Dr. Casey Durandet - Dr. Millard A. Lee Excellence in STEM Scholarship

Dr. Casey Durandet - Dr. Millard A. Lee Excellence in STEM Scholarship

The importance of establishing this fund

I feel it is important that we have more female representation in the STEM fields, especially in physics and engineering. Since I’ve received my degrees years ago, female representation in these fields has not increased significantly. Any way we can help these women in achieving their goals, I am all for that! There is so much untapped potential in these women. When I was an undergraduate student, I put myself through college (at times working two jobs (one full-time, the other part-time)). I can relate to those who have to support themselves 100%, no help from others. I received a Department of Energy Fellowship during my graduate student years, and what a difference that made in my life! A scholarship is a way to help ease the financial burden and help students realize their potential and goals. It is also my way of giving back. These students are our future, tomorrow’s leaders!

Dr. Millard Lee was a gentle giant

He was truly an intelligent, wonderful, loving, caring, and compassionate man. He had so much passion for teaching and his students. Their success was of paramount importance to him. He believed real-life hands-on application was the best way for students to learn physics. He earned his PhD in Nuclear Physics in 1974 from Iowa State University. Dr. Lee came to PVCC in 1989 from the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL). As a senior physicist at INEL, he conducted research in nuclear structure physics and also did nuclear data evaluation for the International Atomic Energy Agency. Dr. Lee retired from teaching in 2000, but when I needed extra adjunct coverage, he was always there for me ready to come back and help in any way he could!

If it weren’t for Dr. Millard Lee, I may not be here. He is the one who believed in me and advocated to get me hired at PVCC in 1998. I actually came in with no teaching experience, but he knew the extensive high-energy particle physics research experience I brought with me from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) would benefit students, just like his research experience at INEL did for his students. In fact, when I return to Fermilab (located 40 miles west of downtown Chicago) each summer, I share this with my students and invite them out when I’m there, and there have been some who have come by for the “insider’s tour” of the lab. Summer internships are also available for them. Just another way to spark their curiosity and imagination.

Millard LeeScholarships help students realize dreams

We are all advocates for our students. We have their best interests at heart. They have shown us time and again what true potential they have in making this world a better place, and these scholarships help them realize their dreams.

I think back on my time working with Millard, and I have to say we had the most fun when we were doing hands-on applications. We were kids at heart in our proverbial physics sandbox. We both loved building things. For one of his physics labs, he built a potato gun launcher from PVC pipe, called the High- Powered Potato Launcher (HPPL) (see attached picture), and he would launch potato projectiles. He would fill the lower chamber of the “gun” with hair spray, then pushed a button on a charcoal igniter (Piezoelectric igniter) to fire the launcher. Due to explosive potential, when I took over after Millard’s retirement, I worked with our lab tech to redesign a new “extreme tennis ball launcher” lab, with PVC pipe and compressed air. This has been consistently the most popular lab students perform. So, I guess you could say that students have FUN when they partake in our physics labs.

Casey DurandetInspiration from Dr. Durandet “If nothing else, walk away with a sense of awe at how our universe works, and never stop being curious! Take what you have learned from physics, especially those critical thinking skills, and apply them to your life, because they will benefit you!”As physicist Albert Einstein once said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” And another one from physicist Richard Feynman, “Study hard what interests you the most, in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” PVCC is THE place for a high-quality educational experience. Where else can you get one-on-one interaction with your professors, who are passionate about teaching, students, and lifelong learning!!