The awesome folks in CERL


Danny Caballero (he/him)

Danny is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering. He holds the Lappan-Phillips Chair of Physics Education, co-directs the Physics Education Research Lab, and is the principal investigator of the Learning Machines Lab. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin, and his Master’s and PhD in physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Danny worked as a Science Teaching Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder before joining the faculty at Michigan State. His research focuses on computational education and the use of data science to address questions in STEM education. In his free time, he bikes, skateboards, and barbecues. His website can be found here.

Brian O’Shea (he/him)

Brian is a Professor in the Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He is also a member of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and the current Director of MSU’s Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research. Prior to joining MSU, he received his PhD in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was a postdoc at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Theoretical Astrophysics Group and Applied Physics Division. His research interests include galaxy formation, turbulence, plasma physics, and computational science education. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, gardening, biking, and hiking. His website can be found here.

Devin Silvia (he/him)

Devin is the Director of Undergraduate Studies and a teaching specialist in the Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering. He received his PhD in Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences from the University of Colorado where he worked as a computational astrophysicist running simulations aimed at understanding various facets of chemical evolution in the universe. He then worked as a National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics postdoctoral fellow at MSU before joining the ranks of the CMSE faculty in 2017. In addition to his computational astrophysics research, Devin is passionate about STEM education and creating more equitable and inclusive STEM classrooms. When he’s not working, he enjoys brewing beer, roasting coffee, and running all over the greater Lansing area.

Postdoctoral Research Associates

Tom Finzell

Tom is an astrophysicist that has moved into Physics Education Research (PER), and more recently, Computational Education Research (CER). His PER work focuses primarily on developing methods and tools to help physics instructors incorporate computation into their classrooms in a way that is equitable and inclusive. Tom enjoys working on these problems with both instructors and students, using educational research tools to both modernize physics curricula and working to bring down historical and structural barriers that stand in the way of success for disenfranchised groups. His Ph.D. work focused on modeling multi-wavelength observations of gamma-ray-emitting Classical Novae, with a specific focus on the V1324 Sco. Tom used radio observations to probe the extensive properties of nova ejecta, optical data as a diagnostic of the plasma, and gamma-ray data to constrain the dynamics of the event.

Rachel Frisbie (she/her)

Rachel is a postdoctoral researcher in the Computational Education Research Lab (CERL). She earned her PhD in 2020 in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Michigan State University where she was an observational astronomer focusing on the properties of the hot, X-ray emitting gas in galaxies and galaxy clusters and how we can learn about their evolution from the gas. In CERL, she will focus on exploring student learning outcomes and attitudes in introductory computational science courses at MSU. Outside of work, Rachel enjoys powerlifting, running, playing oboe, and getting snuggles from her dog Freya.

External Collaborators

Tor Ole Odden

Tor is a postdoc at the University of Oslo, Norway, where he studies how computation can be used to improve physics teaching and how machine learning methods can be applied to science education research. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from St. Olaf College, a master’s in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a PhD in physics education also from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In his spare time Tor is an active fiddle player, cross-country skier, wood-carver, and graphic novel enthusiast.

Former group members

Nat Hawkins

Nat is a former post-bac researcher with CERL. He is currently a PhD student in CMSE working with Dr. Arjun Krishnan. Check him out here.