Me: The Short Version
If you are looking for a list of things, my resume (2 pages) and CV (10 pages) are at the top of the sidebar. You may also use the sidebar to jump immediately to a professional area. If you want a narrative about my professional life, keep reading.
I love to solve problems
I’m always on the look out for new interesting problems to tackle and to learn new things along the way. Consequently, I have an eclectic background (the dry buzzword would be interdisciplinary). For example, I did experimental research in bioremediation as an undergraduate and I did very theoretical work in materials science simulation for my doctorate. I have performed materials simulations at all scales from ab initio molecular dynamics through finite element analysis for a constitutive equation I helped develop. I have taught chemistry, physics, engineering, science for teachers, and mathematics as a faculty member. I am currently doing institutional research and assessment while also being heavily involved with all aspects of academic affairs.
My undergraduate degree required a depth requirement in a humanities area, so I chose philosophy. Philosophy has stuck with me as part of how I think about the world and look for interesting problems to solve. How do we know what we know? Why should things be as they are? What could we do differently if only we knew to think in that way? Science tells us what is possible. Engineering tells us what’s reasonable to do with the time, money, and energy we have at our disposal for a given situation. However, something else, like philosophy, has to tell us what situations we should be examining to fix using science and/or engineering.
I have tackled some fun problems
At the moment, most of my research is broadly defined as institutional research. Much like my materials science research spans many levels, my institutional research also spans many levels. I am involved with student learning outcomes, IPEDS and similar reporting, institutional effectiveness (qualitative and quantitative), and everything in between. I do both the data science in terms of identifying the patterns and trends as well as some of the academic affairs administration to help make decisions on how to make changes to get new patterns and trends. While few materials engineers do what I do, the ability to tackle a big data problem, write useful reports for a variety of audiences, and keep the big picture in mind has been pretty handy. Ask me about the fun that is tackling a full institutional review for reaffirmation of accreditation--seriously do, because that was very satisfying in terms of research and writing, even if some individual minutes were frustrating, just like every other research project ever.
I’ve had an interesting research life so far. My first research experience was as an undergraduate studying purple and green sulfur bacteria to remediate natural gas. That was most of my experimental work. Since then, I’ve done various types of materials simulations from ab initio atomic simulations through molecular dynamics at the mesoscale to finite element analysis at the continuum. My primary area of materials research has been polymer simulations, but I’ve done a range of work. I’ve done glass transition work as well as work with rubber elasticity. I’ve looked at small molecules in polymers for solubility, diffusivity, and permeability from both what happens to the small molecule and what happens to the polymer. I’ve done some forcefield development and I’ve done constitutive modeling of material behavior.
Polymers, though fascinating, haven’t been my only research areas as a materials engineer. I’ve worked on what happens after a PETN (an energetic material) crystal is shocked using reactive forcefields to track the reactions. Battery materials are also a recurring theme including carbon nanotubes and graphite, lithium dissolved in ionic liquids, ethylene carbonate, and polyphosphazenes.
Science as outreach
Along the way, I’ve also been active in p-16 STEM education, formal and informal. My first faculty position was as a postdoctoral teaching fellow with primary responsibility for physical science targeted at elementary science majors. That was a wonderful experience in doing social science experiments (totally above board and no students were harmed) to figure out how to reach my students via the hands-on, minds-on active learning methods that are extremely important for K-3 education.
My current big outreach program is doing science in the movies. Most months my college is in session, I pick a theme like chases or time travel and make a multimedia presentation that is free and open to the public. I select 4-7 scenes from various Hollywood movies that illustrate the focus of that month’s topic (for example, conservation of momentum for chases). I edit clips from the Hollywood movies down to a few minutes to show one particular scene and then intersperse explanations between clips. Sometimes, I can find a good video (although I often must edit those as well) or I construct a Powerpoint slide with the underlying science. I purposely choose both good and bad science where I can find it to make the point that often the good science is just as interesting as the cartoony science.