'I like what I teach, and I try to share my excitement with them,' she explained.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 25, 2022. It has since been updated.
An egg is kept on top of a cardboard toilet paper roll, which is on a plate that is resting on a glass of water. Tatiana Erukhimova explains how she is going to remove the plate out of the way. "If I do it right, then the plate will fly, the roll will fly, but the egg will not fly," she says in a Tiktok video of the demonstration. "It has inertia, so it will just fall into this glass with water."
On the count of three, she swiftly removes the plate, which flies sideways and allows the egg to fall into the glass, sending a splash of water into the air. She knew this would happen, thanks to the law of inertia, but Erukhimova still celebrates it. The video has garnered more than 8.3 million views since being posted.
Since this first video was posted on December 13, 2021, Erukhimova has received millions of views for her physics practical experiments, according to Texas A&M TODAY. "I could never get bored in her class," reads one of the comments on the egg drop video. In another video about inertia, she can be seen striking the handle of a knife with a mallet, forcing a potato up the blade. A user wrote, "How have I gone 35 years without seeing or knowing this?"
Erukhimova credits her department's marketing staff for the popularity of her videos. However, the department's page amassed more than 300,000 followers on the video-sharing app in just three months and this is in part thanks to the energy Erukhimova brings to her lessons. Currently, the channel has about 1.4 million followers.
Erukhimova moved from Russia to College Station in 1999 to take up a research position at Texas A&M. Both her parents are physicists. "My passion for physics is just in my genes, and I cannot imagine my life without physics," she said. She worked at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Applied Physics before taking the position at Texas A&M.
When she was offered a part-time position instructing a junior-level course on atmospheric thermodynamics, Erukhimova had no teaching experience. It turned out to be a success even though the class only had 30 students. "I thought, 'Wonderful, this is America!'" she recalled. "After three years of teaching this class, I felt I was an experienced instructor. And then in 2006 at eight in the morning, I found myself in front of a large introductory physics class with more than 100 freshmen." That first day, Erukhimova said, was a "disaster." The students were uninterested in her class and not paying attention. That experience is what taught her the importance of getting students interested in the subject.
Moreover, now she believes in having demonstrative classes. Erukhimova does this by applying abstract physics concepts to everyday life. "You get this 'wow factor' and then it's easier to find resonance," she said. "I like what I teach, and I try to share my excitement with them." Her passion for demonstrations both big and small is evident when she talks about different ways to illustrate physics concepts. "I strongly believe that not everyone has to major in physics, science, or engineering, but everyone has to get a chance to play with it, to respect the results of science, and to get a chance to learn how much fun it is," she said.
While sharing her love for physics is nothing new for Erukhimova, she has been pleasantly surprised by the number of people she's been able to reach through her videos. According to her, the best part is the support that she gets from her former students. "If you think about it, millions of people are watching physics videos and enjoying them. That's wonderful," she said. "You cannot learn much from a short video; however, these can get people interested and willing to learn more."