Timothy A. McKay

Last updated

Timothy A. McKay is an astrophysicist and the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan. He is actively involved in physics education, including courses on “Physics for the Life Sciences” and Saturday Morning Physics. [1] As of 2013, McKay's papers have over 30,000 citations and an h-index of 66. [2] He considers publication and education vital to the scientific enterprise: “science isn’t science until you’ve shared it with someone else.” [3]


Early career

Timothy McKay and his older brother were the first in their family to attend higher education; Timothy enrolled in physics primarily because his brother had done the same. [4] McKay earned his BS summa cum laude in 1986 at Temple University in Philadelphia, and then his PhD in 1992 at the University of Chicago. [5] From 1992 to 1995, he was a Leon Lederman Fellow at Fermilab; he was then hired to the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he became Associate Chair for the undergraduate physics program in 2004 and then also Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in 2005. In 2008 he became Director of the LSA Honors Program for eight years, finishing his term in 2016. Since 2008, he has also been president of the UM Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. [5]

McKay is passionate about undergraduate research, and is well known for his mentorship of students; he credits his own research experiences as an undergraduate with much of his success. [4]

Recent work

Since 2003, Tim McKay has worked on the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE) with Carl Akerlof, [6] a collaboration between Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of Michigan [7] which operates automated telescopes in the US, Namibia, Turkey, and Australia to provide full-sky optical coverage of gamma ray bursts. [8] "He was a builder on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey project, [9] and has worked on it since 1992. His group did the first weak lensing measurements in the SDSS and later built the largest galaxy cluster catalogs [10] derived from it. He has also worked on the Supernova/Acceleration Probe, which is tracking type Ia supernovas to better understand dark energy. [11] His most recent astrophysics project is the Dark Energy Survey." [12]

McKay is also passionate[ editorializing ] about amateur science; he stresses important contributions that amateurs have made to the scientific enterprise, and even considers himself a professional in a few fields and an amateur in many. McKay believes that science is not just about uncovering new knowledge for experts, but also about spreading that knowledge to as many people as possible. [3]

McKay is developing a new education software called E2Coach that uses research analytics to develop customized curriculum and study strategies for each student. The system uses the Michigan Tailoring System, originally developed for the Center for Health Communications Research, and is designed to benefit all students, whether average students hoping to do better, students at risk of failure, or gifted students seeking more challenging material. It has been pilot-tested in four introductory physics courses so far. [13] This project was funded by a grant from the Next Generation Learning Challenge, funded by the Gates Foundation and Hewlett Foundation. [14]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sandra Faber</span> American astrophysicist

Sandra Moore Faber is an American astrophysicist known for her research on the evolution of galaxies. She is the University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and works at the Lick Observatory. She has made discoveries linking the brightness of galaxies to the speed of stars within them and was the co-discoverer of the Faber–Jackson relation. Faber was also instrumental in designing the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siding Spring Observatory</span> Astronomic observatory in New South Wales, Australia

Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia, part of the Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics (RSAA) at the Australian National University (ANU), incorporates the Anglo-Australian Telescope along with a collection of other telescopes owned by the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, and other institutions. The observatory is situated 1,165 metres (3,822 ft) above sea level in the Warrumbungle National Park on Mount Woorat, also known as Siding Spring Mountain. Siding Spring Observatory is owned by the Australian National University (ANU) and is part of the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories research school.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">MDM Observatory</span> Observatory in Pima County, Arizona

The MDM Observatory is an optical astronomical observatory located adjacent to Kitt Peak National Observatory on Kitt Peak, west of Tucson, Arizona, in the United States. It is owned and operated by the University of Michigan, Dartmouth College, Ohio State University, Columbia University, and Ohio University. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was also part of the operating consortium in the past.

The University of Michigan College of Engineering, branded as Michigan Engineering, is the engineering wing of the University of Michigan, a public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. With an enrollment of 7,133 undergraduate and 3,537 graduate students, the College of Engineering is one of the premier engineering schools in the United States. The College of Engineering is ranked No. 7 in the United States by U.S. News & World Report in its 2021 publication.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Kirshner</span> American astronomer

Robert P. Kirshner is an American astronomer, Chief Program Officer for Science for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Clownes Research Professor of Science at Harvard University. Kirshner has worked in several areas of astronomy including the physics of supernovae, supernova remnants, the large-scale structure of the cosmos, and the use of supernovae to measure the expansion of the universe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">SN 2005ap</span> Energetic supernova ievent of 2005 in constellation Coma Berenices

SN 2005ap was an extremely energetic type Ic supernova in the galaxy SDSS J130115.12+274327.5. With a peak absolute magnitude of around −22.7, it is the second-brightest superluminous supernova yet recorded, twice as bright as the previous record holder, SN 2006gy, though SN 2005ap was eventually surpassed by ASASSN-15lh. It was initially classified as type II-L, but later revised to type Ic. It was discovered on 3 March 2005, on unfiltered optical images taken with the 0.45 m ROTSE-IIIb telescope, which is located at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas, by Robert Quimby, as part of the Texas Supernova Search that also discovered SN 2006gy. Although it was discovered before SN 2006gy, it was not recognized as being brighter until October 2007. As it occurred 4.7 billion light years from Earth, it was not visible to the naked eye.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicholas B. Suntzeff</span>

Nicholas B. Suntzeff is an American astronomer and cosmologist. He is a University Distinguished Professor and holds the Mitchell/Heep/Munnerlyn Chair of Observational Astronomy in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Texas A&M University where he is Director of the Astronomy Program. He is an observational astronomer specializing in cosmology, supernovae, stellar populations, and astronomical instrumentation. With Brian Schmidt he founded the High-z Supernova Search Team, which was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011 to Schmidt and Adam Riess.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andrei Markovits</span> Romanian-American comparative politics scholar

Andrei S. Markovits is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author and editor of many books, scholarly articles, conference papers, book reviews and newspaper contributions in English and many foreign languages on topics as varied as German and Austrian politics, anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, social democracy, social movements, the European right and the European left. Markovits has also worked extensively on comparative sports culture in Europe and North America. In August 2021, Markovits published a memoir entitled The Passport as Home: Comfort in Rootlessness.

Roberto D. Merlin is an Argentine physicist and Peter A. Franken Collegiate Professor of Physics and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. He is known, among other things, for his work on quasiperiodic superlattices, squeezed phonons, and, most recently, for the discovery of "superfocusing", a method for creating lenses that can surpass the diffraction limit without using negative refraction materials.

The Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE) is a multi-telescope experiment designed to observe the optical afterglow of gamma-ray bursts. The experiment currently consists of four telescopes located in Australia, Namibia, Turkey, and at the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas.

Carl William Akerlof is an American particle physicist and astrophysicist. A professor of physics at the University of Michigan, Akerlof initiated and led the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE), a ground-breaking effort to find fast astrophysical optical transients, particularly gamma-ray bursts. Akerlof has co-authored over 400 papers with 1500 collaborators, which have been cited over 6000 times. He was elected in 1993 a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Duncan G. Steel</span> American physicist

Duncan G. Steel is an American experimental physicist, researcher and professor in quantum optics in condensed matter physics. He is the Robert J. Hiller Professor of Electrical Engineering, Professor of Physics, Professor of Biophysics, and Research Professor in the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Michigan. Steel is also a Guggenheim Scholar and a Fellow of American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He coedited the five-volume series on the Encyclopedia of Modern Optics.

Christy A. Tremonti is an observational astronomer on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She was a 2005 Hubble Fellow while at the University of Arizona. She received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 2003 and her BS from Colgate University in 1994. She completed her dissertation, "The physical properties of low redshift star forming galaxies: Insights from the space-UV and 20,000 SDSS spectra", under the supervision of Timothy M. Heckman.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timothy L. Killeen</span> British and American geophysicist

Timothy Laurence Killeen is a British and American geophysicist, space scientist, professor, and university administrator. Killeen took office as the president of the University of Illinois system in 2015. He has been the principal investigator on research projects for NASA and the National Science Foundation. Killeen has authored more than 150 publications in peer-reviewed journals as well as more than 300 other publications and papers. He has served on various White House committees and task forces and is a past editor-in-chief of the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics.

Joel D. Blum is a scientist who specializes in isotope geochemistry and environmental geochemistry. He is currently a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan and an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. Blum has several named professorships including the John D. MacArthur, Arthur F. Thurnau and Gerald J. Keeler Distinguished Professorship. Blum is a past Co-Editor- in-Chief of Chemical Geology and Elementa, and is the current Editor-in-Chief of the American Chemical Society journal Earth and Space Chemistry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christine Aidala</span> American high-energy nuclear physicist

Christine Angela Aidala is an American high-energy nuclear physicist, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow and Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan. She studies nucleon structure and parton dynamics in quantum chromodynamics.

David Gerdes (born 1964) is an American astrophysicist, professor, and administrator at the University of Michigan. He is known for his research on trans-Neptunian objects, particularly for his discovery of the dwarf planet, 2014 UZ224.

Jessica K. Werk is an American astronomer and an associate professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington. Her work includes the study of intergalactic and interstellar media. Werk was a Hubble fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz from 2013 to 2016, and won the $65,000 Sloan Fellowship in 2018. Her research focuses on the role of gas in the formation and evolution of galaxies and the intergalactic medium, primarily through spectroscopic observations in the optical and ultraviolet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fast blue optical transient</span> Astronomical observation

In astronomy, a fast blue optical transient (FBOT) is an explosion event similar to supernovas and Gamma-ray bursts which presents high optical luminosity between those but rises and decays faster and has its spectra concentrated on the blue range. It is caused by some very high-energy astrophysical process not yet understood but thought to be a type of supernova with events occurring at not more than 0.1% of the typical rate.

Joshua A. Frieman is a theoretical astrophysicist who lives and works in the United States. He is a senior scientist at Fermilab and a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago. Frieman is known for his work studying dark energy and cosmology, and he co-founded the Dark Energy Survey experiment. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2022.


  1. University of Michigan (2013). “Faculty Profile: Timothy McKay.” "Faculty | Physics | University of Michigan". Archived from the original on 2013-04-29. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  2. Google Scholar (2013). "Citations: Timothy McKay." https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=fRjSWV8AAAAJ&hl=en
  3. 1 2 McKay, T.A. (2 Feb 2009). "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Astronomy (But Were Afraid to Ask)." Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Reads. http://aareads.aadl.org/video/view/4046 Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  4. 1 2 University of Michigan (16 Apr 2010). "Focus on Faculty: Timothy McKay." YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8RIJzrgQXc
  5. 1 2 McKay, T.A. (2011). "Personal CV". http://www-personal.umich.edu/~tamckay/mckaywebcv.pdf
  6. University of Michigan (2011). "Faculty: Timothy McKay." African Studies Center at the International Institute. "Faculty | African Studies Center | University of Michigan". Archived from the original on 2013-06-12. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  7. University of Michigan (2001). "Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment." http://www.umich.edu/~rotse/
  8. Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (2010). "ROTSE Home Page." http://www.rotse.net/
  9. The SDSS Collaboration et al. (2000). "Weak Lensing with Sloan Digital Sky Survey Commissioning Data: The Galaxy-Mass Correlation Function to 1 h−1 Mpc." The Astronomical Journal 120 1198 doi:10.1086/301540
  10. B. P. Koester et al. (2007). "A MaxBCG Catalog of 13,823 Galaxy Clusters from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey" The Astrophysical Journal 660 239 doi:10.1086/509599
  11. Holz, D. (2008). "Supernova/Acceleration Probe." 2nd Annual International Workshop on Connection Between Particle Physics and Cosmology (PPC2008). http://ppc08.phys.unm.edu/menu/talk/%5B%5D May22/holz.pdf
  12. Dark Energy Survey (2013). "The Dark Energy Survey." http://www.darkenergysurvey.org/
  13. McKay, T. (14 Feb 2013). "Leveraging Analytics to Study and Improve Learning." Next Generation Learning Challenges Blog. http://nextgenlearning.org/blog/leveraging-analytics-study-and-improve-learning
  14. George, M. (12 Apr 2011). "U-M professor wins challenge grant for computerized coaching in science classes." University of Michigan Record. http://www.ur.umich.edu/update/archives/110412/mckay