Michael Manhart, Ph.D.
Institute of Integrative Biology
8092 Zurich, Switzerland
CHN K18 (ETHZ), BU F13 (Eawag)
michael.manhart AT env.ethz.ch
+41 44 633 60 32
Environmental Biology. During the fall semesters of 2020 and 2021, I served as a tutor for three students in this course at ETH Zurich for a reading project focused on predicting evolution.
Infectious Disease Dynamics. During the spring semester of 2021, I served as a teaching assistant for this course to administer and evaluate oral exams.
Physics 106 (Concepts of Physics for Humanities and Social Science Students). In the spring of 2013, I was a co-instructor for Physics 106 at Rutgers along with Aatish Bhatia, Deepak Iyer, and Simon Knapen, under the supervision of Prof. Saurabh Jha. This was, well, an experiment by the department to let four graduate students teach the physics for non-majors course. Traditional renditions of this course tend to cover roughly the same basic material as other introductory physics courses (e.g., for pre-med or engineering students) but at a less technical level. However, we believe that isn't the best approach to a course that may be the last science course these students ever take. Thus, we completely redesigned the course to focus on four major questions driving much of modern physics research: (1) Can we meet our energy needs with renewable sources? (2) What are the smallest building blocks of nature? (3) What is our place in the cosmic perspective? and (4) How does complexity emerge from simplicity? We also incorporated novel teaching techniques such as learning assistants, interactive workshops in a lecture environment, and blog assignments. For more details, please check out the course website and syllabus.
I was personally responsible for designing and teaching the fourth module, which centered on the question How does complexity emerge from simplicity? The module developed some basic ideas from thermodynamics and statistical physics — such as entropy, temperature, and phase transitions — to understand emergence and collective behavior in various physical and biological systems, including flocks of birds, Conway's Game of Life, magnets, superconductors, and protein folding.
Teaching assistant experiences. I also served as a TA (or equivalent) in several courses during graduate school:
Prison Teaching Initiative. I also taught for five semesters in the Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI), a coalition of volunteers (drawn largely from faculty, postdocs, and students from Princeton and Rutgers) that teaches courses for community college credit to inmates at several New Jersey correctional facilities. My teaching included:
- In spring 2012, I was a learning assistant for Physics 611 (Statistical Mechanics).
- In spring 2012, I was the grader for Physics 567 (Physics of Living Matter) with Prof. Anirvan Sengupta, the introductory graduate course in biological physics.
- In spring 2011, I taught two recitations for Physics 116 (Extended Analytical Physics II) with Dr. Suzanne Brahmia, which covered rotational motion, thermodynamics, fluids, waves, and gravitation.
- In fall 2010, I taught four recitations for Physics 202 (Extended General Physics II) with Dr. AbdelBaki Brahmia, which covered electro- and magnetostatics, basic circuits, optics, and modern physics.
- In summer 2010, I taught one recitation for Physics 204 (General Physics II) with Dr. Slawomir Piatek, which covered electro- and magnetostatics, basic circuits, optics, and modern physics.
- Spring 2012: BIO 114 (Visualizing Environmental Science) at Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility
- Fall 2011: MAT 037 (Introduction to Algebra) at Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility
- Spring 2011: MAT 135 (Intermediate Algebra) at Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility
- Fall 2010: MAT 037 (Introduction to Algebra) at Garden State Youth Correctional Facility
- Spring 2010: MAT 037 (Introduction to Algebra) at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women
I am very enthusiastic about mentoring young scientists. As a group leader I have mentored the following Ph.D. students:
I have also mentored the following master's students:
- Justus Fink (Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, May 2019 to present): Modeling and empirical analysis of the microbial growth phenome
In graduate school I had the privilege of mentoring three high school students:
- Jakob Löffler (Department of Biology, ETH Zurich, December 2021 to present): Modeling mutation effects in a cross-feeding microbial community
- Aswin Krishna (Department of Biology, ETH Zurich, February 2021 to September 2021): Experimental measurements of nutrient colimitation in amino acid auxotrophs
- Alexander Stein (Department of Physics, ETH Zurich, September 2019 to January 2020): Developing a computational approach to infer single-cell lag times from barcoded lineage frequencies
- Arun Kalyanaraman (summer 2013 – summer 2014), High Technology High School, on to UC-Berkeley: biophysical models of protein evolution
- Rishabh Pipada (summer 2012), West Windsor Plainsboro High School North, on to Caltech: loop defects in nucleosomes as a mechanism for nucleosome repositioning. This project was successfully entered in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology.
- Aditya Bhagavathi (summer 2011), West Windsor Plainsboro High School North, also on to Caltech: inferring mutational effects on stability from protein sequences. This project was a regional semifinalist in the Siemens Competition.
DELTA P: Developing Educational Leaders Among TAs in Physics. This is the TA training program in the Rutgers Department of Physics and Astronomy, originally organized in 2010 by Simon Knapen (Ph.D. student, Physics and Astronomy), Heather Briggs (Ed.M. student, Graduate School of Education), and me. Prior to 2010 the department had no physics-specific training for all TAs, so we are thrilled our program has been made permanent. The goals of DELTA P are to foster excellence and consistency among graduate student TAs and to strengthen and unify the undergraduate educational experience.
Simon and I gave an invited talk on DELTA P at the 2012 APS April Meeting (here are the slides). In 2013 I led my own DELTA P session on "Cultivating research-teaching symbiosis," in which we discussed how to incorporate teaching into your research goals and vice-versa.
SSPAR: Student Seminars in Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers. SSPAR (pronounced "spar") is a series of seminars by and for graduate students in the Rutgers Department of Physics and Astronomy. The goals are to provide students with frequent opportunities to give talks in a low-pressure environment, to broaden students' knowledge, and to enhance the student community in the department. SSPAR was lovingly ripped off from SASS, a similar program at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (thanks, Wells Wulsin). Victor Alexandrov, Sanjay Arora, Simon Knapen, and I originally organized SSPAR in 2009. I gave several talks of my own at SSPAR, including:
Other educational talks:
Social media outreach. Over the years I have tried to develop some activity on social media, both to interact with other scientists and academics as well as to communicate science to the public. Currently I write posts for a blog on this website; during my postdoc I wrote a few posts for the blog biomolbioandco, and as a graduate student I wrote posts for the Rutgers Graduate School-New Brunswick blog (which is unfortunately no longer online). You can also find me on Twitter at @Michael_Manhart.
- "Foldit: Discovering the Physics of Proteins through Gaming" (April 4, 2013)
- "What Does the Renormalization Group Tell Us about Universality and Effective Theories in Population Genetics?" (December 8, 2011)
- "Schrödinger's Dream: The Statistical Physics of Evolutionary Biology" (December 6, 2010)
- "A Path Integral Approach to Molecular Evolution" (July 20, 2010)
- "The Strange Case of the 1/x^2 Potential" (October 20, 2009)
Last updated: 16 December 2021