Here's my Ron Ruby story. I came to UCSC as a junior transfer, and had to take beginning physics, chemistry, and calculus all in my first quarter. Ron Ruby taught Physics 6A, the real physics class, not the one for biologists.
It was really, really hard. This class is essentially the grammar of physics, and although they let you take calculus concurrently, it would probably better to have that grounding in abstract thinking and problem solving beforehand. But for junior transfers, they were trying to turn us out in two years and being the kind of scholars we were they thought we could do it.
We could, but it was hard, and it was the first year of school where attending section lead by the male graduate student and hanging out at the male professors' office hours was essential to success. I didn't know that at the time. I did go to section, but office hours were too intimidating and a waste of time; where men clustered around the professor's desk asking questions I didn't understand, let alone ever think of myself. Office Hours was a boys' club.
I hung in there. About halfway through the quarter I even asked a question during Ron Ruby's lecture. I don't remember what the question was, but something about it prompted Ron to asked, "Are you a chemistry major?" "Yes." "Yes, I thought so, because you are seeing the problem in terms of equilibrium, as a system."
With that exchange, Ron initiated me as a scientist. After that, I feel differently abut myself as an undergraduate science major. From that moment onward, I realized that the patterns that I thought in could be recognized as significant and appropriate to my field of study. Ron could see, from one question, that I approached physics like a chemist, and if I couldn't think of questions the same way as the physics majors, well that was because I didn't think in terms of equations and abstractions and finding the answer. I was interested in systems.
One comment by Ron Ruby, just a few seconds out 30 years of teaching physics at UCSC changed my perception of myself forever. Change change of perception led to my success as a scientist, even to today in my career as a network engineer. Ron must have done touched thousands of students this way.
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