Professor of Physics
B.A., Coe College
Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
What classes are you currently teaching?
I am teaching General Physics I, a Jr./Sr. seminar on Statics, and a variety of labs.
What activities or campus organizations are you actively involved with?
I am involved with the Physics Club, outreach activities like the Playground of Science and the Coolidge Science Club.
What makes Coe stand out from other schools?
Coe has extraordinary opportunities for students in research in the sciences. The equipment base is phenomenal, and students get exposed to state of the art instrumentation and real research work. It is common for our physics students to publish in a scientific journal before they graduate-often more than once. This exposure and subsequent experiences makes the students very sought after for graduate school and, frankly, makes them better scientists.
What is your favorite class to teach and why?
I enjoy Modern Physics quite a bit. It is the first time that our majors get exposed to topics like Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, making them think in more depth. It also runs counter to "common sense", generating great class discussions.
Name your most memorable Coe program and what it meant to you.
I enjoyed the Robert Ballard lecture a few years back. The speaker conveyed a lot of excitement to the audience. By the end of the talk, many of us were ready to sign up for a tour of deep sea exploration! He was funny, interesting, and extremely informative.
What is your most memorable moment interacting with a Coe student?
There have been too many to count. For almost every student there are great moments, large and small. I can recall the excitement of many students when they receive a full fellowship to a graduate school they really wanted to go to; the surprise of others when they make an actual scientific discovery during summer research; and the pride of other students who get a much better grade in a test during their first Physics class, as a result of their hard work.
What research or projects are you currently working on with Coe students?
I am working on a large number of research projects involving glass with my students. This past summer I had 12 students doing research with me. Many worked on experiments involving vanadate glasses. We have gotten interested in these materials because they can be altered with low-power laser light. The students carried out measurements using a variety of instruments, from Raman spectroscopy to x-ray diffraction to electron microscopy, all aiming to understand the details of these transformations.
What is your favorite website?
Many. I enjoy the NYTimes website, Yahoo, and, yes even YouTube/The Onion/Addicting Games!
Who is playing on your iPod?
I come from an eclectic background. So I have some Venezuelan music (Billo's Caracas Boys, Simon Diaz), flamenco guitar (Paco de Lucia, Segovia), Italian poetry and music, some audio books...
What book are you currently reading?
I am currently rereading the complete Sherlock Holmes stories. Before that I read Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist, and several books on learning and cognitive psychology (e.g., Why Don't Students Like School?, Talent Is Overrated, The Talent Code, Intelligence and how to get it, etc.
What do you enjoy doing outside of class?
Spending time with my family, trips, some sports/workouts, and a little woodworking.
What is the best getaway location, local or abroad?
Italy. I particularly enjoy spending time in Trento.
What does teaching at Coe mean to you?
It means having a chance to affect the lives of students who come from backgrounds not too different than my own. It means raising their expectations and sights, and providing them with good teaching in the classroom and fantastic opportunities outside of it. It means showing them that you can have a great life of the mind and still enjoy a well-rounded existence.
What is your favorite thing about Coe?
I like the lack of pretentiousness of both faculty and students. There is humility at Coe, often accompanied by a good work ethic. Out students like-need- to be challenged. Yet there is little arrogance.
What is your favorite Coe tradition?
I like the ringing of the bell (at major college events like graduation and after school victories). There is a quiet pride that students have in that simple act. It is a wonderful way to punctuate your time at Coe.
What advice would you give a prospective student?
Look deeper. Many people and institutions make claims: look for evidence. Compare facts and make sure the school you go to is good in the area you are interested in (and other possible majors!). Do not be happy with boilerplate answers, but rather ask tough questions of faculty and staff at the schools you visit. At the end, choose a school that is alive intellectually, and make sure it challenges you and stretch your abilities.