School of Science

1. I grew up in a little coastal fishing village in Massachusetts. Many Portuguese fishermen had settled there, and their culture was a big influence on my childhood. Summer jobs for me and my friends often revolved around the sea: digging clams, working in boatyards, crewing on fishing boats. The taste of a good kale soup with chouriço still evokes vivid memories of my childhood and friends.  

2. My family were artists. My father taught at the Rhode Island School of Design before taking a position at a small state college in Massachusetts to start a Visual Arts department. My mother and one of my sisters received their MFAs there, while another sister got her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. It may seem that I am quite the black sheep of my family, having gone into physics, but I feel nothing is further from the truth. My parents always had a real fascination with science and philosophy, and it was their curiosity and creativity that led me to physics. This background drives my strong belief in the value of Siena's liberal arts education and its Franciscan tradition.

3. I am a motorhead, from a long line of motorheads. My grandfather owned a filling station in St. Louis during the depression, and although I never met him, from family stories he was clearly a character and always had a few Duesenbergs in the driveway in various states of (dis)repair. Oh, to have one of those today! My father inherited the bug, and I grew up working on cars with my dad. I have a soft spot in my heart for old BMWs, SAABs, and Alfa Romeos.

4. One summer job I had that was very influential on me were the two summers I worked at a local boatyard, building sailboats. I was involved in every phase of their construction: fiberglassing, woodwork, painting, brightwork. The only thing I never learned is how to sail the things!

5. In grad school I had two professors who were very influential to me, both with regard to physics and to life in general. They had both been young men during the end of World War II.  One was a young German who was drafted into service during the final years of the war. The other was a young Jew who was fleeing Europe with his family during those same years. He didn't talk a lot about those years, but sometimes hinted at some truly frightening moments. The amazing thing was these two men had bonded over their common love of physics and had developed an incredibly close friendship. They were the best of buddies. Their example taught me so much about the meaning and value of friendship and the beauty of working with others to explore the riddles of the universe.

6. When my son was in elementary school, I used to walk him to school on my shoulders every day. I joked that, like the ancient Greek wrestler Milo lifting a calf every day until it was a bull four years later, if I continued to do this until Finn was in high school, aside from making him a pariah, I would be the strongest man in Cambridge, NY. I didn't make it past 3rd grade, but I did become well known in town as the guy who carries his son to school.

7. Travel is one of my favorite things to do with my family. It’s like an escape room - the four members of our family all forced to navigate a new experience together. No trip embodied this survival mode more than our family trip to Iceland. In the course of two weeks, we walked gingerly across belching steam vent fields, lava rocks, and the Mid-Atlantic rift. We boated through ice lagoons, tramped through lava caves, and wet our faces in the mists of many a waterfall. A few weeks after we got home, my son and I completed a lengthy car repair on a cold rainy day. When we came inside, my son said, “That was fun in an Icelandic way!” I knew exactly what he meant.

8. We keep getting dogs. I never want them, but nevertheless they appear in the car’s backseat, usually after a brief visit to a pet store adoption site where everyone in my family swears we are just going to look. That’s how five dogs have appeared in my life over the years. Ironically, each one becomes my new favorite, curled up at my feet, the one I can’t imagine the household without.

9. I fenced in college and loved it, so was overjoyed to discover the small town I moved to with my wife many years ago had weekend fencing class. This was my chance to get back in the game and reclaim past glories! I spent a year or two honing my skills and then, it was time to take my act on the road: a local fencing tournament one town over. My immediate family and extended relatives piled into the car to spectate. The tournament came down to two of us, and near the end of my final five minute bout, I knew I had him!  Parry, riposte! I won! That eleven year old will never know what hit him!

10. Family legend has it that a distant relative - great great uncle? - developed the original recipe for Budweiser beer. Story goes that Carl Conrad owned a tavern in Saint Louis called Budweiser’s where they sold the brewed beer. To pay off some debts, Carl supposedly sold the recipe for that beer to Anheuser Busch. Best not to Google any of this - let me dream a little about what might have been!