I really appreciate the communities that students and faculty build together here in courses, labs, departments, and clubs. I love teaching small classes where we can build a classroom community unique to each group of students. One of my favorite things is when I have the opportunity to teach and interact with a student over the whole course of their four years here, not just for one semester. I get to watch how much they grow and change, both academically and personally.
I love teaching physics specifically because of the way we use math as a tool to apply to problems in the real world. Math on its own can feel very abstract, and physics concepts on their own can feel vague without grounding them in math. But put the two together, and the combination is a very concrete and quantitative way of understanding the world. It’s a magical combination. Many students coming into their first physics class are good at math and good at learning physics concepts, but their first physics class can really challenge them to put the two together in a way they often haven’t before. I enjoy seeing students rise to the challenge and leave my class with a new ability to apply math to problems and a new appreciation for it.
I love magnets! Magnets are familiar objects, but their familiarity belies some seriously complex physics. Did you know that magnetic fields require Einstein’s theory of special relativity, magnetic materials wouldn’t exist without quantum mechanics, and an introductory level magnetic force example problem contains a violation of Newton’s Third Law? It’s an impressive dose of modern physics for a phenomenon discovered over 2,000 years ago! If that weren’t enough to hook you, magnets have played, and continue to play, an extraordinary role in modern technology—from data storage to new biomedical imaging and treatments.
In my research, I try to understand why magnets behave the way they do—both at the atomic scale and the nano/micro scale. Most recently at Lafayette, I have been studying magnetic nanoparticles—tiny magnets that are thousands of times smaller than a human hair. Specifically, I study how they respond when they are put in rapidly changing magnetic fields. Do they rotate, like a compass when you move a magnet next to it? Do they pair up with other nearby nanoparticles, like magnetic train car toys? This is important to understand because magnetic nanoparticles in rapidly varying magnetic fields are used in some new and promising biomedical applications. For example, they are used in magnetic hyperthermia, a developing cancer therapy, and magnetic particle imaging (MPI), a new kind of medical imaging that might someday become as common as MRI. I involve students in all parts of my research—lab work, data analysis, presenting results at conferences, and publishing papers.
Lafayette encourages strong faculty-student relationships by having small class and department sizes, which helps cultivate community. Lafayette supports our research by funding student EXCEL Scholars, and the College supports my travel and student travel to conferences to present our research.
I enjoy incorporating community engagement into my classes, particularly my First-Year Seminar, in which students prepare science demonstrations and hands-on workshops for a fifth grade class in the Easton Area School District. The Lafayette students learn a lot about what it takes to make a good science demonstration, and practice the iterative process of tweaking and editing that is required in order to do a really good job. The local fifth graders get a fun, science-filled day and a tour of Lafayette’s campus!
This year, I also have been co-coaching the Easton Area Middle School’s MATHCOUNTS team. I live in the Easton area, and my own kids attend Easton Area School District schools, so I am personally invested in the strength of connection between Lafayette and the Easton community.
I also enjoy running and walking on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail and at Jacobsburg State Park, and attending Lafayette College Theater productions.
* Indicates undergraduate student co-author.