Faculty Focus: JP Clark

Dr. J.P. Clark
Assistant Professor of Education


Why do you teach?

First and foremost, I am a Learner. Now and forever. There is a quality about learning something—learning anything really—that is an achievement that cannot be paralleled. It is an achievement that can NEVER be taken from you. My grandfather told me long ago, “People can take your belongings, your job, your home and more. But no one can ever take away what you have learned.” I wanted something that would be uniquely mine, cannot be copied, cannot be stolen, now and forever. I teach because I want everyone to have something like that. I want everyone to have something that will never leave them. Learning can take you down paths you did not intend or maybe serve you differently in different ways, but it is always there and always yours. I teach to help people achieve that.

What was your favorite project you’ve done and what do you think was the coolest/most interesting aspect of it?

Once, I was selected to take part in a program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where they developed the first radioactive materials for the Manhattan Project. While I was there, I worked with a group of chemists and physicists to develop metallic oxide nanoparticles to improve batteries for the military. I researched metals and nanoparticles for weeks. I spent DAYS in a lab making these nanoparticles. I learned so much new science and so many new techniques that it would make your eyes roll to hear them all. But, honestly, that wasn’t the coolest part. After I had synthesized the nanoparticles for the first time, the principal investigator looked at my work and said, “You know, these kind of nanoparticles have never been made before. They’ve never even been observed in nature. You made something new.” It was awe-inspiring, humbling, and just neat to know that I had done that.

What is your favorite course to teach?

100% science nerd. My favorite class to teach so far is my elementary science teaching methods course. Teaching science is tricky business, so figuring out how to help people teach others science is just downright cool and challenging. I love all my classes (so far), but this one holds a special place in my education heart.

What do you do when you’re not on campus?

I like to describe myself as an introvert by nature but an extrovert by necessity. When I am not working on being extroverted and at least mildly charismatic, I absolutely love my time to myself, so a lot of my off campus time is spent in solitary endeavors and with close friends. If you stopped by my house on any given day, I am most likely cross stitching, reading a solid fantasy book, or watching my favorite show Supernatural. Of course, that is sometimes a little tricky with my three Doberman Pinschers and my wee little Dachshund.

What is something interesting about you?

When I was younger, I went to doctor with a stomach problem. The doctor had to do an ultrasound of my whole abdomen – cold jelly and all. During his investigation, the doctor grew a tad more concerned than I was comfortable with. In a very serious voice, he turned to my parents and said, “This boy has three kidneys!” Fortunately, there are no complications with them, and I always have a great tidbit for the infamous “Something interesting about yourself” ice breaker. And no, I don’t have plans to sell the extra one.

Who has been a mentor to you, and how did they help you?

This is cheesy as all get out, but my mentor is my wife. I have been with her since our senior year of high school, and she is my guide for just about everything from how to dress well to how to teach to everyone (she’s a middle school special education teacher) to how to be the ME that I want to be. She guides me through trials, carries me when I cannot make it, and loves me even when I make mistakes. I definitely married up and I strive to make sure God didn’t waste an angel on me.

What message do you want to share with students?

A favorite educational quote of mine was given to me when I was struggling very hard with a topic in my undergrad. It was the first time in my education that I had ever really struggled with something. My chemistry professor told me, “There was never a horse that couldn’t be ridden, and there was never a rider that couldn’t be thrown.” It meant to me that I can learn anything and even become an expert but there is always a challenge and more to learn. I would want to say to students, learn all that you can but keep in mind that you can always learn and improve.