Justus Ortega

Professor/Director - Biomechanics Lab

Biography: 

Dr. Ortega is a Professor of Kinesiology. His primary teaching area is biomechanics and motor learning and development. He has served as the director of the Biomechanics lab since 2006 and as director of the North Coast Concussion Program (NCCP) since 2009. Dr. Ortega’s research focuses on the effects of aging and exercise on the mechanics and energetics of movement; particularly walking. From this research Dr. Ortega has developed balance, mobility and fall risk assessments services for the surrounding North Cost community. At the NCCP Dr. Ortega’s provides concussion education and diagnostic services for over 20 schools of Northern California including K-12 schools and local universities. As part of this program Dr. Ortega integrates his expertise in balance and locomotion biomechanics to investigate the effects of concussions on neurocognitive and motor control function. He also has a research interest in the impact of concussion management practices on incidence and recovery of concussion in youth sports.

Office hours:

Mondays 8:30 am to 9:30 am

Wednesdays 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Thursdays 8:30 am to 9:30 am

or by appointment (email to set up) 

Teaching: 

My role as a teacher is to provide knowledge and skills to students in such a way that 1) meets the goals and mission of the department and university, and 2) provides students with the greatest opportunity for success.  My teaching philosophy is based on a commitment to teaching excellence that promotes learning.

Excellent teaching is an academic art. Much like painting a masterpiece, it involves some natural talent but it is not fully realized without thoughtful training, preparation, execution, and reflection. Just as a painter develops her skills with each stroke of paint, one can learn to be a better teacher though her interactions with each student in a classroom. Learning is both a continuum and a process. Just as each color on a painter’s palate reflects light differently, each student brings unique qualities and background that influence how they learn. Student diversity enriches the learning and teaching experiences by bringing different perspectives into the classroom. As a teacher, I try to nurture each student’s development as a learner by bringing to the classroom an array of lesson plans and teaching methods that address a diversity of learning styles. Learning is also a developmental process. As students move from class to class through their academic careers, they discover how they learn best. As part of the student-teacher relationship, I try to help each student discovery her/his learning strengths and build a repertoire of learning skills.

As a representative of the department and university, I have the responsibility of clearly understanding course objectives, coming to class prepared, and teaching with the highest ethical standards. Before teaching a new course, I determine the objective of the course within the overall departmental program as well as determine the specific skills and knowledge students are expected to gain from the course. In addition to discipline specific goals, I typically design a course to develop each student’s interdisciplinary skills such as scientific writing, oral presentation, basic reasoning/persuasion, and group problem solving. The position of “teacher” has both power and responsibility that demand the highest ethical standards- honesty, fairness, and respect. One way that I try to meet these standards is by clearly defining my grading, sexual harassment, and diversity policies on the first day of class and in the syllabus.

As a teacher, I have a responsibility to provide students with the greatest opportunity for success. I start this process by clearly defining my role as the instructor, the course expectations and outlines the lectures and assignments through out the semester.  Next, I try to understand the motivations, career goals, and life-long goals of students to more effectively influence their ability to learn from my lessons. Also, by maintaining an active research program in exercise physiology, motor control, and biomechanics, I am able to incorporate new and relevant scientific findings into the current understanding of course concepts and provide a one on one learning environment for those undergraduate and graduate students interested in working on research projects.

Through my desire for teaching excellence, I actively seek feedback from students, peers and faculty on the effectiveness of my teaching. By asking “concept questions” during class and getting direct feedback in the form of end of lecture questions and end of semester student evaluations, I use student feedback to improve my teaching and students learning in the classroom. Student feedback helps me understand what concepts are being understood and what teaching methods are working. By asking for their feedback, students also feel more in control of their learning and reminds them that I really do care about their learning. This helps to build trust and a rapport with students both as a group and individually.

Ultimately, my success in the academic art of teaching depends on my genuine enthusiasm and commitment to being the best possible facilitator of learning. Thus, with thoughtful preparation, variety of teaching methods, formative feedback, and a passion for teaching, I strive to provide a learning environment accessible to a diverse student population with an array of learning styles. Although my teaching methods are constantly evolving in response to changes in students, course material, classroom situations, curriculum, and technology, I will always maintain one fundamental teaching principle; commitment to the art of excellent teaching that promotes learning.

Degrees: 
2001-2007, Ph.D., Integrative Physiology, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO.
Justus Ortega
(707) 826-4274
KA 336