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Research Projects

  • History and Philosophy of Educative Experimentation and Laboratory-based Instruction: My research focuses on varieties of laboratory-based instruction and educational uses of the science experiment and explores the complex historical dynamic between scientific epistemology and science education.  My recent dissertation explored the development and implementation of laboratory instruction by several scientists in 19th-century U.S. colleges and universities prior to the emergence of the "laboratory method" of instruction.  The promotion and expansion of the laboratory as an educational space in the 19th-century was impacted by certain scientific and educational ideals, many of which varied between institutions and individuals in the still unsettled landscape of American higher education.  

  • Radiation from Transient and Turbulent Astrophysical Systems: Standard approaches to modeling and analyzing radiation spectra rely on the radiating system having a certain stability and consistency.  However, transient or eruptive astrophysical events may be driven by processes that vary over short scales in time and/or space.  My prior dissertation work, with Dr. Mikhail V. Medvedev and Sriharsha Pothapragada, at the University of Kansas considered the "jitter radiation" that could be produced in an event like a gamma-ray burst where a relativistic particle's radiative emission would reflect the turbulent small-scale magnetic fields it was propagating through.  My current work explores new analytical and computational approaches to modeling and analyzing radiation from charged particles responding to rapid variations in their local electromagnetic field.  

  • Historical Thought about Life on Other Worlds: I am also researching the history of early modern astronomical thought about life on other worlds.  The development of Copernican heliocentrism and the invention of the telescope contributed to changes in the understanding of the nature and possibility of other inhabited worlds. I am interested in the way that thought about possible life on the Moon, other planets, and elsewhere reflected novel scientific knowledge, ongoing philosophical debates, and key theological issues of that era.  I have explored this particularly in the work of astronomer Johannes Kepler and shown how his frequent references to possible inhabitants of other worlds reflects both his philosophical and theological commitment to shifting perspectives and his scientific engagement with the new discoveries brought about by the telescope.

  • History of Spectroscopy: Spectroscopy is an interesting field that has contributions to and from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, but has a particularly large importance in astronomy and astrophysics, as it enabled investigation into the composition and dynamics of objects that we can see but not reach.  In this research project, I am working with students at UIndy to explore the history of spectroscopy's interdisciplinary development and how new discoveries in spectroscopy propagated into 19th-century U.S. science education.  An additional goal of the project is to create materials that help people from multiple backgrounds better learn about and understand this complex, but far-reaching, area of science.  Ongoing work on this can be found on our project website

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