ESP Biography



DW ROWLANDS, MIT Chemistry Graduate Student




Major: Course V - Chemistry

College/Employer: MIT

Year of Graduation: G

Picture of DW Rowlands

Brief Biographical Sketch:

Despite the protective gear, I'm not an invader from outer space...just a physical chemist working with hydrofluoric acid.

I grew up Prince George's County, Maryland and was captain of my high school's quizbowl team there. As a high school senior, I did an internship at NASA-Goddard doing research on the sources of light pollution by taking spectra of the local skyglow.

I was an undergrad at Caltech, where I majored in chemistry and minored in history. I did undergrad research on DNA charge transport and on spin hyperpolarization techniques NMR spectroscopy. At Caltech, I was president of the Caltech Polish Food Club for three years.

At MIT, I've been doing research on the reactions of fluorine and oxygen gas with silicon surfaces. In practice, this mostly means that I've been fixing ultra-high vacuum systems and various homebuilt lab electronics. I'm now in the sixth year of my PhD, which means I'm about half done. I'm also the President of the MIT Science Fiction Society and read about trains and transit systems in my spare time.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


The Origins and Writing of the Constitution in Splash 2014
We often think today of the Constitution as the piece de resistance of the Colonial period, a perfect government that sprang from the Founding Fathers fully formed and without precedent. In fact, few things could be further from the truth. The Constutition wasn't even supposed to exist --- the committee that forged it was supposed to propose amendments to the existing government, not overthrow it. The Founders themselves hardly thought their document was perfect --- it had a host of compromises, over religion, slavery, power, and other critical aspects of the government. In fact, several Founders spent months locked away in a room with the others making the Constitution --- and then refused to sign it! How did the founders arrive at the Constitution? Did they come up with something new, or was it foreshadowed by the British system? Why did they make the choices they made? Come learn and discuss these and many other Constitutional topics!


The History of the T in Splash 2014
Have you ever wondered why each line on the T uses a different, incompatible, type of train? Or why the Red Line goes around such a slow, horribly squealing curve between Central and Harvard? What about why there are four tracks at JFK/UMass, or why there's a "High-Speed Line" attached to the Ashmont end of the Red Line? Did you know that the Orange Line used to directly connect North and South Stations? We'll cover 115 years of the building and rebuilding of Boston's rapid transit system.


The Evolution of Vertebrate Flight in Splash 2014
Vertebrates have taken to the air three times: as pterosaurs, birds, and bats. Each time, they developed wings in a different way, and evolved different adaptations to the unique difficulties of aerial life. Let's learn why bats' flight appears so jerky, and why there will never be flying birds as large as the largest pterosaurs!


Before the Great Dying: Life on Land in the Paleozoic in Splash 2014
When most people hear the phrase "mass extinction", they think of the asteroid that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs 65 million years ago. However, the dinosaurs were descended from the survivors of a much larger mass extinction that wiped out 70% of land animal species. Let's learn about life before this catastrophe, when animals and plants first colonized land.


THE VIKINGS in Splash 2014
The discoverers of America. The defenders of the Roman Empire. The raiders of England. The pirates of the early medieval period. The terror of Northern Europe. Who could this be but the Vikings? Learn about the multifarious activities of the Vikings and their civilization --- war, peace, trade, and discovery!


What is Negative Temperature? in Splash! 2013
A low-math introduction to the concepts of statistical mechanics and negative temperature.


Negative Absolute Temperature: An Introduction to Statistical Mechanics in Splash! 2013
A recent paper in Science discussed an experiment that produced a collection of particles with kinetic energy corresponding to a negative absolute temperature. What does that even mean? We'll cover an introduction to statistical mechanical definitions of concepts like entropy and temperature as a way to develop an understanding of what it means for a system to have a negative absolute temperature.


'English In America': British-Colonial Relationships Before the American Revolution. in Splash! 2013
When we think of the American Revolution today, we think of a band of rebels fighting the British. This isn't how the revolutionaries would have described themselves just a few years before the Revolution, however -- the colonials thought of themselves as loyal British citizens, enjoying the same rights and priviledges as any other British citizens. The British, though, came to disagree during the French and Indian war, and argument over the specific rights of colonials formed the tension that led to the Revolution. From the Stamp Acts to the Tea Acts (leading to the Boston tea party!) to the failed attempts at reconciliation between England and the colonies, come learn about the pre-Revolution history of the revolution!


Colonials to Americans: The Forging of a Nation from Rebellion in Splash! 2013
Before the Revolution started, the colonists thought of themselves as British citizens, just the same as any others. All they wanted was to drink their tea and eat their sugar like any good Englishman, and not be ripped off by high taxes. But somehow, in the course of a short eight years, the United States in Congress Assembled developed a [semi-]unified governance system, the Articles of Confederation; fielded an army that defeated the best army in the world; and amalgamated its citizens into a nation with a distinct identity from Britain. How did this happen? How did a protest group seeking their British rights turn into a national identity? These questions and more will be answered by examining the Declaration of Independence and other publications and newspapers from the Revolutionary period.


The Origins and Writing of the Constitution in Splash! 2013
We often think today of the Constitution as the piece de resistance of the Colonial period, a perfect government that sprang from the Founding Fathers fully formed and without precedent. In fact, few things could be further from the truth. The Constutition wasn't even supposed to exist --- the committee that forged it was supposed to propose amendments to the existing government, not overthrow it. The Founders themselves hardly thought their document was perfect --- it had a host of compromises, over religion, slavery, power, and other critical aspects of the government. In fact, several Founders spent months locked away in a room with the others making the Constitution --- and then refused to sign it! How did the founders arrive at the Constitution? Did they come up with something new, or was it foreshadowed by the British system? Why did they make the choices they made? Come learn and discuss these and many other Constitutional topics!


Implementing the Constitution: Ratification and the Formation of a Government in Splash! 2013
The Federal Constitution was written in four months by fifty-five men cloistered in the Pennsylvania state house. The final text was signed by thirty-nine: "eleven states, and Colonel Hamilton" in the words of George Washington. How did it it go from the proposal of a small committee to being ratified by the thirteen nearly-independent states as a replacement for the Articles of the Confederation? Once it was ratified, how did the generation that wrote it convert it from a few pages of parchment into a functioning government? Learn about the battle over ratification and how it led to the Bill of Rights (and a near-war with Rhode Island!). We'll also discuss how the development of a Treasury created a functional executive branch---something that had not existed under the Articles of the Confederation---how the Federal judiciary, which is barely sketched in the Constitution, developed, and how the fights over these issues created a national party system.


Powder and Steel: The Military Tactics of the American Revolution in Splash! 2013
Following the "shot heard round the world", men and women of all stripes took up arms and marched to Boston to face the King's troops in the name of liberty. Yet enthusiasm alone does not win wars, and in 1775, Britain was the foremost military power in the world. The Americans had fought native tribes and French outposts...under British leadership. Yet somehow, this group of armed rabble grew to defeat and outmanoever royal troops on the battlefield and seas, winning the respect of Europe (and the crucial alliance of France) and ultimately American freedom. How did the war move from Boston to Yorktown? Why did British Regulars wear bright red coats? How much of an effect did colonial millitia have relative to continental regulars? Learn the answers to these and other tactical questions in this military history of the American Revolution!


Negative Absolute Temperature: An Introduction to Statistical Mechanics in Spark! 2013
A recent paper in Science discussed an experiment that produced a collection of particles with kinetic energy corresponding to a negative absolute temperature. What does that even mean? We'll cover an introduction to statistical mechanical definitions of concepts like entropy and temperature as a way to develop an understanding of what it means for a system to have a negative absolute temperature.


What is Negative Temperature? in Spark! 2013
A low-math introduction to the concepts of statistical mechanics and negative temperature.


Introduction to Interplanetary Warfare in Spark! 2010
A discussion of strategies and technology useful for space warfare within the solar system, with a focus on technology that exists or could reasonably exist within the next century.