Heilig’s Ph.D product of lifelong passion for physics and finding answers

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Heilig’s Ph.D product of lifelong passion for physics and finding answers

Steve Heilig crawls on top of a proton decay detector in process of being built. “We were looking for protons to fall apart, which we didn’t observe. But we learned some other stuff,” Heilig said.

Steve Heilig crawls on top of a proton decay detector in process of being built. “We were looking for protons to fall apart, which we didn’t observe. But we learned some other stuff,” Heilig said.

Submitted by: Steve Heilig

Steve Heilig crawls on top of a proton decay detector in process of being built. “We were looking for protons to fall apart, which we didn’t observe. But we learned some other stuff,” Heilig said.

Submitted by: Steve Heilig

Submitted by: Steve Heilig

Steve Heilig crawls on top of a proton decay detector in process of being built. “We were looking for protons to fall apart, which we didn’t observe. But we learned some other stuff,” Heilig said.

Javier Whitaker-Castaneda, Managing Editor

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When he was a student, Upper School Science Teacher Steve Heilig found the responses to his pressing questions about the world in the natural sciences.

“Physics and astronomy were always giving me the answers,” Heilig said.

Heilig is currently a 12th grade physics teacher who is passionate about his subject.

“I just love physics. I really enjoy that it’s a way of figuring things out about the world. If you like dealing with puzzles, physics is fun,” he said.

I was building a device to look for free quarks.”

— Upper School Science Teacher Steve Heilig

Heilig’s fascination with physics has carried through most of his life. He went to college with intent to study physics and followed his path all the way to a Ph.D. in physics. In 1985, Heilig earned his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Minnesota and wrote his dissertation on his attempt to invent a contraption that would find one of science’s most elusive micro-objects.

“I was building a device to look for free quarks,” Heilig said.

Quarks are the particles that combine to form electrons and protons. Scientists have only ever found quarks inside of larger particles so Heilig’s dissertation tried to answer the question, “could you ever have one by itself?”

“The answer was I couldn’t. I never found anything,” Heilig said.

Heilig’s four years of graduate study have, of course, given him new knowledge about physics, but have also further connected him to his passion and reminded him that he is working in the field that he loves.

“Follow the things that really interest you and give you energy instead of sapping it from you,” Heilig said.

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