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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. 


Amy Vollmer

Amy Vollmer
Isaac H. Clothier Jr. Professor of Biology

I completed my B.A. in Biochemistry at Rice University and my Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. After my post-doctoral research in immunology at Stanford Medical School, I spent four years as a member of the Biology Department at Mills College, a liberal arts women’s college in Oakland, Calif. Since 1989, I have been a faculty member at Swarthmore College and currently serve as biology department chair. I teach courses in microbiology, biotechnology, as well as in the introductory sequence. My approach to teaching is to be interactive with students, even in large lecture courses, and to have students develop an awareness of their specific learning styles and of metacognition in general. 

My research focuses in the area of bacterial stress response and I have mentored over 70 undergraduate students with whom I have co-authored and co-presented their work. I have been invited to colleges, universities, and professional conferences to gives lectures on my research, teaching, mentoring, networking, and work-life balance, along with promoting science literacy. Actively involved in the American Society for Microbiology for many years, in 2006, I was the recipient of the Carski Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award from the ASM’s American Academy for Microbiology.  

As a first-generation Asian American, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., I am keenly aware of feeling like an ‘outsider’ in many circumstances.  As the former co-owner of a small business owner (my husband and I owned an Italian deli), I am also sensitive to distinctions between working class and professional career demands. Given my 30-year experience in the classroom and laboratory, and my commitment to increasing both access to and success in STEM majors at Swarthmore to a diversely trained cohort, I was proud to be a member of the inaugural core group of faculty members in the 2015 Swarthmore Summer Scholars Program and honored to be the director of the S3P beginning in fall 2017.  Teaching in S3P was the best teaching experience I have had, being inspired and energized by the students!  I look forward to involving more of my faculty colleagues to be a part of the program. 


Summer of 2021 Faculty

Brad Davidson

Brad Davidson
Associate Professor of Biology

I grew up outside of Los Angeles and am the grandchild of immigrants who came to this country from Europe to escape persecution. When I arrived at Swarthmore in the 1980s as a student, I often felt somewhat alienated by the unfamiliar east-coast culture and very unsure of my aptitude particularly in math and science. I became to overcome these deeply held insecurities by sharing them with my peers. This helped me realize that I was far from alone in feeling ill-equipped for college and in having no idea about what I wanted to pursue as a career. I also began to gain confidence in STEM through one on one interactions with my professors, particularly the wonderful faculty in the Biology department. However, even after graduating from Swarthmore and completing my PhD at the University of Washington, I strongly felt that I was just not cut out to be a scientist and that my aptitude was much more aligned with teaching. It was really only when I started my post-doctoral research at U.C. Berkeley that I began to self-identify as a capable scientist. I think this is because I finally had complete independence at that point and was able to prove to myself that I could formulate my own questions and make discoveries that I felt passionate about. During graduate school, I also took advantage of every opportunity to engage in teaching, which was and continues to be my central passion. After my post-doc I was able to obtain a faculty position at the University of Arizona. But my passion for teaching and for the supportive, collaborative community represented by Swarthmore College, led me to apply for a position here and to my surprise and delight, I was given the opportunity to return to Swarthmore as a faculty member.


Ben Geller

Ben Geller
Assistant 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!


Tim Burke

Tim Burke
Professor of History

I've been on the faculty at Swarthmore since the fall of 1994 in the Department of History. My major field of specialization is the history of modern Africa, but I have also published work on digital culture, computer games, children's television and the history of higher education. That may explain the title of my academic weblog, Easily Distracted, which I have maintained since 2003. I also am fairly active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I am presently Co-Director of the Aydelotte Foundation, an internal Swarthmore research institute that examines the past, present and possible futures of liberal education. In my work with the Aydelotte and as an academic blogger, I try to think about the "big picture" of higher education. This summer in S3P, we'll be working on the different genres and forms of writing you might be doing as a student at Swarthmore, but I also plan to ask how--or whether--the writing that students do connects to the professional and personal writing they will do later. We won't just learn how to write in college, we'll be exploring why faculty are so committed to writing as a skill and how writing differs between departments and courses. We'll talk about some of the limitations of writing in college as well. We'll also look at how writing connects (or sometimes doesn't connect) to speaking, presenting, reading and problem-solving in college coursework.


Past Professors

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

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

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

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

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