Christopher Sirola

Associate Professor

University of Pittsburgh, (Astronomy), Ph.D. (1995)
University of Pittsburgh, (Physics), M.S. (1990)
University of Wisconsin-Madison, (Astronomy-Physics), B.S. (1988)

Recent Work Experience

  • Assistant Professor & head of physics teacher licensure program, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, University of Southern Mississippi (USM), 2004-present
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Physics Department, Marquette University (MU), 2001-2004.
  • Instructor, Science Department, Tri-County Technical College (TCTC), 1995-2001.

Recent Publications & Presentations

  1. “Rough-Tuned Universe: How the “Fine-tuned” Argument of Intelligent Design Creationists Works Against Them”, Sirola, Skeptic, 16, 4 (2011)
  2. “Warning! Celestial Bodies and Graphing Content Ahead!”, Sirola, The Classroom Astronomer 6 (Winter 2010-11)
  3. “Rebels in Physics Classes”, Sirola, presentation @ the Spring conference of the American Association of Physics Teachers (2011); also presented preliminary results at MAS (Mississippi Academy of Sciences, 2010) and PhysTEC (Physics Teacher Education Coalition, 2009) conferences
  4. “Kinesthetic Cosmology”, Sirola, The Classroom Astronomer 2 (Winter 2009-10)
  5. “The Status of Physics & Astronomy Education in Mississippi”, Sirola, presentation @ annual meeting of the Mississippi Association of Physicists (2007)
  6. “Laboratory Exercises for Stellar Astronomy”, Sirola, Pearson Custom Publishing, Boston, MA (2007)
  7. “Laboratory Exercises for Solar System Astronomy”, Sirola, Pearson Custom Publishing, Boston, MA (2006)
  8. “Promoting Physical Science to Education Majors”, Korb, M., Sirola, C., & Climack, R., Journal of College Science Teaching (March/April 2005)

Recent Synergistic Activities

  • 2009-present: Had USM join PhysTEC, an organization linking over one hundred colleges & universities in the United States & dedicated to improving physics education
  • 2009-2011: PI on an NSF grant (CCLI) to create a new course to teach physical science to education majors
  • Summer 2007 – present: Co-PI on an NSF grant (Noyce) to administer scholarships to prospective science high school teachers in high-needs regions in the state of Mississippi
  • Summer 2007 – present: PI on a mini-grant from the Mississippi Space Grant Consortium to combine the teaching of astronomy with that of music in secondary schools via Holst’s “The Planets”
  • 2006-2007 academic year: Acting physics & astronomy laboratory coordinator; responsible for teaching assistants & lab equipment. Also incorporated a seminar course for graduate students regarding effective teaching practices
  • 2005-2006 calendar years: Wrote & piloted new laboratory manuals for solar system and stellar astronomy courses at USM, incorporating active learning pedagogy. Conducted with a grant from USM.

Workshops/Public Talks Conducted

  • The Physics of Movement, presented @ OLLI (2011)
  • How Do We Know, presented @ Rainwater Observatory (MS) (2011)
  • Using Constellations to Teach Astronomy, workshop @ Rainwater Observatory (2010)
  • What If?, presented @ Rainwater Observatory (2010)
  • Annus Mirabilis, presented @ Rainwater Observatory (2009)
  • Happy Birthday, Tunguska! presented @ Rainwater Observatory, Atlanta Astronomy Club (2008)
  • Applying Active Learning Techniques to Teaching Physics & Astronomy, presented @ USM (2007)
  • Requiem for Pluto?, presented @ Rainwater Observatory, University of Louisiana-Lafayette (2007)
  • Patterns in the Sky: Using Constellations to Teach Astronomy, workshop @ Rainwater Observatory (2007)
  • Cosmology from A to A: Aristotle to the Accelerating Universe (2006)
  • Bang! A Selected Brief History of Cosmology, presented @ USM (2006)
  • The Unified Model of Quasi-Stellar Objects, presented @ University of Mississippi, Jackson State University etc. (2006)
  • Black Holes are GOOD for you! presented @ USM, elsewhere (2004)


  • Biweekly science column in the Hattiesburg-American (2006-present); over 150 columns to date
  • Participation in Science Olympiad (2005-present)
  • Participation in Science Fair (2005-present)
  • Ran High School Physics Competition @ USM (2005-2008, 2010)

Collaborators (includes current & past projects; not all collaborators are listed)

  • Current Collaborators
    • Deborah Booth, Instructor, Dept. of Chemistry, USM
    • Patricia Biesiot, Associate Dean, College of Science & Technology, USM
    • Anita Davis, Associate Professor, School of Music, USM
    • Khin Maung-Maung, Chair, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, USM
    • Sherry Herron, Director, CSME, USM
    • Sheila Hendry, Instructor, Dept. of Biological Sciences, USM
    • Mary Peters, Instructor, Dept. of Mathematics, USM
  • Previous Collaborators
    • Jacob Blickenstaff, Assistant Director, Center for Science & Mathematics Education (CSME), USM
    • Tommy Sumrall, Science Teacher & education graduate student, Forest County Agricultural High School, Mississippi
    • Michele Korb, Instructor, School of Education, MU
    • Lynn Mack, Director, Instructional Development & Transfer Coordinator, SCATE
  • Graduate Advisor
    • David Turnshek, Associate Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh (Ph.D. Thesis Advisor)