Monthly Archives: September 2014

Welcome Dr. Chuck Pearson!

Dr. Pearson is a new instructor in the Physics Department.  Come by and welcome him to our university!  I asked him to introduce himself below:


I’m Pearson. Yes, that’s all I go by.

I’m a teaching specialist in algebra-based physics. After getting my doctorate in biophysics from Ohio State and a year as a postdoc at UAB, I’ve spent a decade and a half as a professor of physics and chemistry at small schools in Georgia and Virginia, most recently at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol.  Even as I’ve taught coursework as diverse as physical chemistry, organic chemistry, astronomy, introductory cellular/molecular biology, and non-major science surveys, the algebra/trig-based physics sequence has been the one course I’ve consistently taught since 2000, and I’m glad to continue that work here at Tennessee Tech.

When I have been engaged in scientific work, it’s centered on two proteins, plastocyanin and cytochrome f, found in photosynthetic electron transport.  My doctoral work centered around a Brownian dynamics study of the interaction of those proteins, which I couldn’t have completed without a program called Macrodox – a product of Scott Northrup’s lab in the chemistry department here at Tech!  I’ve guided undergraduates through studies of the structures of those proteins found in the Protein Data Bank in my time as faculty.

Much of my current work has centered around open educational resources of various types, however.  I’m a promoter of the OpenStax College OER project and was a reviewer of the OpenStax College Physics text that was released in 2012.  I’ve done work with the learning management system Moodle and have worked to develop problem databases with the goal of releasing those databases as open resources in their own right, as well has having presented work on the tactics of assignment design with such learning management systems (most recently at the Appalachian College Association Summit in 2013). And I’ve supported institutions with early adoption, training and best practices development wherever I’ve worked.  It’s seriously nerdy, but it’s fun.

I’m married to Kristin, the best reference librarian ever.  Our two kids are 19 and 15. I am way too passionate about college football, was an original Major League Soccer supporter (you’ll never beat Columbus – OHIO!), and I play way too many old computer games (MULE Returns in particular, now available for iOS, coming soon for Android, and HIGHLY recommended). I will never hear enough good pop music (now playing: “Atonement” by Anberlin) and welcome your suggestions.  And I love, love, LOVE trivia, quiz bowl, Jeopardy!, TRASH – any knowledge game involving buzzers, really. If you like those games too, I will ALWAYS want to talk to you.

Oh, and my friend Pirkle had one more thing.


Welcome Dr. Mustafa Rajabali

Dr. Mustafa Rajabali just joined the TTU Physics Department as a new tenure-track faculty member.  I asked him to introduce himself below.  Welcome Dr. Rajabali to our university!

Welcome Dr. Rajabali!
Welcome Dr. Rajabali!

I am originally from Kenya (east coast of Africa). I have a wonderful wife who is from Germany and a young child who was born in Canada but has citizenship in three countries. I studied in the US where I got my BA in physics, math and chemistry (MN), MS – solid state physics (ND,IL) and PhD – nuclear physics (TN). I have since lived in Belgium and Canada where I did did my post-doctoral research projects.

My research is focused on nuclear structure physics and interdisciplinary science with the application of radiation detection methods in geology and environmental sciences. For Nuclear structure, I study the nuclei at the extremes of the nuclear chart to try to understand the evolution of the nuclear shell structure. I also develop new detector systems to measure properties of these very exotic nuclei. The laboratories where I conduct my research are located in various places around the world. However, my current projects are focused at TRIUMF laboratory (Vancouver, Canada), ISOLDE-CERN (Geneva, Switzerland), NSCL (East Lansing, MI) and ORNL (Oak Ridge, TN). My door is always open to anyone who wants to go for a good hike, students who want to do research projects with me and to collaborators who are interested in the research that I conduct or who think I would be interested in their work.

Welcome Dr. Adam Holley!

Dr. Adam Holley is a new tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Physics at TTU.  Come by and welcome him to our university!  I asked him to introduce himself below:

Welcome Dr. Holley!
Welcome Dr. Holley!

What really excites me (besides being a new faculty member at TTU)? Pretty much any opportunity to understand something new, especially when that something is truly new, and most definitely when I encounter it in some experiential way. I’m equally keen on getting others addicted to the enjoyment that comes from seeing and doing things which have never been seen or done before, and I want to give students a sense of how exciting that can be– especially in the context of science!

For me it would be particularly thrilling to uncover new information about how the world functions at its most basic level, which is why I do research in experimental fundamental physics. Since I prefer to work with smaller-scale apparatus I use a low-energy approach, which facilitates very precise measurements designed to look for deviations from what is predicted by the current theoretical state of the art, called the Standard Model. Currently I perform a number of these experiments using neutrons, especially “ultracold” neutrons which are perhaps the most tangible form of a fundamental particle that you’ll ever encounter. In these experiments neutrons can serve both as an object of study, as when used to make a precise measurement of the neutron lifetime, as well as a probe, for example to detect the presence of new forces beyond the four that we already know.

Since the nature of physics is figuring out how to do things that have never been done before, one requires strategies for getting the mind unstuck from its ruts. Mine involve practicing Aikido, horseback riding (although finding horses to ride has been challenging of late), playing the guitar, and most definitely long runs. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll also confess to having a well-developed sweet tooth and actually liking hot, humid weather.