Mentor Spotlight | September 2013
Department: Physics & Astronomy
Years at KU: 27
Describe your research in a few sentences that we can all understand. Currently, I am working to understand impacts of intermittent astrophysical events, such as supernova explosions, on the Earth. I am also applying some of the methods of physics to paleontology to try to better understand the history of biodiversity on Earth.
Q: How did you first get interested in doing research?
A: I don’t know why I got interested, but my first project was a science project in physical chemistry while in high school.
Q: Is there someone who has been a great mentor to you? What about that person made him/her an effective mentor?
A: My high school chemistry/physics teacher Robert Fish, who encouraged me and gave me enough rope to go. A physicist named Rod Deans, who showed me that I could re-enter physics after almost a decade away from it. And, my Ph.D. supervisor Dennis Sciama, who was wonderful for the same reasons as Bob Fish. When I told Dennis I didn’t want to work on the project he had suggested, but instead do something on dark matter, he said, “Can I help?”
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates interested in doing research in your field?
A: Git R Done.
Q: What is your favorite part about mentoring undergraduates?
A: Seeing the interest they bring to projects, and the success they can have when they do something significant.
Q: What do you find to be the most challenging part of mentoring undergraduates? Do you have any strategies that have helped you address this challenge?
A: Finding projects that are doable in a reasonable time with the skills on hand, and also significant enough to be published. I work very hard at thinking about how to meet all of these criteria.
Q: How do you spend your time when you aren’t teaching or researching?
A: Gardening, a bit of travel, and watching the Weather Channel.