Roanoke Physics Professor Publishes Work

Professor authors companion guide and co-authors textbook

Dr. Richard Grant, associate professor of physics at Roanoke College, has published a textbook companion guide to accompany an introductory physics book by another author and is in the process of publishing a second volume of the same companion. His current work also includes co-authoring a physics textbook.

Grant is in his fourteenth year of teaching at Roanoke but only started working with a publishing company, Cengage Learning, in the past few years. Grant became involved with textbook writing by simply moving up in the process. He started on small projects, worked on the companion guide for a textbook by another author and was then contracted for co-authoring a textbook and a second volume of the companion guide, his current projects. Grant said he knew all along that he would be building up to working on a textbook.

Grant’s published companion guide is a Student Companion and Problem Solving Guide. The audience for the textbook and companion guides are college or university level students. Grant says that writing a textbook is time consuming.

“It takes at least a year of writing draft chapters, and then you get feedback and edit. The process is about three years total. The companion guides are slightly scaled down, but still a lot of work.”

Grant says his work on textbooks has helped him in the classroom, and his experience in the classroom has helped him when working on the textbooks. In the classroom, Grant says he pays attention to frequently asked questions and strategies he uses to teach in real classroom life for things that may be applicable in a textbook.

Grant said, “Teaching and writing feed off of one another. Working on textbooks forces me to think about what I am doing in the classroom, what I am trying to achieve. I rely on interactions with students in and out of the classroom to help me write.”

Grant is co-authoring the textbook he is currently writing with Nicholas Giordano from Purdue University. It is common practice for introductory physics textbooks to be co-authored, as they include large amounts of information. Grant said it is helpful to work with Giordano and be able to gain a large university perspective because it is very different from the environment at Roanoke.

Grant said, “I’m really excited about the new book. The two of us working together on this project will make this a really good book. We can bring different things to the table but we think about things quite similarly.”

Grant has been able to develop both of his interests, teaching in the classroom and working on teaching materials, through a Faculty/Scholar award that the College offers. The award gives one course release per year for a three-year period. Grant has received two of the awards, so by the end of his award period, he will have had a six-year period with a little extra time. In order to receive the awards, Grant wrote proposals and submitted them to the faculty development committee, made up of elected Roanoke faculty members.

Grant said, “A lot of a research has been done on the way students think and learn and that changes the way we teach and write now.”

Grant was an undergraduate physics student himself at the University of Toronto and says he often reflects on his own experiences.

“It was a huge school with hundreds of people in the classroom. I did not have one-on-one faculty attention as an undergrad.”

Grant says the individual attention that can be found at the College is an asset as long as students take advantage of it. Grant thinks that students need to use all the benefits that Roanoke has to offer.


About the Author

Megan Semmelman is a sociology major with a communications concentration from Pennsylvania. She is a student writer for Roanoke College Public Relations and is active on campus in several organizations, including Chi Omega and Relay for Life.

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