Dean Sieglaff

Faculty/Staff profile

Associate Professor
(402) 465-2247
Olin Hall 116

Dean Sieglaff received a Bachelor of Arts cum laude from Saint Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota in 1988, where he majored in physics and mathematics. He received a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy from Rice University, Houston, Texas, by 1993, for work in the area of experimental atomic collisions, particularly those involving atomic oxygen. Dean took a post-doctoral research fellowship with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation outside of Richland, Washington, working in an analytical chemistry group in the area of electron-molecule physics and negative ion mass spectrometry. He also started teaching at that time as an adjunct faculty member of Columbia Basin College, Pasco, Washington. In 1995, he received an assistant professorship with the Department of Physics, Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania. During his time at Grove City College, Dean continued to carry out atomic and electronic collisions research at Rice University′s Atomic and Molecular Collisions Group in the summers. In January of 2001, Dean moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to take an electron beam engineering job with the silicon valley-based KLA-Tencor Corporation, the world leader in semiconductor yield management. Called back to the life and work of professor in the liberal arts, Dean began a tenure-track associate professorship with the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois in the fall of 2004. Dean continued to work as scientific consultant with KLA-Tencor, developing test targets and methods for characterizing highly sensitive light-optical subsystems in support of electron beam technologies for semiconductor defect review solutions. In the fall of 2008, Dean began a tenure-track associate professorship with the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Dean has three sons Sander (age 15), Jonas (age 13), and Charles (age 11).

Visit Dean Sieglaff's academic home page at


Ph.D., 1993, Rice University, Houston, TX.
M.A., 1992, Rice University, Houston, TX.
B.A., 1988, Saint Olaf College, Northfield, MN.

Visit for a link to Dean Sieglaff's curriculum vita.

Teaching philosophy: 

Teaching has been a continuously evolving journey for me. I started teaching with the purpose of expressing my love of physics by creating clear, detailed, intricately-crafted lectures that I delivered with great satisfaction. After all, the principles of physics are beautiful and intoxicating. Who would not be enthralled to hear about them? As I developed further I wanted to better convince my audience of these principles, so I began using demonstrations, such as masses on springs, air track gliders, and Stirling engines. Who could fail to appreciate the principles of physics after seeing it with their own eyes? My demonstrations grew to include sophisticated computer animations and simulations, providing even more powerful visualization opportunities. Who could possibly fail to understand the modes of a vibrating string or the reciprocity of potential and kinetic energies for a conservative system after actually seeing it in all its multicolored computerized glory?

Yet, for all my efforts, and for all that I was learning, there was, as I later realized, something missing. That something was the student. I could have almost delivered my presentations to an empty room, because what I was doing was largely independent of student reaction or response. Don’t get me wrong – I have always been considered a good professor. I was well liked, had excellent rapport with the students, and have successfully educated hundreds. But by trying to tell and show the students the answers, I was unwittingly robbing them of the joy and satisfaction of discovery.

A turning point came for me in the fall of 2005 when I attended a New Faculty Workshop at the AIP headquarters in College Park MD. I began to understand that my role as an educator is not to explain physics to my students, but rather to find ways to get my students to explain physics to me. Inspired by what I’d seen and done at that workshop, I obtained funds to purchase the Qwizdom classroom response system for my introductory courses (one of which involved two sections of fifty students each). I use the responders to begin each class with concept questions that set forth in an active way the learning goals for the lesson. Usually these initial surveys reveal significant conceptual gaps. At the end of the lesson the students re-vote on the questions, as a group discussion activity in which they could reflect upon the principles presented and worked with that day. Usually these final re-votes showed significant convergence toward the correct responses.

Within upper-level course curriculum I put students on the hook for validating their analytical findings with numerical solutions using Mathcad and other applications. By this approach, a dry old end-of-chapter problem is brought richly to life, with new facets to explore. I expect students to solve problems using several different approaches, creating within them the habit of approaching problems the way expert problem solvers do.

Good teaching is a matter of continuous improvement, and the process does not take place in a vacuum. I have so much more to learn – both from my students and from all the great work being done to further student-centered learning. I am no longer in pursuit of a finished product, but rather better and better ways to share my knowledge and, as corny as it may sound, my love of physics.

Dean Sieglaff
January 2008

Courses taught: 

Visit for courses taught and course site links.

Course schedule: 

Visit for a link to my Google calendar.

Research and academic interests: 

Dean has a significant amount of equipment from Rice University for the experimental study of electronic and atomic collisions. Using undergraduate student assistants, he hopes to continue and extend the world-class experimental measurements for which the Rice lab was well known. The lab is currently housed in Nebraska Wesleyan University's Olin Hall of Science, Room H.

Visit Visit for a link to the NWU Fast Beams Lab.