People

Seth Redfield, A'98, NEC'98

Seth Redfield

"Tufts [had prepared] me with a solid foundation in technical knowledge, but perhaps even more importantly, Tufts also provided me with an opportunity to do research and interact one-on-one with faculty in physics and astronomy." (Seth Redfield)

Current occupation:
Assistant professor of astronomy at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. I use the Hubble Space Telescope and 10-meter ground-based telescopes to study the composition and structure of the atmospheres of distant exoplanets, and the gas and dust drifting among the nearest stars. I also teach undergraduate and graduate courses on a wide range of areas in astrophysics.

How do you use your physics background in your line of work?
I use it every day in my research and in my teaching. As a researcher and an instructor, I am continually building on the foundation of my undergraduate and graduate work. In fact, my most heavily used references today are my first introductory textbooks from Tufts in calculus and modern physics. I also think my experience at Tufts helps me to be a better mentor to undergraduates at Wesleyan, an institution similar to Tufts in many ways.

Did the Tufts physics department prepare you for your current career?
Absolutely. Tufts had certainly prepared me with a solid foundation in technical knowledge, but perhaps even more importantly, Tufts also provided me with an opportunity to do research and interact one-on-one with faculty in physics and astronomy. This close interaction gave me a deeper contextual understanding of the field, and solidified the classroom work I had gotten. I went on to graduate school in astrophysics at the University of Colorado in Boulder and then a postdoc at the University of Texas in Austin. I found that many of my fellow graduate students, who had attended much larger undergraduate institutions and perhaps had access to a wider range of courses, did not have this intimate experience with their foundational material, or in research. So, I have always been grateful for that component of my education at Tufts, and it's a reason why working at Wesleyan has been so appealing to me.

What was the most rewarding experience you had in the Tufts physics department?
Oh, I have lots of them. I, of course, enjoyed the astronomy courses and the research I did with Professors Lang and Willson. The classes were small and the research exciting. I still remember being amazed by the propagation of light lecture in Professor Mann's introductory physics course. I also remember fondly my thermodynamics course with Professor Gunther.

I also took an independent study with Professor Oliver, reading the Feynman lectures; it was awesome, and really hard for me! I can remember talking with him and struggling with the concepts, and looking back on it now, I just feel very lucky that I — someone who was just barely learning quantum mechanics for the first time and trying to conceptualize these ideas — was able to talk to someone who had been working on it for decades, and so I remember that very fondly.