Projects
Science Education​​
Throughout my college, graduate, and professional life, I have worked as an educator, both for students and to the public. At Michigan State University, I worked as a show presenter at Abrams Planetarium, revealing the night sky to large audiences and showcasing new insights into astronomy and space exploration. For one semester I also was an assistant for the Astro 101 course, running the class when the teacher was away. At the Ohio State University, besides working as a teaching assistant, I earned my PhD in physics education with a focus on physical intuitions and changing them to align more with classical, Newtonian dynamics. In my professional career, I have been a teacher at the high school and college level, implementing the research I conducted at OSU and exploring new avenues in physics education research (PER). While I was at OSU, I acted as editor for the PER journal, REAL: Research in Education Assessment and Learning.













Part of my research has looked at project-based learning (PBL) and its constructivist underpinnings. In one paper, I provided an assessment of the research on PBL and what limitations existed in its implementation. As a part of OSU Physics Education Research Group (PERG), my colleagues and I designed roller coaster-based PBL curricula that would teach the physical concepts of force, centripetal forces, energy conservation, rotational dynamics, and friction. 

Current lines of research look into how intuitive physical models develop in people by the time they receive a physics education in late high school or college. In particular, intuitive dynamics runs contrary to Newtonian physics and has more in common with medieval concepts of 'impetus'. How this becomes the 'common sense' for people and how related is this to other physics misconceptions or some underlying mental primitive (p-prim) needs further exploration. Answering these sorts of questions may better inform when and how to teach physics concepts. 

Related is the question of how comparing student beliefs to historical precedents may help inform teachers and instruct pupils. This ties in with the next area of research:


History of Science
Intuitions about how the world works has been not just a concern for educators, but it ought to be a question for how science has and will continue to develop. The intuition that students seem to commonly have is similar to the medieval 'impetus' notion, though there was no one version of this idea in the ancient in medieval world. Nonetheless, learning more about how this intuition was shaped by experience, experiment, and culture is an ongoing research goal started in my dissertation and could be of uses better explaining the history of science and scientific thinking. In turn, this may be instructive to the modern physics student in better articulating their own views and how they differ from the Newtonian concepts they learn. As such, I have investigated the similarities and connections between impetus-like notions from antiquity to modern times, and I have begun looking beyond the ancient Greek tradition and the cultures it influenced to see how universal these beliefs are rather than one cultural product exported over the centuries.

Another question is how did science emerge in the first place. What prerequisites did it have, and why were they best fulfilled in some parts of the world at certain times and not others. Some investigators have begun to compare ancient Chinese and Greco-Roman efforts to understand the natural world, and much has been written about the conditions surrounding the Scientific Revolution. I believe knowing more about what led to science and scientific progress can be instructive to maintaining and accelerating that progress for the greater good, both for the pursuit of knowledge itself and for the public at large. Such a project is thus both descriptive and prescriptive, and it will have to look to both science as knowledge and how science and society impact each other (more on that below).

There is also a significant public educational aspect to science and its history. A large part of understanding the history is getting the facts right and placed into an appropriate and enriching context. That sometimes requires pointing out where it has failed. One particular case I have published on concerns the touring museum exhibit, 1001 Inventions, that showcased a variety of contributions to modern science, math, and technology by medieval Islamicate actors. While a worthy goal and fulfilling the need to show that indeed a great deal of science was done in the Islamic world when the Latin West was in the so-called Dark Ages, numerous problems, great and small, were noted by historians of medieval science. I contributed my own analysis and possible ways of better teaching the history and the underlying science in the edited volume, 1001 Distortions: How (Not) to Narrate History of Science, Medicine, and Technology in Non-Western Cultures (eds., S. Brentes, T. Edis, L. Richter-Bernburg). 













This academic venture has been only one of several where religious issues have been of interest.


​Science and Religion
My most well-known works have been related to ways that the astronomical sciences have intersected with religious beliefs and doctrines.

Since working as a planetarium show presenter, I have explored the various ways that astronomers for the las two centuries have attempted to explain the celestial light known as the Star of Bethlehem, first written about in the Gospel of Matthew and a perennial holiday topic at planetaria around the world since the 1930s. In the process, I have read everything written on the subject for almost 2000 years in Greek, Latin, German, French, and English. I have published my findings in the magazine, Sky & Telescope, in the peer-reviewed journal, Zygon: Journal of Science & Religion, and chapters in two volumes, including one after a major academic conference on the Star at the University of Groningen. My most important work is my book, The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View, which I have presented to international audiences.




















In addition, I have extended my research on the subject to New Testament and Early Christian studies more broadly, having first presented to the Society of Biblical Literature on the methods of Euhemerus in antiquity. Similar to what has happened in modern times, Greco-Roman intellectuals tried to reconstruct histories for their fantastical myths, sometimes turning the gods into mortals of great renown. How the technique known as euhemerism was employed by various writers to various ends is an ongoing line of research. With respect to my previous work on the Christmas Star, euhemerism may be an explanation for the origins of the Gospel story and help explain various other early sources that refer to Jesus as a star.

The aim of these lines of research is to best delineate the historical relationship between rational/philosophical/scientific beliefs and attitudes and theistic/religious ones. In effect, the question is about the nature of knowledge itself and how it affects ones views on theological doctrines and interpretations of spiritual matters. 


Science and Society
​​The purpose of science is to change our way of understanding of the universe to make it conform to how things really are, not just as we imagine or wish them to be. Given the power science has on what we consider to be true, then social effects are expected, though the results are not expected. Science and religion show a great richness in ways one can affect the other. There should be a continuous examination of how science or scientific thinking changes society.

As chair for the Science, Technology, and Society panels for the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) conference, I help organize talks on various ways that thinking, behavior, and expression are articulated in popular culture related to science and tech issues. This includes cinematic fictions, social media trends, and other outlets that reveal the larger Zeitgeist. Additionally, I on the editorial board for Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal for Popular Culture and Pedagogy.

Some aspects of science have shown great popularity and emulation, but there have been other cases of apparent anti-scientific views that have the trappings of science or scholarship. Besides the cases of religion importing itself into science or speculative science re-mythologizing religions, pseudo-scientific beliefs that have gathered a lot of interest are ancient aliens and flat-earth cosmographies. Often proponents of these views, while denigrating scientists and aspects of scientific methods, nonetheless try to amass evidence and reasons that would put the lab coat onto the proponent, making them the true scientists. To some degree, these views can take root because of issues in science literacy, both in accumulated facts and theories and in how science is done and the virtues that make it thrive. In which case, educational reforms and extra-curricular media that address these sorts of problems are needed, tying in back to the pedagogical interested described above.