Zoe Boekelheide, associate professor of physics at Lafayette, conducting scientific research with a student in a science lab

Zoe Boekelheide (left) and a student researcher in 2019

By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

Associate professor of physics Zoe Boekelheide has been naturally drawn to studying magnetism and magnetic materials. And as the keynote speaker delivering the 2022 Thomas Roy and Lura Forest Jones Faculty Lecture on Thursday, April 14, Boekelheide will be sharing some surprising properties of magnetism that arise in her research and teaching—and their applications in modern technology and biomedicine.   

“I am honored to have been selected to deliver the Jones Faculty Lecture this year,” Boekelheide says. “The lecture award is for excellence in both teaching and scholarship, and it feels great to be acknowledged for those two core aspects of my professional identity, which I really pour my heart into.”

Zoe Boekelheide, associate professor of physics at Lafayette, sits behind a desk in a science laboratoryIn her talk—which is titled “Why I Love Magnets and You Should Too” and is open to the public—Boekelheide will give a tour of some surprising and counterintuitive facts of the physics behind magnetism; for example, how magnetic fields depend on Einstein’s theory of special relativity, and how magnetism can break Newton’s Third Law. She also will discuss how her research on magnetic nanoparticles could be applied to biomedical processes such as magnetic particle imaging and magnetic hyperthermia cancer treatment.

“Magnets are familiar objects, associated with children’s toys and refrigerator doors. They are staples in science museums as a concrete and accessible example of forces acting at a distance. But their familiarity belies some seriously complex physics,” Boekelheide says. “I am personally very excited about this lecture, because it’s a chance to share my intellectual interests with the broader community. These kinds of events really help tie a liberal arts community together.”

The event is coordinated by the Office of the Provost and sponsored by the Thomas Roy and Lura Forest Jones Faculty Lecture and Awards Fund, established in 1966 to recognize superior teaching and scholarship at Lafayette College. The award has an inspiring list of prior recipients, which includes the recently departed Joseph A. Sherma, Larkin Professor Emeritus of Chemistry; Lee Upton, Emerita Francis A. March Professor of English; Helena Silverstein, government and law professor and department head; and Jennifer Rossmann, professor of mechanical engineering. Lecturers are nominated by their colleagues and selected by a faculty committee.

“This lecture is one of the most visible ways in which we highlight the teacher-scholar model we embrace at Lafayette College,” says John Meier, provost at Lafayette. “It is an opportunity for the speaker to highlight their scholarly contributions in a manner that is appreciated by all members of the Lafayette community, and it is one of those moments when students, staff, and faculty can gather and celebrate the accomplishments of our colleagues and the importance of intellectual inquiry and discourse. Prof. Boekelheide has an exceptional record of accomplishments as a teacher, mentor, and scholar. In addition to her courses in physics, she has taught the First-Year Seminar Demonstrating Science. Her research on magnetic properties of nanoparticles has appeared in top journals in her field, and she was one of the faculty members who wrote a successful NSF proposal to secure funding for a scanning electron microscope.”

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