Astronomy and astrophysics are complementary approaches to understanding the night sky. Astronomers have worked for centuries observing the stars and planets, recording their motions, estimating their brightnesses and developing explanations for the cycles they follow.
The history of astronomy stretches back in time, long before writing, surviving in oral tradition and mythology embedded in the stories we tell of constellations and stars in the night sky. In the 20th century, revolutions in physics (quantum mechanics, relativity, semiconductors) opened up new perspectives on astronomy. Marrying principles and instrumentation derived from physics with the rich observational legacy of astronomy, the new discipline of astrophysics has produced an explosion of knowledge and understanding about how stars, galaxies and nebulae work.
Students working with Paula Turner at the Miller Observatory at Kenyon College contribute to those efforts by measuring and modeling pulsating variable stars. Turner also directs the CUREA program at Mount Wilson Observatory.
Areas of Expertise
Astronomy and astrophysics.
1996 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ Rochester
1988 — Master of Arts from Univ Rochester
1986 — Bachelor of Science from Univ Illinois Urbana
Courses Recently Taught
In this course, students will gain experience analyzing, interpreting, and critiquing quantitative claims and communicating results and conclusions using graphical representations of data. Examples will be drawn from across the natural and social sciences, with context provided for each data set, so that students from any disciplinary background can participate in and benefit from this course. This course has no pre-requisites. It will be taught at a level accessible to all Kenyon students. Excellent preparation for further work on quantitative topics, this course will hone students' ability to apply mathematical techniques including graphing, statistics, linear and non-linear regression, and modeling the graphical behavior of mathematical functions to understanding and interpreting data. Students will practice these skills by engaging in critical reading of primary sources, oral presentation of quantitative data, and expression of analytic ideas in writing. Assessment will be based on in-class assignments, monthly quizzes, and oral reports on data-driven projects selected in consultation with the instructor.
In this course, students will learn to use motors, relays, microcontrollers and electronic components to design and build computer-controlled devices, small robots and interactive gizmos increasingly employed in projects by artists, designers and scientists. The primary tool will be the Arduino open source microcontroller environment. Developed for use by designers, artists and hobbyists, the Arduino environment provides a wide array of options for implementing automation and interaction between a physical device and its environment. It is used in applications ranging from interactive installation art to smart home technologies and hardware control in scientific applications. The course will combine laboratory exercises, homework assignments, individual and group project work, and a culminating public presentation. The course does not count toward the physics major. No prerequisite.
This course surveys current knowledge of the physical nature of stars and galaxies. Topics include the sun and other stars, the evolution of stars, interstellar matter, the end products of stellar evolution (including pulsars and black holes), the organization of stellar systems such as clusters and galaxies, and the large-scale structure of the universe itself. Evening laboratory sessions will include telescopic observation, laboratory investigations of light and spectra, and computer modeling and simulation exercises. This course does not count toward the physics major. No prerequisite.
This course is the first course in a one-year introductory physics sequence. Topics include Newtonian mechanics, work and energy, fluids, and electric fields. When possible, examples will relate to life-science contexts. The course will be taught using a combination of lectures, in-class exercises, homework assignments and examinations. Knowledge of calculus is not required. This course does not count towards the physics major. Prerequisite: sophomore standing and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 131. Offered every fall.
This seminar will explore a significant current topic in physics that will challenge first-year students. The topic varies from year to year. In the past, the seminar has explored such topics such nanoscience, astrophysics, particle physics, biological physics and gravitation. In addition to introducing the fundamental physics connected with these topics, the course will expose students to recent developments, as the topics are often closely related to the research area of faculty teaching the seminar. The seminar meets one evening a week for lectures, discussions, laboratory experiments and computer exercises. This course fulfills the concurrent laboratory requirement of PHYS 140 and serves as solid preparation for PHYS 146. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: first-year students who are concurrently enrolled in or have placed out of PHYS 140. Offered every fall.
This lecture course is a continuation of the calculus-based introduction to physics, PHYS 140, and focuses on the physics of the 20th century. Topics include geometrical and wave optics, special relativity, photons, photon-electron interactions, elementary quantum theory (including wave-particle duality, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and the time-independent Schrödinger equation), atomic physics, solid-state physics, nuclear physics and elementary particles. PHYS 145 is recommended for students who might major in physics and is appropriate for students majoring in other sciences or mathematics, particularly those who are considering careers in engineering. The course will be taught using a combination of lectures, in-class exercises, homework assignments and examinations. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 140 and MATH 111 or permission of instructor and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 146 and MATH 112 or permission of department chair. Offered every spring.
This laboratory course is a corequisite for all students enrolled in PHYS 135 or 145. The course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments demonstrating the phenomena of waves, optics, X-rays, and atomic and nuclear physics. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Experimental techniques include the use of lasers, X-ray diffraction and fluorescence, optical spectroscopy, and nuclear counting and spectroscopy. Students are introduced to computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data, as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 131 or 141 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 145. Offered every spring.
From particle accelerators to galaxies and stars to the big bang, high-energy particle physics and astrophysics address the sciences' most fundamental questions. This course will cover topics of contemporary relevance from the combined fields of cosmology, astrophysics, phenomenological particle physics, relativity and field theory. Topics may include the big bang, cosmic inflation, the standard model of particle physics, an introduction to general relativity, and the structure and evolution of stars and galaxies’ stellar structure and galactic evolution. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 350 or permission of instructor. Offered every other year.
This course will build upon the foundation developed in PHYS 240 and 241 for measuring and analyzing electrical signals in DC and AC circuits, introducing students to many of the tools and techniques of modern electronics. Familiarity with this array of practical tools will prepare students for engaging in undergraduate research opportunities as well as laboratory work in graduate school or industry settings. Students will learn to use oscilloscopes, meters, LabVIEW and various other tools to design and characterize simple analog and digital electronic circuits. The project-based approach used in this and associated courses (PHYS 381 and 382) fosters independence and creativity. The hands-on nature of the labs and projects will help students build practical experimental skills including schematic and data sheet reading, soldering, interfacing circuits with measurement or control instruments and troubleshooting problems with components, wiring and measurement devices. In each electronics course, students will practice documenting work thoroughly, by tracking work in lab notebooks with written records, diagrams, schematics, data tables, graphs and program listings. Students will also engage in directed analysis of the theoretical operation of components and circuits through lab notebook explanations, worksheets and occasional problem sets. Students may be asked to research and present to the class a related application of the principles learned during investigations. This course is required as part of the one (1) unit of upper-level experimental physics coursework to complete the major in physics. Prerequisite: PHYS 240. Offered every year and runs the first half of the semester only.
In this course, students will explore applications of integrated circuits (ICs), the fundamental building blocks of electronic devices such as personal computers, smart phones and virtually every other electronic device in use today. Taking a two-pronged approach, the course will include experimentation with basic ICs such as logic gates and timers as well as with multipurpose ICs such as microcontrollers that can be programmed to mimic the function of many basic ICs. This counts toward the experimental elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 380 (may be taken in the same semester). Offered in alternate years and runs in the second half of the semester only.
This course is an introduction to upper-level experimental physics that will prepare students for work in original research in physics and for work in industry applications of physics. Students will acquire skills in experimental design, observation, material preparation and handling, and equipment calibration and operation. Experiments will be selected to introduce students to concepts, techniques and equipment useful in understanding physical phenomena across a wide range of physics subdisciplines, with the twofold goal of providing a broad overview of several branches of experimental physics and preparing students to undertake any experiments in PHYS 386 and 387. This course is required as part of the one (1) unit of upper-level experimental physics coursework to complete the major in physics. Prerequisite: PHYS 241 and 245. Offered every year and runs the first half of the semester only.
In this course students will explore fundamental physical interactions between light and matter, such as Compton scattering, Rayleigh and Mie scattering, and matter-antimatter annihilation, while also learning to use common nuclear and optical detection and analysis techniques. This counts toward the experimental elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 385 (may be taken in the same semester). Offered in alternate years and runs the second half of the semester only.
In this course students will probe the structure of solids using X-ray crystallography and atomic force microscopy, study the physical properties of semiconductors, and use the manipulation of magnetic fields to examine the resonant absorption of energy in atoms and nuclei. This counts toward the experimental elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 385 (may be taken in the same semester). Offered in alternate years and runs the second half of the semester only.
Individual studies may involve various types of inquiry: reading, problem solving, experimentation, computation, etc. To enroll in individual study, a student must identify a physics faculty member willing to guide the course and work with that professor to develop a description. The description should include topics and content areas, learning goals, prior coursework qualifying the student to pursue the study, resources to be used (e.g., specific texts, instrumentation), a list of assignments and the weight of each in the final grade, and a detailed schedule of meetings and assignments. The student must submit this description to the Physics Department chair. In the case of a small-group individual study, a single description may be submitted and all students must follow that plan. The amount of work in an individual study should approximate the work typically required in other physics courses of similar types at similar levels, adjusted for the amount of credit to be awarded. An individual study course in physics is designed for .25 unit of credit. Individual study courses should supplement, not replace, courses regularly offered by the department. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline. Individual studies do not count towards the QR (quantitative reasoning) requirement. If a student wishes to satisfy the QR requirement through an individual study in physics, they must receive approval through the college petition process.
This course offers guided experimental or theoretical research for senior honors candidates. Students enrolled in this course will be automatically added to PHYS 498Y for the spring semester. Permission of instructor and department chair required.
This course offers guided experimental or theoretical research for senior honors candidates. Permission of instructor and department chair required.