up the Lory Student Center Plaza on his trike, Jones not only teaches classes and labs, but also coordinates Little Shop of Physics activities and hosts the television show “Everyday Science” for the Poudre School District.
Jones spends the majority of his time exploring and sharing his knowledge of science with students ranging from elementary to college.
But in college, Jones said he didn’t even want to teach.
“My career goal, if you asked me when I was in college, was not to teach,” Jones said.
His love for teaching came when he realized that he really just wanted to talk science in graduate school, and started teaching courses on the side.
“I realized that my true passion laid not so much with exploring, but with sharing it with people,” Jones said. “I’m discovering something, but I’m sharing it with people.”
After graduate school, Jones taught physics at Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa in Swaziland.
With physics, Jones said, he feels as if there is no language barrier.
He said that in Africa, where he didn’t speak the language, everyone understood one another through the context of the material.
“In the class it didn’t make any difference if you were from India or Singapore or Zimbabwe or Uganda; we all had this common language,” Jones said. “Wherever I go, I feel like I’m with my people.”
After his stay in Africa, Jones came to Colorado in 1989 with his wife, Carol Jones.
Jones started working for the Physics Department at CSU teaching labs. In 1990, he began teaching full courses.
“I thought this was something I could do for a year or two,” Jones said. “We could earn some money, and then I could think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” But the years kept passing, and Jones never left Fort Collins.
“Every year something came up that made it interesting to stay,” Jones said. “And after about five years we said, ‘This is where we’re staying.'”
Students say Jones’ innovative teaching style and accessibility makes him a popular professor.
“It’s always my favorite class to go to,” said senior biology major Sarah Washburn. “I know I’ll have a lot of fun, but I know I’ll be learning a lot also.”
Jones brings himself to the level of college communication, talking to his students through Facebook.
“I make it a habit to attend his office hours every week, and I don’t feel as though I am a burden for showing up.” Kyle Lohman, a senior health and exercise science major, said.
Jones’ innovative style led to the creation of the Little Shop of Physics after substituting for an eighth-grade teacher.
“At the end of class, people actually clapped,” he said.
One student came up after the lecture, suggesting that Jones give this lecture to a friend’s eighth-grade class.
“I put all my stuff on a cart, stuck it in my van, drove it to the school, and I gave a college lecture to eighth grade students,” Jones said. “It was just a disaster,”
But the Little Shop of Physics idea caught on after Jones invited the students to a more hands-on interaction in a CSU lab.
Each semester, Little Shop of Physics volunteers set up their demonstrations so CSU physics students can apply what they’ve learned in lecture.
“We figure we’ve got this great thing, why not share it with students?” Jones said.
Staff writer Johnny Hart can be reached at email@example.com.