A native of Seattle, Professor Sullivan earned his A.B. degree (with honors) in physics from the University of Chicago in 1976. After a 5-year stint in industry, he returned to Seattle and obtained his PhD in experimental condensed matter physics from the University of Washington in 1986.

Professor Sullivan added expertise in the area of nonlinear dynamics while doing post-doctoral research at UC-Santa Barbara and Los Alamos National Laboratory. He joined the faculty at Kenyon in 1991 and, together with his students, has done research in turbulent fluid dynamics, colloid physics and computational pattern formation.

Tim received a Traditional Fulbright award in Sri Lanka for the 2008-2009 academic year. He worked in the Department of Physics at the University of Peradeniya, Kandy, Sri Lanka where he developed a computational physics course for the department. Check out Tim's weblog on his travels and visit to Sri Lanka.

Areas of Expertise

Computational condensed matter physics.


1986 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of Washington

1976 — Bachelor of Arts from Univ Chicago

Courses Recently Taught

Nuclear power produces needed energy, but nuclear waste threatens our future. Nuclear weapons make us strong, but dirty bombs make us vulnerable. Nuclear medicine can cure us, but nuclear radiation can kill us. Radiocarbon dating tells us about the past, but it can challenge religious faith. This course is designed to give each student the scientific knowledge necessary to understand and participate in public discussions of nuclear issues. The concepts include classification of nuclei; the types of energy (radiation) released in nuclear reactions; the interactions of that radiation with matter, including human health effects; and the design of nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Hands-on demonstrations and experiments explore radioactive decay, antimatter, transmutation of atoms, nuclear detectors and interactions of radiation with matter. We apply the core concepts to understanding contemporary issues, such as electric power generation using nuclear energy, including its environmental effects; advances in nuclear medicine; the challenges of preventing nuclear weapons proliferation; the threat of "dirty bombs"; and dating the universe. We also cover the history of the Manhattan Project and the use of nuclear weapons that brought an end to World War II. The course offers a field trip to at least one significant nuclear site in Ohio. This course is open to any student and does not count toward the physics major. No prerequisite.

This laboratory course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments that explore the phenomena of waves phenomena, geometrical and physical optics, elementary quantum theory, atomic physics, X-rays, radioactivity, nuclear physics and thermodynamics. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Students continue to develop skills in computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course does not count toward the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 131 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 135. Offered every spring.

This laboratory course is a corequisite for all upperclass students enrolled in PHYS 240. The course is organized around experiments demonstrating various phenomena associated with the special theory of relativity and electric and magnetic fields. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Laboratory work emphasizes computerized acquisition and analysis of data, the use of a wide variety of modern instrumentation and the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 146 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 240. Offered every fall.

The topics of oscillations and waves serve to unify many subfields of physics. This course begins with a discussion of damped and undamped, free and driven, and mechanical and electrical oscillations. Oscillations of coupled bodies and normal modes of oscillations are studied along with the techniques of Fourier analysis and synthesis. We then consider waves and wave equations in continuous and discontinuous media, both bounded and unbounded. The course may also treat properties of the special mathematical functions that are the solutions to wave equations in non-Cartesian coordinate systems. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 145 and 240. Offered every spring.

As modern computers become more capable, a new mode of investigation is emerging in all science disciplines using computers to model the natural world and solving model equations numerically rather than analytically. Thus, computational physics is assuming co-equal status with theoretical and experimental physics as a way to explore physical systems. This course introduces students to a variety of computational methods, which could include the methods of computational physics, numerical integration, numerical solutions of differential equations, Monte Carlo techniques and discrete Fourier transforms. Students learn to implement these techniques in the computer language C, a widely used high-level programming language in computational physics. For some techniques, students may also learn implementations in the computer language Python. In addition, the course expands students' capabilities in using a symbolic algebra program (Mathematica) to aid in theoretical analysis and in scientific visualization. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 240 and MATH 112 or equivalent. Offered every spring.

This introduction to thermodynamics and statistical mechanics focuses on how microscopic physical processes give rise to macroscopic phenomena; that is, how, when averaged, the dynamics of atoms and molecules can explain the large-scale behavior of solids, liquids and gases. We extend the concept of conservation of energy to include thermal energy (heat) and develop the concept of entropy for use in determining equilibrium states. We then apply these concepts to a wide variety of physical systems, from steam engines to superfluids. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 245 and MATH 213. Offered every other fall.

Modern field theories may find their inspiration in the quest for understanding the most fundamental forces of the universe, but they find crucial tests and fruitful applications when used to describe the properties of the materials that make up our everyday world. In fact, these theories have made great strides in allowing scientists to create new materials with properties that have revolutionized technology and our daily lives. This course includes crystal structure as the fundamental building block of most solid materials; how crystal lattice periodicity creates electronic band structure; the electron-hole pair as the fundamental excitation of the "sea" of electrons; and Bose-Einstein condensation as a model for superfluidity and superconductivity. Additional topics are selected from the renormalization group theory of continuous phase transitions, the interaction of light with matter, magnetic materials and nanostructures. There will be a limited number of labs on topics such as crystal growth, X-ray diffraction as a probe of crystal structure, specific heat of metals at low temperature, and spectroscopic ellipsometry. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 360. Offered every other spring.

This course builds 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 prepares students for engaging in undergraduate research opportunities as well as laboratory work in graduate school or industry settings. Students 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 helps 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 practice documenting work thoroughly, by tracking work in lab notebooks with written records, diagrams, schematics, data tables, graphs and program listings. Students 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 1.00 unit of upper-level experimental physics coursework to complete the major in physics. Prerequisite: PHYS 240. Offered every fall and runs only the first half of the semester.

In this course, students explore circuit design and analysis for active and passive analog circuit elements, from the physics of the components (semiconductor diodes, transistors) to the behavior of multi-stage circuits. Experiments explore transistors, amplifiers, amplifier design and frequency sensitive feedback networks. 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 only the second half of the fall semester.

In this course, students 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 includes 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 only in the second half of the semester.

This capstone course is intended to provide an in-depth experience in computational approaches to an individual topic of choice. Students will also be exposed to a broad range of computational application through presentations and discussion. Each student will give several presentation to the class throughout the semester. Permission of the instructor and program director required. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Prerequisite: SCMP 118 or PHYS 270, senior standing, completion of at least 0.5 units of an intermediate course and at least 0.5 units of a contributory course.