Peter Ka-Chai Wu has worked in factories and mailrooms, and has held positions ranging from security guard to researcher. But the opportunity to teach physics is what brought him to SOU as a young academic and it’s what has kept him on the STEM faculty for 25 years.
“(Teaching) is rewarding and challenging,” Wu said. “Seeing your students enter the next phase of their life and hoping that what you helped them learn may aid them in their new adventures.”
Wu teaches courses in physics, mathematics and electronics while studying biomaterials. He has served as a program coordinator for physics at SOU and is a professor on the Chemistry Department faculty.
He received his bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics at Macalester College, and both his master’s degree and doctorate in materials science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As a researcher, Wu studied biomaterials, thin film, polymer/metal adhesion, ferroelectric materials and fullerenes.
He saw Ashland and SOU as a stable environment to raise his child, and continues to find fulfillment and inspiration.
As a teacher, Wu fosters a creative and understanding space for students to apply what they learn – where he asks students to listen, review material, ask questions and work hard. He teaches algebra and calculus-based physics classes, and general physics. And he particularly enjoys branches of physics that deal with the electromagnetic spectrum.
“If you want to achieve a basic understanding of how nature works, physics is it,” he said. “Physics opens my horizon, deepens my understanding and makes me humble.
“I like electricity and magnetism including electronics – those are my favorite subjects. As a teacher, if you are excited about the subject, it helps.”
Wu has continued his research while at SOU – filing patents, publishing scientific papers and book chapters, and speaking at numerous conferences. One of his recent papers is “Electrospun gelatin biopapers as substrate for in vitro bilayer models of blood-brain barrier tissue,” which Wu co-wrote with seven other authors.
The paper found that through a fiber production method called electrospinning a more effective material could be created on which to test the blood-brain barrier – a function of blood vessels that prevents large molecules, including many medicines used to treat brain disorders, from entering the brain. Wu’s electrospun “biopapers” were found to have improved electrical resistance, decreased permeability, and permitted less separation between cells.
Wu is currently doing research on acoustics as he continues to teach physics and other STEM courses.
Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer