Professor Spotlight: Dr. Taviare Hawkins


Dr. Taviare Hawkins. Photo taken by Melissa Touche (Baca).

Melissa Touche (Baca), Social Justice Reporter

“Ever since I was little, I read a book on astronomy, I think I was maybe six or seven and I told my parents, ‘I wanted to be an astronomer,’said University of Wisconsin-La Crosse physics professor Dr. Taviare Hawkins. Hawkins said she has always had love for physics stemming from childhood. I remember in sixth grade I was in English class and we had to read a book, and I read it, but my interpretation of the story was not what the teacher thought it should be read as. I remember going, ‘man, this is pretty subjective, math isn’t that way it’s right or it’s wrong,’ so I gravitated to science and math because they’re not subjective,” said Hawkins. 

“I grew up on the south side of Chicago, in the Inglewood neighborhood. I am a product of innercity Chicago,” said Hawkins. “I knew about collegeI didn’t really think about it in terms of you had to go. I saw everyone else being serious about college. So, I submitted a couple of applications to see where it takes me. I knew I enjoyed learning. I went to undergrad at The University of Iowa.” It was at The University of Iowa where Hawkins completed her bachelor’s degree in physics with a minor in African-American studies.  

After graduating, Hawkins moved to the east coast finding a job in real estateHer accomplishments include two master’s degrees in computer science and physics from Syracuse University in New York, where she also completed her Ph.D. in physics. She finished her post-doctoral at The University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Before coming to UWL, Hawkins taught physics at Syracuse and Xavier University in Louisiana.

“I feel like, if you’re in a position to help someone, you should. You should help them realize whatever it is in life they want to become, and just to figure that out, and to focus them in that direction and try to offer them the support that they need to get there. I think that we owe that to everyone in the community that we come into contact withLeave that person better,” said Hawkins. 

Hawkins has done work outside of the UWL community as well. Hawkin’s research focuses on the dynamics and mechanics of cytoskeletal filaments called microtubules. She has been invited to present her research at conferences throughout the U.S. Hawkins has spoken on many panels, and recently, in 2018, she co-authored an article, Microtubule seams are not mechanically weak defects.”

Hawkins is named on the African-American Women in Physics. list which created to, “celebrate the presence of African American Women who have a Ph.D. in physics, astronomy, astrophysics, etc., as well as graduate students working towards these degrees,” according to the AAWIP website.

“I was really interested in UWL. I knew from the time I came to visit and interviewed, looking at the [physics] department, knowing this place produces a lot of physics majors. People were so welcoming. I really missed that midwestern friendliness.” said Hawkins. ”I really enjoy active learning because students feel a sense of teamwork in the classroom.”  

After sharing the stage with Duchess Harris at a Martin Luther King Jr. event for La Crosse area middle schoolers, she said she was approached by a middle schooler the next day while picking up her daughter from school. “One little African-American girl saw me, she came up to me and said, ‘can I give you a hug?’ I thought I bet she was one of the kids where I hosted [Harris]. Whereached down and gave her a hug, I whispered, ‘you’re next right?’ She said, ‘bet! I realized it was selfish of me not to share my science sooner.”