Even on a cold, windy spring day or a freezing day in the middle of winter, the sight of a dog, a tall bearded man and a bicycle isn’t uncommon in the North Dakota State physics department.
“I actually don’t own a car,” Alexander Wagner, a professor in the physics department, said, “so I bike to work every day.”
For Wagner, biking is a good way to combine transportation and exercise.
Wagner, originally from Germany, is used to biking to get around, since it is a more common form of transportation in Germany than it is in the U.S.
“If I ever go without biking, I miss it,” Wagner said.
The middle of winter doesn’t stop Wagner, even though he says he falls most years.
“People think biking is something you can only do in the summer in North Dakota, but if you put on enough clothes, it’s actually perfectly fine in the winters — plus, this year I didn’t even fall,” Wagner noted cheerfully, even though he bikes close to four miles to get to campus in all weather conditions.
On most days, Skye, Wagner’s goldendoodle, accompanies him.
“Originally, I brought her to the department when she was a puppy,” Wagner said, “and students would tell me they always knew when I arrived because of all the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ over Skye.”
Skye has since become a fixture in the department, and Wagner believes she increased his research productivity.
“The department received her really well — students like her, faculty like her — more students and people want to be here to see Skye, which results in conversations about physics,” Wagner said, “and plenty of students stop by to see her, even if they aren’t involved in physics.”
Skye brings lots of positive aspects with her presence — Wagner thinks she makes him less intimidating and more approachable for students.
“Plus, she encourages me to get out of the office and go for walks, which is good.”