Professor Dennin earned his A. B. from Princeton University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He held a postdoctoral position at UCLA. He is an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow and a Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar.
Professor Dennin's main research interest is systems that exhibit emergent properties. These include the behavior of complex fluids, such as foam and sand, as well as the complex dynamics of biological systems.
Professor Dennin is well-known for popularizing science for the public. He has taught many online courses on the nature of science, including team teaching a MOOC based on the television program, The Walking Dead. He has appeared on a number of television programs, including Spider-man Tech, Batman Tech, Star Wars Tech, and Ancient Aliens.
Areas of Expertise (6)
Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
Condensed Matter Physics
Science of super heros
UCI Senate Distinguished mid-Career Award for Service (professional)
2011 - 2012
UCI Award for Instructional Technology (professional)
2008 - 2009
UCI Extension UCI Irvine Faculty Award (professional)
2008 - 2009
UCI Academice Senate Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching (professional)
UCI Teaching Excellence Award, School of Physical Sciences (professional)
University of California, Santa Barbara: PhD, Physics 1995
Princeton University: AB, Physics 1988
- American Physics Society
- American Association of Teachers
- American Association for Advancement of Science
Media Appearances (5)
Do Spider-Man, Superman break the laws of physics?
“The force of Lois Lane is actually less if she just hits the ground then if Superman catches her, unless he catches her in a very specific way,” said Michael Dennin, professor of physics and astronomy at UC Irvine and one of the presenters Saturday. “The cool thing about superheroes when it comes to physics is some of what they do is consistent with the law of physics and some of what they do is not.”
Reevaluating teacher evaluations in higher education
Physics Today online
“We were concerned about bias, and also about random nastiness that didn’t seem warranted,” says Michael Dennin, a physicist who serves as vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). The university put into practice a long-ignored policy to require additional evidence about teaching, and has revamped the surveys. “We are consistent with the national focus,” Dennin says, “which is to move toward language that asks the students to assess experience in the classroom rather than to directly assess the professor.” It’s still early, he adds, but the shift seems to reduce bias. The UCI student experience surveys have replaced numerical ratings with categories from “strongly agree” through “strongly disagree” because psychology studies suggest that people give more thought to questions when so formulated.
Who Is the Most Underrated Superhero?
The Atlantic online
Michael Dennin, physics and astronomy professor, UC Irvine, and co-host, Fascinating Fights Aquaman does much more than speak to and summon fish. Breathing underwater, withstanding attacks from supervillains, and resisting machine-gun fire are just the tip of the iceberg. Add in the Trident of Neptune, and he is unbeatable!
Online Platform Helps Students with Hiring Process in STEM Field
Diverse: Issues In Higher Education online
Dr. Michael Dennin, the vice provost of teaching and learning and the division of undergraduate education dean at the University of California, Irvine, said HiCounselor could be a beneficial resource in providing awareness about STEM jobs for students.
Santa Is A Superhero, Says UC Irvine Professor Michael Dennin, And These Are His Super Powers
We all have that moment when we realize that Santa Claus just isn't plausible. But what if instead of being a myth, Santa was actually a superhero? Michael Dennin, a professor of physics and astronomy at UC Irvine argues that in fact this might be the case. Tell Captain America and Iron Man to move over — Santa Claus is coming to town!
Exact Solution of a Strongly Coupled Gauge Theory in 0 + 1 DimensionsPhysical Review Letters
Chethan Krishnan and K. V. Pavan Kumar
2018 Gauged tensor models are a class of strongly coupled quantum mechanical theories. We present the exact analytic solution of a specific example of such a theory: namely, the smallest colored tensor model due to Gurau and Witten that exhibits nonlinearities. We find explicit analytic expressions for the eigenvalues and eigenstates, and the former agree precisely with previous numerical results on (a subset of) eigenvalues of the ungauged theory. The physics of the spectrum, despite the smallness of N, exhibits rudimentary signatures of chaos.
Quantifying flow and stress in ice mélange, the world’s largest granular materialProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Justin C. Burton, Jason M. Amundson, Ryan Cassotto, Chin-Chang Kuo, and Michael Dennin
2018 Ice mélange, a granular collection of broken icebergs ranging from tens of meters to hundreds of meters in size, sits in front of many of the Earth’s most active tidewater glaciers. In addition to influencing heat and mass transport in the ocean, the jam-packed mélange provides a geophysical living laboratory to test principles developed for small-scale granular materials such as sand.
Bubble ribbons under imposed flowColloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects
Chin-Chang Kuo, Alex Levine, Michael Dennin
2017 Bubble rafts consisting of a single layer of bubbles floating on the surface of water have proven to be an important model system for studying materials ranging from crystalline systems to amorphous solids to complex fluids. An interesting question in foams and complex fluids is how the detailed nature of the bubble–bubble interactions determines the resulting stable states of the system, especially in the context of different approaches to generating the foam or complex fluid.
Understanding flow and stress in ice mélange: the world's largest granular materialAGU Fall Meeting Abstracts
Burton, J. C.; Amundson, J. M.; Cassotto, R.; Kuo, C. C.; Dennin, M.
2017 In tidewater glacial fjords, the open water in front of the glacier terminus is often filled with a collection of calved iceberg fragments and sea ice. For glaciers with large calving rates, this "mélange" of ice can be jam-packed, so that the flow is mostly determined by granular interactions. In the jammed state, ice mélange can potentially influence the stress balance on the glacier terminus, calving rates of icebergs, dispersion and attenuation of ocean waves, injection of freshwater into fjords, and fjord circulation, although detailed measurements of ice mélange are lacking due to the inherent dangers of instrumenting remote, ice-choked fjords.
Stable small bubble clusters in two-dimensional foamsSoft Matter
Kai Zhang, Chin-Chang Kuo, Nathaniel See, Corey O'Hern, Michael Dennin
2017 Key features of the mechanical response of amorphous particulate materials, such as foams, emulsions, and granular media, to applied stress are determined by the frequency and size of particle rearrangements that occur as the system transitions from one mechanically stable state to another. This work describes coordinated experimental and computational studies of bubble rafts, which are quasi-two dimensional systems of bubbles confined to the air–water interface.