Beginning in September 2019, I am serving as Director of Graduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of Chicago. Prior to this position, I was an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, a Helmsley Postdoctoral Teaching Scholar in the Department of Physics at Yale University, and a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Vassar College. I received my Ph.D. in 2011 in the Department of Physics at the University of Chicago, where I studied dark matter phenomenology with Professor Edward Kolb. I previously obtained an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain, and Education and Physics Education from Harvard University, and an A.B. and S.M. from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College.
I am completely devoted to promoting excellence in university physics teaching. Over the last ten years, I have taught physics and astronomy courses at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum, including traditional introductory sequences, intermediate classical mechanics, electrodynamics, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, and planetary astrophysics, and advanced seminars in elementary particle physics and modern cosmology.
I believe that excellence in physics teaching depends profoundly on a pedagogy informed by our scientific under- standing of teaching and learning from cognitive science and physics education research. Established models of the cognitive and emotional development of adolescents and young adults allow us to understand the broader psychological context in which learning takes place. Research on cognitive constructivism, conceptual change, and metacognition shapes our understanding of the dynamics of learning and how it is most effectively facilitated. Research on social constructivism prompts us to provide ample opportunities for students to work alongside peers and teachers both inside and outside the classroom. Studies of motivation challenge us to foster students’ intrinsic motivation for learning physics. Finally, findings in physics education research allow us to anticipate the preconceptions that students bring to the classroom, teach effective problem-solving strategies, and employ a wealth of pedagogical tools, assessment techniques, and educational technologies to promote inclusion and success in the physics classroom.
I lead a small, interdisciplinary research program in mind, brain, and education, which is informed by and in turn informs my pedagogy. I am particularly interested in the role of knowledge structures and metacognition in conceptual change and physics problem solving. In the last few years, I have been developing a collection of contemplative practices aimed at integrating formal theory and personal experience in the undergraduate physics curriculum. This research has involved student research assistants with backgrounds in physics and astronomy, mathematics, cognitive science, and neuroscience, many of whom have presented our findings at professional conferences.
All of my professional activities are motivated by a strong belief in the inherent value of diversity and the uniqueness of each individual. Inside the classroom, I believe that creating an atmosphere that is welcoming and inclusive to all educational backgrounds, cognitive styles and abilities, cultural views, personal experiences, and motivations is essential to promote deep learning for all students. The pedagogical tools, assessment techniques, and educational technologies I employ in my courses provide constant opportunities for students to find personal meaning in the material, reflect on their own understanding, engage metacognitively in their unique learning process, contribute to discussion, and experience a sense of belonging in our learning community.
Professionally, I am actively involved in the following activities:
Designing and teaching curricula in physics and astronomy informed by research in physics and astronomy education research.
Leading an interdisciplinary research program in mind, brain, and education.
Directing a comprehensive program to revitalize the undergraduate physics curriculum, including faculty development, curriculum support for active learning techniques, and evaluation and assessment of departmental pedagogy.
Designing and implementing a teaching assistant training program.
Promoting the inclusion and retention of women and other underrepresented minorities in physics and other STEM fields.
Engaging in extensive committee work related to curricular and pedagogical issues.
Teaching somatic meditation to students, faculty, and community members.