If you’re taking chemistry, then you might know of theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli by learning about the Pauli Exclusion Principle. Simply put, it states that no two electrons can occupy the same quantum state. But you probably don’t know his reputation for accidentally breaking experimental equipment. Though he was not at the site of the accident, Pauli was blamed for ruining an expensive piece of equipment at the University of Göttingen in Germany. Such has been deemed the “Pauli effect,” which physics teacher Ulugbek Akhmedov uses to teach students about the apparently volatile combination of theoretical physicists (like Pauli) and technical equipment.
According to the “grand duke” (the English translation of Ulugbek from Uzbek), anecdotes and stories are an attempt to “show the human side of physics,” Akhmedov said.
Akhmedov grew up in Uzbekistan in a family of teachers. His father, a physics teacher, helped foster his interest in physics and mathematics. Akhmedov went on to pursue physics at Tashkent State University of Uzbekistan. As a student, he was interested in how computers worked and researched ways to improve their efficiency. Akhmedov also dabbled with space travel research and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1993.
After college, Akhmedov found work in assembling electric devices and consumer products. However, having tutored students throughout college and onward, Akhmedov discovered his passion for teaching. “I realized that I can teach, and that students understand when I try to explain things,” Akhmedov said.
Akhmedov moved to New York in 2000 after “most of [his] friends moved in the late 90s,” he said. He took on his first teaching job at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx in 2002. Since then, Akhmedov has taught at Baruch College Campus High School in lower Manhattan and began teaching at Stuyvesant in 2006. Besides physics, Akhmedov also teaches the Introductory Astronomy elective and Physics Intel Research.
He has become very comfortable with teaching high school students, with whom he can “interact with more or less on an adult level,” Akhmedov said. He strives to make physics more accessible and understandable. “I see that many students are interested in physics, but fear that it is hard and unlearnable. I constantly learn and try to improve on how I deliver the material,” Akhmedov said.
Akhmedov’s teaching style has struck a chord with his students. “He knows that physics concepts are not easy to understand, and he is very patient in his teaching,” junior Ke Jiang said, a former student in Akhmedov’s Astronomy class.
Besides teaching, Akhmedov is dedicated to helping students with scientific research. As the teacher of the Physics Intel Research class, Akhmedov wants “to see more students joining and winning competitions like [the] Intel [Science Talent Research] and [the] Siemens [Competition].” He sees research as a great opportunity for students to pursue possible scientific interests. “If students are interested in science, they have to find something that will drive them,” he said.
Senior Alice Fok, who took the Intel Research class, said Akhmedov “kept [her] on schedule, and gave the class maximum exposure to science competitions.”
Akhmedov does research as well, channeling his passion for physics into researching sustainable energy. He is currently “looking for a way to get energy in a friendlier way” with his brother, who runs Centaurus Technologies and Innovations Incorporated. Akhmedov hopes to “bring us to the point where buildings will be energy sustainable,” meaning that energy will be replenishable and will not cause long-term harm to the environment. The pair is working on developing an efficient natural lighting mechanism for houses and buildings.
Akhmedov’s confidence in physics keeps him dedicated to his work, both in the classroom and out. “Physics, which comes from the ancient Greek word ‘physika’ for nature, is the most fundamental part of human knowledge about nature, and understanding it [...] will improve the quality of our lives,” Akhmedov said. He hopes to help his students “learn physics in broader and deeper ways and retain this information for years to come, if not for life,” he said.