UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
member of graduate faculty
Office: 115 Centennial Science Hall
Ph.D. Physics, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, MN
B.S. Physics, Hope College, Holland, MI
Dr. Matt Vonk holds a B.S. in physics from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and a PhD in physics from the University of Minnesota.
Matt has varied interests and has published articles on erosion pillars, water jetpacks, asteroid rotation, the ascendance of video, and even an essay on what it's like to teach physics in the digital age.
He is currently working on an NSF funded project with collaborator Peter Bohacek to make Direct Measurement Videos (DMV's). DMV's are short videos that show an event happening, but they are recorded in such a way (with high resolution, high frame rates, good lighting, plain backgrounds, the appropriate angle) so that students can actively measure and analyze the event for themselves. Instead of students reading a problem about a car that skids on the ice, for example, DMV's actually show a car being driven on the ice. Actually watching a rocket launch is nothing like the dry description one might find in a written problem. DMV's are currently available on WebAssign, and are included in MIT's Mechanics Review free online class (called a MOOC, Massively Open Online Course). The DMV project has now become Pivot Interactives. A free library of Pivot Interactives videos is easily accessible.
In addition to Matt's passion for teaching, he also loves to travel. Occasionally he's been able to unite the two things he loves. In 2009, he received a Rotary Foundation award that allowed him to each electronics in the Dominican Republic. In 2010, he received a Fulbright traditional scholars award to spend the semester in Managua, Nicaragua teaching at the National Engineering University. In 2014, he spent the semester in Hangzhou, China as part of UWRF's Experience China program.
His fields of specialization are atomic and molecular physics, electronics, and minor planet astronomy. His dissertation described the rotational behavior of small molecules after collisions with noble gasses. This work involved the use of molecular beams, tunable dye lasers, vacuum systems, and the associated electronics. Before coming to UWRF, he also served as an assistant professor of physics at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky, and Saint Mary's University in Winona, Minnesota.