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Faculty & Staff

The Swarthmore Summer Scholars Program (S3P) is driven by challenging academics with direct instruction from three Swarthmore professors. 

Each summer, the lab science subject itself rotates among the departments in Natural Sciences and Engineering at the College. Our focus is not the subject content; rather, we want to give students the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art equipment and to learn techniques in a setting where following protocols, trial and error, and working collaboratively, are an integral part of the process. Students interested in any STEM field will benefit from this experience. 

Ben Geller

Ben Geller, Director
Associate Professor of Physics

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, a child of parents from New York City who left to raise a family in a small town. I was and am a passionate sports fan, whose favorite teams always let me down but never stop me from believing the next year will be different. My dad is a lawyer who spent his entire career working for Legal Services, providing voice and representation to low income folks and those who are most vulnerable. Those values were instilled in me from an early age and now inform my teaching and research. I am a Swarthmore alum, having graduated from the college with a degree in Chemistry in 2001.

As an undergraduate I was fascinated by almost every subject I studied and felt like they were all connected. I wrote a paper about the similarities between quantum mechanics and Buddhist philosophy, and another exploring what genetics had to say about ethics. Picking a major was a challenge and I changed my mind a few times along the way. After college I did a master’s degree in the Philosophy of Physics at Columbia University, spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in the U.K, and ultimately pursued and obtained a Ph.D. in Physics. It’s been a winding path, but the strand that runs through all of it is the liberal arts commitment to seeing the natural sciences and humanities as deeply connected. I do Physics Education Research, a field of study that explores all aspects of how students learn science, and physics in particular. I’m interested in how not just thoughts and ideas, but also attitudes and emotions, play such an important role in how we learn math and science. It is also research that directly informs my teaching. I am continually trying to make my classroom a more interactive and engaging space in which all students can learn deeply. I’m excited to share some of my experiences and learn from everyone involved in the Summer Scholars Program!


Summer of 2024 Faculty

photo of Sibelan Forrester

Joseph Towles
Associate Professor of Engineering

I grew up in Baltimore, MD, and my sister and I were the first to attend college in our family.  I majored in Mechanical Engineering and minored in Math at the University of Maryland Baltimore County where I was a member of a transformative scholarship program, the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program, that built on the drive for academic excellence that my parents instilled in me. In that Program, I learned the importance of supportive professors, administrators and study groups.  My study groups were the main reason that I thrived in college and actually found my classes fun.  Outside of classes, I spent time playing basketball and table tennis, and shooting pool. 

My college experiences laid a strong foundation for thriving as a graduate student at Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering.  My graduate school experience and subsequent experiences in research and teaching were instrumental in my ultimately taking a faculty position in Engineering at Swarthmore College. 

At Swarthmore, I teach courses in solid mechanics, neuromuscular biomechanics, dynamical systems, and engineering design. I do research that applies engineering methods to the study and improvement of human health. 

photo of Cheryl Grood

David Cohen
Professor of Astronomy

Growing up, I was introverted and loved to learn facts about the world and look at maps. I always liked looking at the sky and when I was about eight I read a book about the big bang and fell in love with the idea that we could actually know about things - like the origins of the universe and about life in the universe - that seemed so important and so unlikely to be understandable in a rational way. 

In school I often felt that science class didn't have much of the things I liked about science or about being in nature or looking up at the sky. More often, science and math classes made me feel like I didn't understand or couldn't do. I gravitated toward history because I liked thinking about people and society. What got me back into science in college was an astronomy class that focused on the history of astronomy and the quest to find life in the universe and the opportunity to do a little work with data taken at a nearby telescope. Science also has made me less introverted, both because it's fun to talk with people about science and also because, contrary to stereotypes, science is a collaborative, social activity. 

I've been teaching and doing astronomy research at Swarthmore for 23 years and especially enjoy introducing students to the night sky, to the incredible images and even more incredible facts about exotic cosmic objects, and to working with telescopic images and data. And I also enjoy learning and teaching about the history of astronomy and the myriad ways that astronomy intersects with culture.

My own research involves massive stars (the Sun is just a medium-sized star) and their stellar winds (material pushed from their surfaces into space at high speed), which I study mostly using data from X-ray telescopes (which are in orbit above the Earth's atmosphere, which absorbs X-rays). I also do some exoplanet research using the telescope on the roof of the science center, which 2024 Summer Scholars will get to use as part of the lab curriculum. 

I live just a few minutes walk from campus with my partner, who is a writer and housing affordability activist, and my dog, who is a 55 pound pit bull mix named Lucy. 

photo of Cheryl Grood

Sa'ed Atshan
Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Anthropology

Dr. Sa'ed Atshan is Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Swarthmore College. He has previously served as an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Emory University, as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Senior Research Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. He earned a PhD in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies and MA in Social Anthropology from Harvard University, an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School, and BA from Swarthmore College. 

Atshan is the author of Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique (Stanford University Press, 2020), coauthor (with Katharina Galor) of The Moral Triangle: Germans, Israelis, Palestinians (Duke University Press, 2020), and coeditor (with Galor) of Reel Gender: Palestinian and Israeli Cinema (Bloomsbury, 2022). 


Past Professors

Summer of 2023 Faculty
Cheryl Grood,  Professor of Mathematics and Statistics
Sibelan Forrester, Professor of Russian, Russian Section Head
Lisa Meeden, Professor of Computer Science

Summer of 2022 Faculty
Joseph Derrick Nelson, Associate Professor of Educational and Black Studies
Philip Everson, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics
Carr Everbach, Professor of Engineering and Environmental Studies

Summer of 2021 Faculty
Tim Burke, Professor of History
Ben Geller, Associate Professor of Physics
Bradley Davidson, Professor of Biology

Summer of 2020 Faculty
Betsy Bolton, Professor of English Literature
Ralph Gomez, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics
Kathleen Howard, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Summer of 2019 Faculty
Peter Schmidt, Professor of English Literature
Philip Everson, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics
Matt Zucker, Associate Professor of Engineering

Summer of 2018 Faculty
Peter Schmidt, Professor of English Literature
Philip Everson, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics
Lisa Meeden, Professor of Computer Science

Summer of 2017 Faculty
Anthony Foy, Associate Professor of English Literature
Deb Bergstrand, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Statistics
Catherine Crouch, Associate Professor of Physics
David Cohen, Professor of Astronomy

Summer of 2016 Faculty
Anthony Foy, Associate Professor of English Literature
Deb Bergstrand, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Statistics
Catherine Crouch, Associate Professor of Physics
Frank Moscatelli, Professor Emeritus of Physics

Summer of 2015 Faculty
Jill Gladstein, Associate Professor of English
Cheryl Grood, Professor of Mathematics
Amy Cheng Vollmer, Professor Emerita of Biology