Teaching Philosophy

At the core of all successful teaching is the knowledge and ability of the professor to convey complex topics in such a way as to make it desirable for students to learn. This requires an excitement about science that stems from a real passion of learning about the natural world.  My teaching philosophy incorporates teaching basic skills and principles as tools with which to scientifically address problems, rather than as part of a final set of facts that students are merely expected to memorize for a grade. 

It is my experience that the most effective teachers engage students in active learning by asking questions in the classroom, incorporating exciting and relevant laboratory exercises, encouraging student interaction through group projects while including real-world examples to make difficult principles easier to comprehend. Student success also requires that professors are approachable and accessible to ensure an environment conducive to student-teacher interaction. .

Earth and planetary science concepts can be difficult to understand and imagine, particularly for non-science majors, to better help visualize these processes I have developed simple models and demonstrations. For example, I have developed a simple impact demonstration that compares craters made by single vs. binary asteroids. This allows students to investigate the ejecta blankets and crater morphologies of binary impacts and compare them to spacecraft images from other planetary bodies. The demonstration was recently documented by The Weather Channel for the program “Secrets of the Earth” and has also been incorporated into multiple UCLA labs.

Finally, as an educator I feel that we not only have an obligation to our students but also to the community as a whole through public outreach. Throughout my time as a graduate student I have actively participated in public outreach and volunteer events. At CSU, Fresno I helped develop various activities for Earth Science Week hosted by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and attended by elementary schools throughout the Fresno area. While at UCLA I have actively participated in ‘Exploring Your Universe’, a public outreach event hosted by Astronomy Live and the Department of Physics and Astronomy which draws thousands of children and adults from the surrounding area. I have hosted numerous outreach activities with local elementary schools in the Los Angeles area and will continue my effort to bring the Earth and Planetary Sciences to children. Not only as a science educator but also as a concerned citizen I feel that it is our duty to educate the public about Earth and the universe in which it exists so that we can protect our planet for generations to come.


If you are interested in having Dr. Matthew M. Wielicki at your event please see the contact page to provide details of the event and the activities you would be interested in.  Dr. Wielicki is comfortable giving talks and leading discussions for all age groups and covering a vast breadth of concepts within the Earth and Planetary Sciences.  Live demonstrations are always a hit with the kids and help relate complex concepts in fun and simple ways.  Demos include: impact cratering, elastic rebound, earthquake locator, liquefaction, angular momentum, Bernoulli's principle, Lenz's law, and more!  Dr. Wielicki is usually available on a volunteer basis however out-of-town events may require reimbursement of travel expenses.

Taking UCLA students to witness some green technologies at the Solar Energy Generating Systems in the Mojave Desert.

Getting the kids involved during the Venus transit.