Aaron Mowitz

Visiting Lecturer in Physics

I am interested in the interplay between geometry and external stress in soft materials, and techniques in engaging physics students

My research is in the field of soft condensed matter physics, where much of the phenomena are governed by classical physics and are observable by the human eye. In particular, I am interested in the interplay between the geometry of continuum materials and external stress, where the geometry often affects a material’s response to stress. During my Ph.D., I worked on two projects related to this theme. The first involved the study of chiral motion of colloidal particles in electrophoresis, where using a relatively simple computational model, I helped to demonstrate instances where an object in a fluid with a non-chiral shape could exhibit rotational motion about a particular axis in response to an applied electric field. The second project involved the study of how stress focuses in crumpled paper. More specifically, I developed a new analytical approach to describe the local geometry around the vertices of the network of creases seen in a crumpled thin sheet.

I am currently teaching PHYS 106, where I hope to engage non-majors in understanding and appreciating how electromagnetic phenomena are relevant in their fields of interest and the everyday world around them. Influenced by my research background, I like to take an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, where I introduce new concepts with simple pictorial models, often motivated by real-world analogies. Since learning a new subject in any field can be intimidating, I aim to encourage students to interact with each other as much as possible in the classroom using conceptual discussion questions and group problem solving. I hope that as a result, my students will leave the classroom with more confidence in their critical thinking skills and scientific abilities.

Influenced by my previous work, I am interested in working with students in developing simple computational and analytical models of everyday phenomena, both for the purposes of teaching and research. My Ph.D. work provides some new directions for this, but I am also interested in mentoring students on other projects within the realm of classical physics and material science.

One of my major passions outside of physics is music. I’m an amateur classical violinist and violist, and especially like playing and reading new music with small groups. Recently my musical interests have started to move beyond playing: I’ve become very intrigued by the physics of sound production of musical instruments and how we perceive and experience music, and would love to teach a course on this subject. I also enjoy playing board and video games, and when it’s nice out, throwing a frisbee around.