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Oregon State Everywhere: ‘One of the best decisions I ever made’

Oregon State Ecampus radiation health physics master's student Rebecca Jaronski stands next to a horse as part of a Western dressage competition

As an Oregon State Ecampus student, Rebecca Jaronski was inducted into the OSU chapter of the national Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi as well as the American Nuclear Society’s national honor society for nuclear science, Alpha Nu Sigma. Jaronski is pictured here with her purebred Arabian mare, Tserafina, a regional and national champion show horse.

High school teacher taps into radiation health physics online master’s program to educate next generation of scientists

By Rebecca Jaronski
OSU Ecampus Master of Radiation Health Physics graduate, Class of 2020
Oct. 12, 2020

Much of my life has been guided by two major passions: I love to learn, and I love riding and showing horses. I found myself drawn in my education to physics — the science behind all sciences. If one asks enough questions about a process, either natural or man-made, eventually you wind up doing physics.

After completing my B.S. in Astronomy/Astrophysics from the University of Maryland, I entered graduate school at Virginia Tech to earn my M.A.Ed. in Physics Education. I had found, after volunteering for a physics outreach program, that I truly enjoyed bringing my passion for physics to others and helping to inspire and train some of the world’s future scientists and engineers. Teaching also allowed me to have flexible time in the summers for riding and showing my horse all around the country.

A win-win!

“[K]nowledge gained at OSU has helped me to redesign my high school physics curriculum to feature nuclear physics right at the beginning, so that students are guaranteed the opportunity to experience modern physics.”

My first year of teaching, I was invited to participate in a U.S. Department of Energy program for bringing particle physics to high school classrooms. I became the lead teacher, helping to found the Virginia Tech QuarkNET Center. I worked for VT Physics over the summers on muon and neutrino detectors, attending Fermila’s Data Camp for physics teachers, and designing and leading particle physics workshops for other educators.

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This work sparked renewed interest in nuclear physics, which led to an internet search for graduate programs in the field. Oregon State University’s online Master of Health Physics in Radiation Health Physics degree immediately stood out.

I chose this program because Oregon State is a leader in the nuclear field, the program of study was interesting and the degree is completely equivalent to the on-campus program. The flexibility of being able to take classes one or two at a time allowed me to continue to teach full time, ride and show my horse, and meet family obligations.

Since enrolling, knowledge gained at OSU has helped me to redesign my high school physics curriculum to feature nuclear physics right at the beginning, so that students are guaranteed the opportunity to experience modern physics (and all the wonderful careers it can offer). I created high-quality labs and activities inspired directly by my OSU classes on topics such as nuclear security, nuclear power, radionuclide dating and radiation detection.

“The program’s flexibility and quality has made the entire experience amazing, and one of the best decisions I ever made.”

When I complete my degree, I hope to be able to offer college-credit physics though a local community college to my students. During the emergency pandemic shutdown in spring 2020, my experience as an online physics student became invaluable as I switched my curriculum to virtual learning for my own students. With OSU Ecampus as a model, I was able to create engaging, effective, and collaborative at-home activities for my students, and they were able to complete the entire curriculum.

My personal experience as an Ecampus student has made me a real believer in online education. I personally found that the online format helped me to make better connections with my professors and peers than I did as an undergraduate. The program’s flexibility and quality has made the entire experience amazing, and one of the best decisions I ever made.

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