At the fuzzy boundaries between thought and reality, theory and measurement, and philosophy and practice, you might meet Kayla Lewis, Assistant Professor of Physics in the Monmouth University Department of Chemistry and Physics. Kayla brings her experience working among top researchers into the department’s classrooms, melding lofty philosophical topics with physics’ more practical applications.
Kayla obtained her B.S. in physics and Ph.D. in geophysics from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research interests are broad, ranging from the fluid and stress dynamics of seafloor hydrothermal systems (underwater volcanoes) to the propagation of electromagnetic and matter waves in systems with complex boundaries.
While studying at Georgia Tech and later working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Chicago, Kayla developed the Fully Implicit Seafloor Hydrothermal Event Simulator, or FISHES, a computer program that maps the behavior of underwater volcanoes.
Kayla's favorite activity, at work or in her spare time, is learning about all of the major branches of theoretical physics. To Kayla, physics is a lens through which we can see nature's secrets. For her, unlocking these secrets and studying the far flung realms of physics is not just a job, but also a way of finding inner peace. Kayla has also had extensive involvement with the philosophy of science, epistemology, formal logic, and critical thinking.
Drawing on her broad interests, Kayla strives in her teaching to display all the human dimensions of physics, going beyond the traditional technical aspect. For example, in her lectures she will often blend personal anecdotes, vignettes of historical figures, offbeat humor, and philosophical reflections in with more standard materials. With Kayla, students can also expect many hands-on activities such as group problem solving sessions and class discussions. Kayla's favorite courses are Modern Physics and Advanced Physics, the courses designed for physics minors here at Monmouth.
Collaborations that I've been involved with
“I often collaborate with other researchers at Los Alamos National Lab, which is one of the places I worked prior to joining Monmouth. Also, I enjoy collaborating with those working in hydrothermal systems research. My code FISHES can simulate many complex processes in such systems and is used as a research tool by collaborators at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. In addition, I engage in collaborative efforts with researchers who gather hydrothermal systems data in the field.
“I have taught, and co-taught, courses at the University of Chicago about the philosophy of science and critical thinking. These courses used topics in evolutionary biology as well as the confrontation between evolutionary biology and proponents of intelligent design as guiding themes.”
Why I'm proud of Monmouth
“This university is a great professional home because there is an opportunity for me to make a real difference by helping to develop the physics program. I am free to work on meaningful cutting-edge research topics and to use my code to work with undergraduates, as I had been planning to do ever since graduate school days. My colleagues here have been fantastic and, on top of all that, the campus is beautiful!”