Interview with Physics Ph.D. Student Caleb Speirs

Photo of Physics Ph.D. Student Caleb SpeirsJohn Caleb Speirs, born and raised in Denver, CO. I’m in a Doctorate program for Applied Physics with a specialty in Physics Education Research. I hold a Master’s degree from the Colorado School of Mines in Applied Physics with a research specialty of ultrafast laser microscopy. My hobbies include woodworking, gardening, and electronics.

How did you become interested in science?

I excelled in reading and mathematics in middle school, and was drawn towards fantasy and sci fi literature. As a part of that, my mom bought me “Relativity” by Albert Einstein, and the companion piece “Ideas and Opinions”. From there, in high school, I bought “A Brief History of Time” and my uncle bought me a Scientific American magazine “’cause he figured I would enjoy it.” My interest was piqued, and the rest is history.

What is your research about?

I research the cognitive psychology of reasoning in an effort to explain reasoning patterns observed in a physics classroom. In other words, I look at current answers to the question “How do humans reason?” and look for those things in student behavior. Ideally, we will harness that knowledge to improve the teaching and learning of physics for high school and college age students.

Why is your research important?  What impact do you hope it will have?

My research can impact the teaching and learning of physics both in secondary and higher education. By transforming physics into a subject that becomes understandable to the average person, society itself will find a greater shift towards technological capability – more people will become interested in and find themselves able to contribute to scientific endeavors. The positive implications of this are innumerable.