My classes at SAIC are designed to give students a liberal-arts-physics experience that challenges them to think in new ways, reflect on their own worldview, and engage critically with current debates that involve science. Here are three classes I am currently excited about:
This is an innovative studio-science course that I co-teach with artist Paola Cabal. The course combines a science class on the physics of time and space with an interdisciplinary studio class in which students make works responding to that science.
This is a lecture-discussion course that tackles science content in the context of current events and controversial issues. The course introduces the physics of the nucleus, the types and effects of radiation, and the science behind nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Signature features of this course include a class blog and weekly discussion of current "nuclear news," an emphasis on "nuanced questions" that do not have straightforward textbook answers, and essay assignments that require students to marshall their scientific knowledge in support of their own opinions on current nuclear policy topics.
Waves is an inquiry-based lab class. We study phenomena related to sound, light, water waves, and vibrations. We then apply the same concepts to gain insights into quantum physics and a range of current scientific research topics, from biosonar to gravitational waves. In this class, students work in groups to design their own observations and experiments to try to answer open-ended "research" questions that often originate from their own curiosity. The insights and sketches recorded in student lab notebooks are incorporated into lectures and discussions.
I oversee the science curriculum at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Science courses are offered within the Liberal Arts department and are part of the general education that students receive alongside studio instruction. I am always seeking scientists with an interest in innovative pedagogy for non-science audiences, so please contact me if you are interested in finding out about open teaching positions.
Go here to learn about the Conversations on Art and Science series at SAIC.
Experimental physics research is not my current focus, but it is my professional background. My past scientific research focused on data analysis for experiments in cosmology and nuclear physics. I'm interested in the process by which physicists transform raw information from detector systems into knowledge about the world, especially the argumentation used to account for sources of uncertainty in the measurement process.
I worked on developing the first data analysis pipeline for the South Pole Telescope project, beginning in 2005. SPT is a microwave telescope detecting relic radiation from the early universe. Here are some of the papers I
A measurement of the secondary-CMB and millimeter-wave-foreground bispectrum using 800 square degrees of South Pole Telescope data T.M. Crawford, K.K. Schaffer, S. Bhattacharya et. al, submitted to the Astrophysical Journal (2013).
The First Public Release of South Pole Telescope Data: Maps of a 95-square-degree Field from 2008 Observations K.K. Schaffer, T.M. Crawford et. al, Astrophysical Journal 743 (2011).
Measurements of Secondary Cosmic Microwave Background Anisotropies with the South Pole Telescope M. Leuker, C.L. Reichardt, K.K. Schaffer et. al, Astrophysical Journal 719 (2010).
My graduate research (at the University of Washington) was in the field of nuclear and particle physics, as a member of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory collaboration. For my dissertation I analyzed the so-called "day-night effect" for solar neutrinos, and my results were documented in the following paper:
Electron Energy Spectra, Fluxes, and Day-Night Asymmetries of 8B Solar Neutrinos from the 391-Day Salt Phase SNO Data Set The SNO Collaboration. Physical Review C 72 (2005)
To see more, here is my complete publication list from INSPIRE.
These are two in-progress projects I began during my 2016-2017 sabbatical. Both are interdisciplinary and deal with philosophy of science as well as physics pedagogy.
Working with experimental quantum physicist (and 2016 SAIC Scientist in Residence) Gabriela Barreto Lemos, I have been interested in the influence of quantum physics on contemporary art discourse, largely via Karen Barad's work. Gabriela and I have been working on ways to express the core "weirdness" of quantum physics that enable interdisciplinary conversations of this kind but also foreground the interpretational challenges that the field of physics has still not resolved. We have a draft essay written on this, and you can get it here
With support through the Shapiro Fellows program at SAIC, I have been considering the ways that physics diagrams use visual conventions and spatial relationships on a page to encode information about invisible phenomena.
Over my 2016-2017 sabbatical year I drafted a manuscript for a (still untitled, and still in development) book on the physics of light. It aims to provide deep, conceptually rich insights into vision, the nature of light, the relationship between matter and light, and the behavior of light physical scales ranging from quantum to cosmic. It links everyday optics and visual experience to big, philosophically challenging ideas that come from modern physics. Instead of formal mathematics and a traditional step-by-step exposition, the book weaves together informal verbal and visual explanations on topically related concepts. The illustrations are integrated into the text, in an effort to foreground fundamental (and interesting) representation problems that arise when physicists attempt to describe and draw invisible natural phenomena.
note: I am currently (Fall 2017) seeking a publisher for this work, which is substantially complete, including more than 100 custom illustrations by two talented young artists. I am in seek of a progressive, intellectually rigorous, risk-taking publisher that also practices strong social and environmental ethics in the bookmaking and bookselling process. This seems hard to find, which is why I’m announcing my interests on my webpage! If you know of (or might be) a good fit, please contact me!