Spencer Smith

Spencer Smith Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics

Name: Spencer A. Smith  

Title: Assistant Professor

Department: Physics

Areas of study: computational physics, fluid dynamics, chaos theory

Research focus: Spencer Smith’s research interests lie at the intersection of physics (fluid dynamics), math (dynamic systems theory and topology), and computer science (finite elements, data structures, algorithm development and numerical methods). His work is pertinent to a wide range of flows, from micro-fluidic chips at the small scale to pollution tracking and prediction in oceanic flows on a much larger scale. Smith is also very interested in the intersection of art and physics.

What drew you to your area of study: Perhaps because I grew up around art, I often view physics through an aesthetic lens. The beauty of the equations and the fact that you can explain so much with such a small set of ideas perpetually interests me. In particular, in my area, chaotic dynamics, I appreciate the simplicity and elegance of organizing principles which stand in stark contrast to the apparent random behavior that they explain so well.

What appeals to you about being a professor at Mount Holyoke: I love that teaching is really valued here, and that mentoring students as well as getting them involved in research is part of the culture. The real sense of community at Mount Holyoke leads to many opportunities to collaborate across disciplines.  

What do you like about teaching: I enjoy being able to share my enthusiasm for physics and help light a similar spark in my students. Teaching is also a deep well of inspiration for research.

What are your proudest accomplishments, academic or other: Aside from defending my dissertation, I would have to say that showing some of my art at an international math and art conference/exhibition is pretty high up there.

Favorite things about the campus and region so far: I’ve lived here for five years and am still finding new places to hike. I love the wealth of farmers’ markets, festivals and great outdoor activities.

What was your favorite class as an undergraduate: It is probably a tie between art history and an upper-level statistical mechanics class.

What do you like to do when you are not working: Hiking, playing with my kids and cooking are three of my favorite pastimes.

Read more about Spencer A. Smith.