Louis Deslauriers

Louis Deslauriers seated at a table in front of a blackboard
Louis DeslauriersPhotograph by Jim Harrison

As a child growing up in Québec, Louis Deslauriers was obsessed with airplanes. He would draw them in class: cargo carriers, fighter jets, passenger airliners—anything with an engine and the ability to fly. “I was trying to do physics, although I didn’t realize it at the time,” he says. “When I got older, I thought, ‘Oh, that’s what it’s called. That’s what I need to do.’” In college at Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, he studied physical engineering; then he earned two master’s degrees, in electrical engineering and physics, and a Ph.D. in applied physics, at the University of Michigan. His trajectory shifted during his postdoc, when an adviser introduced him to the study of science education—“essentially, learning about how we learn.” Immediately, he was hooked (psychology was also a lifelong curiosity). Now a senior preceptor in physics and director of science teaching and learning in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Deslauriers has published influential research on memory and retention, “engaged learning,” and what one paper title described as the “dangers of fluent lectures,” which can fool students into feeling that they’re learning more than they really are (true learning requires “cognitive effort”). The field of science education “is much more advanced than most people realize,” Deslauriers says. “When you’re an expert in this field, you realize it’s still in its infancy and there’s so much to be done. But at the same time, there’s a lot that we know about what works in the classroom. I’m passionate about bringing that to educators.” Decades later, and now a father of four children (the youngest is three, the eldest 23), he remains passionate about airplanes. “Still, at my age,” he laughs. “Airplanes are the last thing I look at every night before I fall asleep.”

Read more articles by: Lydialyle Gibson

You might also like

The Uses of Discomfort

The first in a series of public conversations about Harvard and the legacy of slavery

An “Egalitarian Curiosity”

How to encourage free speech and inquiry on campus

#MeToo Meets Mt. Olympus

A new play at the A.R.T. provides a modern take on ancient mythologies   

Most popular

Cora Du Bois

Brief life of a formidable anthropologist: 1903-1991

A Fast Start

First-years Ngozi Musa and Gabby Thomas help set the pace for track and field.

Harvard Endowment Decreases by $1.9 Billion on Negative Investment Returns

A negative investment return and annual spending reduce the endowment’s value 5.1 percent.

More to explore

Picking Team Players

A test can identify these productivity-boosting personnel.

Irene Soto Marín

Ancient history professor studies coins, ceramics, and Zelda.

Getting His Reps in

Anwar Floyd-Pruitt’s wildly profuse art