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Matthew Ennis

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Ph.D. Candidate in Physics


Matthew Ennis is pursuing a Ph.D. in physics under the supervision of Faculty Advisor Sara Haravifard. He earned his B.S. in physics from the University of Connecticut.

While in graduate school, Ennis has served as a teaching assistant for three undergraduate physics courses, and he was the instructor of record for Optics and Modern Physics, funded through the Bass Instructional Fellowship. 

Ennis has received The Graduate School's Preparing Future Faculty Fellowship as well as the Department of Physics' J. Horst Meyer Endowment Fellowship. He is currently working towards the Certificate in College Teaching, and he has co-authored two articles.

On teaching

What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

My favorite part of teaching is being able to see the moments when something clicks for a student. For me, the most exciting part of learning is the moment of understanding when things finally gel together and start to make sense. As a teacher, it’s extremely gratifying to help my students work their way through the material and reach that “aha” moment when they finally understand a concept or see the connections between different ideas we’ve been talking about in class.

What accomplishment are you most proud of, when reflecting on your teaching?

During the fall 2023 semester, I had the opportunity to be the instructor of record for a sophomore-level course in modern physics. This course represented a lot of firsts for me: my first time lecturing, my first time writing assignments and exams, and my first time preparing the materials we’d cover. Despite some growing pains, I think the course went very well. This course was definitely my most valuable teaching experience, and I think it’s what I am most proud of.

How have you evolved as a teacher over time? 

I’ve become much more aware of how important fully preparing for class is. The first time I was a TA for discussion sections, my preparation was just looking over the material that was covered in class that week. As I’ve gained more experience, I’ve come to appreciate how much more goes into preparing for class than just knowing the material to be covered: how to present that material, what questions to ask to engage the students, and what additional materials I should present to supplement the material.


Excerpts from Ennis' nomination

"It is rare in physics for one of our graduate students to be as involved, accomplished, and devoted to teaching as Matt is."

"Matt shows all the signs of an excellent teacher by already focusing on best practices shown to improve student learning and seeking out ways to better his instruction."

"Matt would answer any questions we asked him knowledgeably. I like how the discussion problems were at a slightly higher level than the homework, because it gave me the chance to try to expand the skills/insights I gained from the homework in a group environment, so I could work together with others."