Northwestern's Steve Maier earns doctorate

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Northwestern's Steve Maier earns doctorate

February 24, 2009

Dr. Steve Maier with some of his science students.Dr. Steven Maier, assistant professor of physics at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, completed and defended his dissertation to receive his doctorate in educational studies in December.

Maier began his college career at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., where he earned his bachelor’s degree in physics and education. The Newark, N.Y., native and his wife Amber then moved to Oklahoma to be closer to her family.

He began the master’s program at Oklahoma State University and obtained his master’s in physics in 1998. After completing this mission, he sent out several applications to schools, mainly high schools, in hopes of receiving a job. Maier said he heard about a career opportunity at Northwestern by word of mouth, applied for and eventually landed a job in the natural sciences department the same year.

“I knew I wanted to get my master’s, afterward I decided to take a break to figure out what I wanted to do,” Maier said. “It wasn’t until I started teaching that I knew I wanted to get my doctorate.”

In 2000, Maier began his course work for his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma. Maier’s dissertation, “Learning Physics Concepts as a Function of Colloquial Language Uses,” focused on how students or people in general misuse words on a daily basis.

“I’ve always been interested in plays on words,” Maier said. “Some may misuse words daily, and it’s not until they actually know the scientific, conceptual meaning of the word that they begin to understand the true meaning.”

One of his favorite things about Northwestern is working with his colleagues.

“I see a lot of potential for the natural science program and for the students,” Maier said. “It’s great to work with students who are interested in the field.”

Maier enjoys seeing the number of service learning and outreach opportunities that are associated with Northwestern such as BEST, science fair judging and the observatory.

“Involving area schools and the public in a way to get science out there in the rural communities shows how much Northwestern values education and the sciences,” Maier said.

By obtaining his doctorate, Maier feels like he’s been able to listen differently to students and others.

“Through collecting data and analyzing research for my doctorate, it changed how I communicate and listen to students and realize that sometimes what is said is not necessarily what was meant,” Maier said.

Now that Maier has completed his PhD, 100 percent of the science faculty is teaching with a doctorate.

“We are pleased to have our entire science faculty gain their doctorates in their respective fields,” Dr. Cynthia Pfeifer-Hill, professor of biology and Natural Science department chair, said.

“With their educational expertise, they can incorporate the latest concepts, philosophy and techniques into the science curriculum and student research. Also, our faculty’s high energy, enthusiasm and genuine interest in helping students reach their potential in scientific, academic and professional pursuits is commendable,” Pfeifer-Hill said.

“This, along with the fantastic upgrades and renovations in the Science Building will continue to ensure that our Northwestern students receive the best quality education in science.”

On Friday, April 24, at 11:30 a.m., the School of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern-Alva will host an open house and dedication of the Science Building and the Health and Sports Science Education Building.

Maier and his wife reside in Alva with their daughters Leah, 8, and Jenna, 5, and newborn, Kayla.