Programming for Discovery

During the summer of 2011, Stefan Mellem and I worked on the notes for a course entitled “Programming for Discovery”.  As part of his work, Stefan wrote approximately 50 programs (in Python) to explore the logistic map, mathematical billiards, Ising systems, fractal generating systems, systems of differential equations, molecular dynamics in charged systems, genetic algorithms, and more.  We traveled to the University of Chicago where we gave a seminar on our work, met with several experimental and theoretical groups, and consulted with Leo Kadanoff on a number of topics in theoretical physics.

I am currently working on an enrichment program, intended for middle school and high school students, incorporating both programming and robotics.  At this point, I am training University of Chicago students to use some of the elements of “Programming for Discovery” with middle school and high school Chicago area students.  This summer (2012) I will be teaching “Programming for Discovery” for the Young Scholars Program (a program for gifted and talented high school students at the University of Chicago).

In parallel with my pedagogical work, I am also working with Leo Kadanoff on a project that uses the renormalization group, a mathematical technique designed to view a physical system at different scales.  In the past I have worked closely with experimental groups, often working on computational models that have grown out of their experiments or providing a mathematical framework to enhance their work.  In the future, I hope to continue this work, both on educational outreach and more traditional research in statistical and mathematical physics.

(Amy Kolan)