Peter Sheldon is the Chair of the Physics Department, Director of the Dual-Degree Engineering Program, Director of the Summer Research Program, and Assistant Coach of the Men’s and Women’s Cross-Country Teams at Randolph College. He has a PhD and an MS in Physics from the University of Massachusetts, and has a BA in Physics and a BA in Mathematics from Amherst College. Dr. Sheldon's research net is wide: he is by education a low-temperature physicist, but has picked up the fields of ultrafast laser spectroscopy and physics education research in the last ten years. He has published in all of these fields.
Dr. Sheldon is currently working on two grant-funded projects. He has a grant from Verizon and the VFIC to improve technology education for under-represented groups, and a grant from SCHEV (State Council of Higher Education in Virginia) to train elementary and middle school teachers to better teach science.
Another of Dr. Sheldon's specialties is bringing physics to the general public. He regularly gives talks to all age groups on Amusement Park Physics, Newton's Laws, Pseudoscience, Why Cats Land on Their Feet, and of Innovative Uses of Technology. He is certainly a computer geek, and teaches and uses computers extensively. A selection of Dr. Sheldon's publications include “Scientific Inquiry: Improved Learning,” with Peggy Schimmoeller, and Tatiana Toteva, Academic Exchange Quarterly 13 (2009); "3He spin diffusion measurements in 3He-4He mixture films," P. A. Sheldon and R. B. Hallock, Physical Review Letters 85, 1468 (2000); and "Short pulse excitation and spectroscopy of KNbO3, LiNbO3, and KTiOPO4," H. M. Yochum, P.A. Sheldon et al, Radiation Effects and Defects in Solids 150, 271 (1999).
Along with Kacey Meaker ’08, Dr Sheldon is currently writing a book that will appeal to a popular audience or an introductory physics class, on the physics of roller-coasters.
I knew I wanted to be a physicist by the end of my first year in high school. It seemed to me that I could find so many answers about how the world works if I just knew physics. I did not know exactly what I wanted to do as a physicist until I took an earthquake seismology class in college. I got to look at records of ground shaking produced by earthquakes. They made absolutely no sense to me. I was told that earthquake seismologist job was to make sense of those records.
Earthquake records carry a lot of secrets. These are secrets about how the Earth works and why it is so dynamic. I use records of ground shaking to find the answers. I like to look at every wiggle and analyze it -- how big it is, how wide it is, when it arrived, what is before it and what comes after it. It tells an incredible story of a wave that traveled through the Earth, all the way from Asia, South America or Australia, bounced around layers and swirls of the crust, mantle and core and arrived in Lynchburg, in minutes. Sometimes looking at those wiggles is not enough to find the answers. Then I look at more data magnetic, ground resistivity, ground penetrating radar etc. I love teaching these methods just as much as I love using them in my research. I am currently working on a big data set of records from the 8/23/2011 Virginia earthquake and its aftershocks. My students are helping with the data analysis. We are trying to find micro-earthquakes buried in the ground noise. The more we find the more we will learn about the blind fault that generated the big earthquake. Will we find “the answer? There is never a final answer. This is the beauty of science: the exploration never ends. There are always new data to collect, new secrets to unravel.
Assistant Professor of Physics
B.S., University of California at Los Angeles; M.S., Ph.D., Cornell University
Katrin has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University and now does computational neuroscience/ethology research. She received her training in computational neuroscience during her tenure as a Sloan-Swartz Postdoctoral Fellow in Computational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco.
Her research is focused on understanding the underlying dynamics of animal behavior and how knowledge of these dynamics can inform us about the effects of disease processes and environmental and/or genetic perturbations. Her research makes use of real behavioral data taken by collaborators in the fields of psychiatry, physiology, neurology, neuroscience and medicine and her main plans involve long term collaborations with experimentalists in the fields of geriatrics, psychiatry, and physiology.
She came to Randolph College because she is passionate about involving undergraduates in original research and because Randolph College's high faculty to student ratio, flexible administration, and committed science faculty make it an ideal environment for fostering collaborations with undergraduates.
Please see her lab's facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/