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Samya Bano Zain, Ph.D.

Department: Physics

Associate Professor of Physics

  • Education
  • PHD, SUNY Albany
  • MS, SUNY Albany
  • MS, University of the Punjab
Samya Zain

My response when being told I shouldn't do something is - Why not, what's the worst that can happen?

That's true about physics and in my life, and this is what I want students to ask themselves.

I was married at 18, and had my first child at 20 in Pakistan where girls get married and they become housewives and every single educational experience that has gotten me to this point has come after I was married with a child because I asked - What is the worst that can happen?

I have always believed that physics should be fun. From my own experience, physics professors teach it the way they were taught. My opinion is why not change it? So, I use what I'm interested in. I have students build Lego castles because I like Legos. But there are real lessons to learn here by simply doing.

My classes have genuine experimental problems that you don't think about when doing a problem with pen and paper. I want you to look beyond the obvious. It's so amazing when students get that look that it suddenly makes sense. And the solutions to the projects come completely from them.

In research, no one is ever going to tell you what the answer is. There's no preconceived notion. The most important solutions are the most elegant - the ones that you know are so simple. I try to help students discover that.

And I like to serve as an example for that kind of thinking. I come up with crazy ideas and try them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

What's the worst that can happen?

Courses taught:

  • LANG-502 Independent Study
  • PHYS-100 Introductory Astronomy
  • PHYS-105 Independent Thought in Physics
  • PHYS-105 Indpt Thought & Explorations
  • PHYS-108 Physics of Music
  • PHYS-204 Introductory Physics I
  • PHYS-205L Introductory Physics II Lab
  • PHYS-301 Newtonian Mechanics
  • PHYS-302 Electric and Magnetic Fields
  • PHYS-304 Classical and Modern Optics
  • PHYS-404 Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics
  • PHYS-500 Independent Study
  • PHYS-550 Physics Research