B.A., Yale University; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Science Center 386
Theodore W. DucasProfessor of Physics
Engaged in laser spectroscopy, physics applied to biological systems, curricular development across disciplines, outreach to young learners and the public.
My research background has been largely in the area of laser spectroscopy of atoms and molecules which uses light to probe the characteristic energies and temporal behavior of these systems. The properties of highly excited atomic states have been of particular interest. Recent work involves the design construction and use of optical tweezers which utilize the light forces generated by tightly focused laser beams to manipulate small particles‚ including single biological cells.
Current research also includes the use of magnetic tweezers to characterize mechanical properties of single DNA molecules. Wellesley students have worked with me on a wide variety of research projects reflecting their particular interests and the extensive range of the applications of physics. They have worked on such projects as the construction of tunable lasers the study of mode properties of gas lasers optogalvanic atomic spectroscopy optical tweezers design and their applications to biological systems.
I have designed a variety of courses from the introductory level to advanced seminars for majors. A course on the Physics of Marine Mammals starts with the remarkable characteristics of these aquatic mammals and moves to the physics chemistry biology and engineering principles needed to understand their functional adaptations.
In Medical Physics students study the physical basis of anatomical phenomena and learn about the principles of diagnostic and treatment technologies such as ultrasound magnetic resonance imaging computer aided x-ray tomography and laser surgery. I have worked with students on video measurements of the natural world including the use of high speed video and ultraviolet imaging of flowers.
A recent major initiative is the implementation with colleagues from Wellesley and Olin College of an introductory engineering course and associated seminars and advising. This provides an exciting and effective experience designed to motivate and prepare students to pursue further studies in engineering.
I have long been concerned with pre-college science education and outreach and have worked on several television series for public television including 3-2-1 Contact and The Voyage of the Mimi.
For seven years I have been co-directing TOPS (Teaching Opportunities in Physical Science) a summer program associated with the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms. This program entering its eighth year is aimed at encouraging students with a strong background in the subject matter to consider careers as pre-college physical science teachers.
I enjoy photography and walking‚ often at the same time.