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Centenary hires new physics faculty members

Dr. Dinuka Gallaba (left) and Dr. David Kordahl (right)

SHREVEPORT, LA — Dr. David Kordahl and Dr. Dinuka Gallaba have joined the Centenary faculty in fall 2020 in the Department of Physics, Kordahl as assistant professor and Gallaba as visiting assistant professor.

Kordahl brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to Centenary. He completed his Ph.D in physics at Arizona State University, where he specialized in electron microscopy theory, and also earned undergraduate degrees in physics, math, music, and English at Wartburg College, a liberal arts college in Iowa. Prior to entering his doctoral program, Kordahl earned a master’s degree in physics at the University of Kansas and taught undergraduate courses in mechanics, electromagnetism, and astronomy. Kordahl also taught science and math courses in high school and has worked as a freelance science writer, with pieces appearing in The New Atlantis and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Kordahl looks forward to further developing the physics curriculum and degree at Centenary, and will also continue his research into new possibilities for measurements using various forms of electron and optical spectroscopy, including projects that try to tie together electron spectroscopy and quantum optics.

“Given the liberal arts environment, I also am interested in projects that are on the edge of physics and philosophy, or physics and society, as I have tried to pursue in my various science journalism projects,” says Kordahl. “Working with students is an ideal way to find out what broad questions exist that might not occur to me on my own, and I look forward to learning from students as we struggle over physics together.”

Kordahl will also instruct and mentor students in Centenary’s 3/2 engineering programs (through partnerships with Washington University in St. Louis and Columbia University in New York), building on the work that Dr. David Bieler, professor of geology and chair of the department of physics and engineering, has done to strengthen the engineering sciences at Centenary.

“I am preparing to teach a course on waves and modern physics next semester, the ‘third semester’ of a physics sequence, and it will involve many new experimental setups,” explains Kordahl. “Most of the lab equipment for this course will be new, from a grant that Dr. Bieler and my predecessor, Dr. Pokhrel, won. This lab course will allow students to get hands on experience with the fundamentals of modern physics, including relativity and quantum theory.”

Gallaba earned a Ph.D. in applied physics from Southern Illinois University where he conducted research in gas absorption, including a collaborative project that conducted a pore distribution analysis of Shale Rock. Gallaba has also worked in the field of data mining and statistical analysis, including an examination of the energy and security of Smart Buildings.

Gallaba taught electricity and magnetism courses and labs for undergraduates at Southern Illinois University as well as lab courses in mechanics, sound and waves, and electricity and optics at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in Sri Lanka. He is co-author of three journal articles examining gas absorption and has collaborated on numerous posters and presentations at meetings of the American Physical Society and other professional organizations.

He will teach courses and labs in conceptual physics and thermal and statistical mechanics. at Centenary this year.

“For most of the students, conceptual physics may be the only course that they will take in physics as a requirement,” explains Gallaba. “I am trying keep the content of the course close to their daily life and experiences so that they can think rationally about real world questions and try to find solutions in a scientific way. I am so excited to present them with ideas and challenge them with problems in the physical world so that they gain confidence in solving real life problems.”

Teaching the upper-level thermal and statistical mechanics course will allow Gallaba to cultivate his own research interests while sharing knowledge with his students.

“Thermal and statistical mechanics is a core branch in physics and also happens to be a big part of my graduate school research,” says Gallaba. “Teaching this course provides an opportunity to challenge myself to keep updating my knowledge, which I think is a critical part of an academic career. I have also started working on a project with a student in this class, and we will hopefully present the work at a conference, or if we can further refine it, for a peer reviewed journal article.”

 

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