Interview with Dr. Machnik 2/20/17

Shay Vogel

Interview with Dr. Machnik


Interview with a Physicist


A large aspect of my field of study is physics based. Dr. Dennis Machnik is the only physics professor on campus and was kind enough to tell me about his educational and professional history. When I asked him what his professional career looked like he had this to say, “Physics is effectively applied math, and engineering is applied physics. Most engineering involves a lot of math. My field is astrophysics, but it’s still physics and still requires a lot of math. My Ph.D. is in radio astrophysics using radio telescopes to observe clouds of gas dust in space, pressure, density, temperature and so forth. Because if enough gas has enough density at a certain temperature, it will collapse and become a star and planets. That was pretty much what I was into – star formations.”

Dr. Machnik told me after is two years of post-doctoral research in 1981 he began teaching and hasn’t stopped since. He said people typically pair teaching with their own research, but he chooses to participate in community outreach programs. Machnik takes the portable planetarium, visits children in the community and neighboring disctricts and teaches them about space. Dr. Machnik has remained specialized and in a teaching position, and his advice was to first decide how much math I feel the need to take. He told me the design field has a spectrum between maths and arts and I should determine where on that spectrum I will be most suited.

Machnik recommended I take graphic design courses and accompanying maths and the physics based calculus class offered here.

We ended up talking for about an hour and a half after the interview about Klein bottles, space clouds, quantum mechanics, black holes, and simple math in economics, the heat emitted from cooling concrete in the Hoover Dam, how stars form and die, the fourth dimension, and tricks with optics. Talking to this man was both fascinating, fun and as he went off to class he kindly offered any help he could provide – telling me I’m welcome to come talk any time.

One thought on “Interview with Dr. Machnik 2/20/17

  1. How fun! I would have loved a little more detail about some of what you mentioned in your last paragraph…fascinating! The post is beautifully written, and I really wanted to hear more of the detail from what you covered together given how interesting it all sounds…even to me, an English major! 🙂

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