Student Spotlight: Jose Inchausti Reyes


Jose Inchausti Reyes

UTEC Student Jose Inchausti Reyes

Year: Senior
Cohort: 2025
Credential: Single Subject Physics w/ Spanish Bilingual Authorization
Major: Physics
Program: 4+1 Dual Degree, Urban Education and Social Justice

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Coming to USF and Inspiration to Teach

Question: You’re from Panama. What inspired you to come to USF and join the teaching program? Are they connected or were they separately motivated?

Jose: They’re connected in the sense that USF offers a really good balance between physics and education. I saw that a lot of other universities either focused on physics or education, and there wasn’t really a good balance between them. Being from Panama, a lot of my friends were looking into colleges in the US. That kind of gave me the idea that it was a possibility. I started doing my research and I saw that USF has both an amazing physics program and an amazing teacher preparation program. So that’s the connection that led me to USF.

Question: How long have you wanted to be a teacher? Is it something that you wanted for a long time or did it came on you slowly?

Jose: I think it was very sudden. It was a revelation that just came to me one morning. I had previously applied to several universities to be a pilot. I wanted to be a pilot initially. But then one morning I started rethinking things. I had this amazing physics teacher in high school, and it was kind of a wake up call. I thought, yeah, that’s what I want to do. Flying airplanes sounds cool, but I think this is really much more meaningful. So one morning I just started looking for schools, did some research, and I said, yeah, I think I’ll be a physics teacher.

Teaching Science in the Classroom

Question: STEM topics have their own challenges and opportunities for instructors. Students are often daunted by higher level topics like physics. When you have your own class, what will some of your pedagogical priorities be? Do you have any thoughts about how to make students excited about science or pursue science to be teachers or other careers?

Jose: It is very true that when people hear physics, either adults or younger students, they feel very intimidated and it sounds boring and daunting. I think to address that issue, one main component of my pedagogy is to follow the idea that Richard Feynman, a very famous physicist, used to have. It is that physics is not a matter of calculations, it’s a matter of imagination. Whenever there’s a concept, there has to be intuition and imagination behind it. So I think that to truly understand and value what science means, it’s essential to have students imagine things in the classroom. It’s not enough to show them plots and pictures and equations and experiments if there’s no imagination behind it. I think that implementing that in my pedagogy could really address the challenge that really pushes people away STEM fields. That skill of being able to grab a really complex concept and play with it in your mind in three dimensions and imagine things really adds a new dimension to how we perceive reality. I think it’s just a very transcendental view of life once one sees how science can be understood through a different lens.

There are many things that we see in our daily lives that are so complex in the scientific sense, but we just see them as casual. For example, the blinkers in a car. There’s so much interesting science behind it, but we just think it’s a light that goes on and off. I think exposing students to how much impact science truly has in describing their daily lives is very important.

Fieldwork Highlights and Challenges

Question: What were some of the challenges with younger learners and approaching physics? What were some of the the highlights when you were in the field?

Jose: Some of the challenge, I think, is that a lot of younger students are used to being more oriented towards the humanities. They’re used to having certain core ideas, understanding them, and then being able to write about them. But in physics, you need to think about particular points a bit more. So at some point they would just get tired and be like, well, I understand what gravity is. Why should I bother with this lab? I think they’re just used to getting the answer, writing about it, and that’s a day.

In terms of highlights, I really valued having the opportunity to work one-on-one with the students. In my particular classroom, there were several students who would really isolate themselves. They would walk in, not take their backpacks off, and just stay in the corner of the room and watch. Some of them wouldn’t even take a seat during the entire class. So I had the chance to approach them and start building relationships with them. Eventually I found myself working with them one-on-one with the labs and the assignments, and they would actually complete them. It was very valuable to really show them that I was there to support them and work step by step to to help them.

Physics Research

Question: I know that you have been doing a lot of research in your major. In layperson’s terms, what’s the research that you’ve been focusing on while at USF?

Jose: I’ve been working on two different areas. One of them has to do with artificial intelligence. What we do is look for a particular alignment between galaxies by looking at images that we receive from telescopes from different places, and we get millions of images. So it’s impossible to look one by one and say, oh, that’s one of the galaxies we’re looking for. So what we do is train the computer to recognize them. That’s actually the difficult part. But it’s much shorter than going through millions of images of galaxies and determining which one is which.

The other project is one in which we’re translating a publication by a Maya author from Guatemala. He wrote about the philosophy of Maya numerals. My work was translating that text to English to make it available here in the US. At this point, the project is fully translated, and we’re now working on polishing the final details to eventually look for someone who could help us publish it.

UTEC Highlights and Teaching Bilingual Students

Question: What are some of the highlights of your time at UTEC? What have you liked in particular?

Jose: I have really liked seeing how different students interpret teaching in different ways. I don’t think any one of us has the exact same way of approaching and understanding teaching. So throughout my different classes, I was able to see how different students would pick the same concept and have completely different approaches to teaching it, particularly in my class for Education of Bilingual Children. In that one, we had the chance to take subject-specific ideas and teach them to the entire class through different activities that would be friendly to students with more than one language. Seeing the variety of activities that people came up with was just fascinating. I was able to learn so much from my peers. I would say just as much from my peers as I did from the actual professors.

Question: Was there anything unique you tried in teaching STEM concepts so that you were attentive to bilingual learners? Are there special tricks and tips that are very different than the humanities?

Jose: I think it’s definitely different from the humanities in the sense that you can really exploit science to have meaning beyond language. Because science doesn’t really depend on what language you speak, the concept is the same concept. It describes the same universe. Whereas in the humanities, the same sentence can be understood completely different in a different language. In science, you can take so much advantage from actual physical experience and day-to-day intuition that students already come to the classroom with, even though they may not fully speak English or may know five different languages. They already have that intuition. In science, it’s just a matter of connecting that to particular names and concepts. I wouldn’t say it’s easier to teach bilingual children in the STEM fields, but it’s definitely a nice challenge to have because students already have those assets. As a teacher, you have to formulate science in a way that’s friendly to those assets.

Balancing Life and the Teaching Program

Question: What advice would you give to someone trying to balance a challenging program like this?

Jose: I think it’s very important to keep in mind the specific reasons why one wants to pursue a challenging program. When you’re in the middle of finals and you’re trying to finish this essay and you have a midterm coming up and also all these projects, it’s very easy to lose oneself in the ocean of responsibilities and completely forget the motivation behind them. For me, what helps a lot is both reminding myself why I want to be a teacher and why I love physics. I do so by remembering anecdotes from the teachers that inspired me back in high school. I keep in touch with my love for physics by reading about it and listening to podcasts about it. I think keeping in touch with the fundamental reasons and motivations is essential.

Other Interests

Question: What do you do besides physics and teaching? Do you have hobbies or things you like to do that aren’t related to what you do at school?

Jose: Yeah, I have a couple of hobbies. One of them is biking. I really love going around the bay with my bike. Over the summer, I went back and forth from San Francisco to Stanford several times with my bike. Amazing. I also love collecting paper money from different countries. I have a collection with around 40 notes from all over the world, and a lot of them have famous physicists on them and mathematicians. So it’s a really cool way to connect both science and physics with such a random thing as bank notes.