Andrew M.C. Dawes, PhD
PhD at Duke University, Durham NC, in 2008
Master of Arts at Duke University, Durham NC, in 2005
Bachelor of Arts at Whitman College, Walla Walla WA., in 2002
Why I teach physics
My goal as a teacher is to approach learning from the students’ perspective. Although several years separate me from my undergraduate experiences, the memories of struggling with learning difficult concepts are still fresh in my mind. From these experiences, and many others throughout my career, I have developed several core principles, each of which guides my teaching philosophy. Learning is an active enterprise, and the communication of new concepts is only effective when both the teacher and the student maintain an active interest in the material and the process of understanding it. Drawing from my background as a teacher, researcher, and student, I bring a broad range of experiences and interests to the classroom, which gives me the necessary flexibility to connect a new concept to a student’s knowledge base and personal interests. When students realize the impact they can have on their world by knowing how it works, they tend to be much more interested in continuing to learn about it. Physics is the quantitative study of the world and how it behaves, and this kind of understanding is a crucial component to a liberal arts education.
Why I study nonlinear and quantum optics
Optics provides a wide range of experiments that can be conducted on a tabletop with modest equipment needs. Nonlinear optics is the study of strong interactions between light and matter. Many of these interactions form the basis for technologies that we use every day. Fiber optical lines carry broadband data across the country at nearly 500 million miles per hour. DVD players have advanced to store high- definition video based on research in optical physics and nonlinear optics.
Quantum optics is currently laying the foundation for future means of communication and computation. Of the many phenomena that exhibit quantum behavior, quantum optics shows promise for many practical applications. Quantum-mechanical entanglement and teleportation have been demonstrated using quantum optical systems, and ongoing research continues to generate results that stretch our imagination and understanding.
What I would tell a student considering a major in physics
Physics majors are well prepared for a wide range of careers. In contrast to other disciplines where careers are limited to further study in a specialty field, physicists are regularly recruited by employers in every sector. Skills in analytical thinking and quantitative modeling are valuable commodities in the 21st century job market. Graduate school admissions and industry employers seek students with experience in research and with several active research groups, the Physics Department at Pacific University is a great place to gain this experience.
What I would tell a student considering a major in art
I did too! And despite being a physics major in the end, I was only two credits short of an art minor. While this may seem like a strange combination, it is important to understand the relationships between each of the liberal arts disciplines. As an example, recent advances in optical physics and photonics have led to the manufacture of materials with remarkable color properties. These new materials are now being used in paints and pigments to provide an exiting new range of vibrant colors. Paints using this technology can been used on cars to make them appear to change color as they drive past. This is one only specific example, but there has always been a close relationship between technological innovation and artistic expression, and I am glad to be at Pacific where both types of advances are valued.
Five books I've read recently
Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow
Harvard Rules: The Struggle for the Soul of the World's Most Powerful University by Richard Bradley
The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century by Paul R. Krugman
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.