I enjoy teaching a wide variety of courses, including introductory physics, Mathematical Physics, and Introduction to Quantum Mechanics.
My research interests are in the intersection of high energy physics and cosmology.
My approach to teaching is to focus first on the Learning Goals for my students and the activities and ways they will learn that material. As a result, my courses tend to be highly interactive and require students to actively participate
in learning the material. Check out
this spotlight on my teaching.
A central feature of many of my courses is that students watch videos and read material before class, so that they come to class prepared to apply what they have learned. Many of the videos I use are available on my
YouTube Channel - a selection of these videos can be found below.
Shusaku Horibe and I, with the support and guidance of a team of instructors including Drs. Susan Nossal, Larry Watson and Profs. Peter Timbie and Mike Winokur, recieved a grant from the UW-La Crosse
Lesson Study Project to develop a physics lesson for an introductory physics course.
Many introductory physics students feel that their studies in the physics classroom have nothing to do with their experiences of the "real world". Our two-year long study resulted in a lesson which introduces students to connecting physics
to the "real world" through the process of model-building. See the online Lesson Study write-up
Our paper on this project has been accepted to the international journal Physics Education. See the official paper at
Young Scholars Program
While at The Ohio State University, I taught a two-week long introductory physics summer program for minority high school students from throughout Ohio as part of the
Young Scholars Program. The curriculum emphasis was on constructing mathematical and graphical representations of motion through lab exercises. (I am indebted to
Professor Andrew Heckler for his help on this project.)
Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, NSF GK-12 program:
While completing my undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University, I was made an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow of the
NSF GK-12 Program. The goal of the program is to provide training for graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to improve communication and teaching skills while enriching STEM content and instruction
for their K-12 partners. As a Fellow, I worked with interdisciplinary team of fellows, elementary school teachers, and faculty to develop and teach active learning science lessons in inner-city schools.
Throughout the two years that I was a Fellow, I created approximately 25 original inquiry-based lessons and developed novel assessment tools that test students' science reasoning by having them actively demonstrate an experiment. In particular,
I developed a series of "Prove Me Wrong" lessons, where students are shown a demonstration, told a hypothesis based on the observations, and then asked to test the hypothesis (by "Proving Me Wrong") by designing and performing an experiment
using materials provided. In addition, I developed an informal test for Simple Machines which, when used together with a formal test, helped reveal the type of knowledge gained through inquiry-based teaching.
Many of these lessons can be browsed online at the OSU GK-12
Resource Page. Be sure to check out my lessons on:
My research interests are in the intersection of theoretical high energy physics and cosmology, particularly topics in the very early universe such as inflation. Check out
this article on my research with an undergraduate student at PLU.
In the past, my research has focused on the following topics:
Warped Effective Theories
Many high energy physics constructions involve extra dimensions as part of their descriptions, most notably superstring theory which requires 6 additional spatial dimensions. However, in order for the extra dimensions to have escaped our
notice they must be curled up and small. Such a "compactification" is described by a 4-dimensional effective theory, which includes fields and parameters describing the details of how the extra dimensions are compactified. The study
of physics like cosmology and inflation in models with extra dimensions thus often reduces to the study of the physics of these effective theories.
However, these effective theories typically are constructed only in a limit where the effects from warping are ignored. Warping arises because the compactification of the extra dimensions requires additional fields and sources throughout
the extra dimensions that generate competing forces preventing either expansion or contraction of the extra dimensions. These additional fields and sources have energy and so they also create a local gravitational potential in the extra
dimensions, called warping. Many cosmological applications, such as brane inflation, work best in strongly warped backgrounds, so unwarped effective theories are not sufficient. It is crucial, then, to construct effective theories where
warping is included in order to study interesting applications of extra dimensions to cosmology.
Consider a roughly spherical region of space filled by some fluid or matter, surrounded by a background space filled with some different fluid or matter. Einstein's theory of General Relativity tells us that matter affects the structure
of space-time, so the space-times inside and outside of the spherical regions are different. This is what we call a "space-time bubble." For example, think of a star (filled with a hot plasma fluid) surrounded by empty space. The space-time
inside the star is different than the space-time outside of the star, and the two space-times interact, and must match up, at the surface of the star.
Everything we know about gravity suggests that it is attractive - two light rays pointed into the center of the spherical "space-time bubble" must always cross, they can't diverge from one another. This is actually a mathematical theorem
in General Relativity. I have been interested in how this rather simple constraint can rule out large classes of space-time bubble geometries and dynamics, largely independent of the details of the matter inside and outside the bubble,
and without needing to numerically solve the equations of motion. I am particularly interested in applying this perspective to "baby universe" bubbles, which is important for understanding the very early Universe and the onset of inflation.
A leading candidate for explaining the observed homogeneity and isotropy of the early Universe and the origin of the primordial perturbations is to propose a very early period of rapid expansion, called inflation. The expansion dilutes
any inhomogeneities and anisotropies, and quantum fluctuations stretched by the expansion to large scales become the origin of the primordial perturbations.
The simplest models of inflation involve a new type of matter called the inflaton field, which behaves like a homogeneous energy density in the very early Universe driving the exponential expansion. These models have been very successful
in predicting the features seen in the CMB, but typically suffer from the problem that starting with typical initial conditions will not lead to inflation. This makes inflation less attractive as a dynamical description of the early
Universe, since we would have to assume some special set of initial conditions. In a series of papers, I have been exploring how a generalization of the inflationary dynamics away from the usual "canonical" dynamics typically assumed
can relax this initial conditions problem of inflation.