hero image
Michael Dennin - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Michael Dennin Michael Dennin

Vice Provost of Teaching and Learning; Dean of Undergraduate Education; Professor of Physics | UC Irvine


Prof. Dennin is leading the evolution of teaching and learning on the college campus, and he is a top communicator of all issues of physics.



Michael Dennin Publication




Why Success Doesn't Always Equal Straight A's | Michael Dennin | TEDxUCIrvine Fireside Chat on Teaching and Learning ft. Michael Dennin and Ryan Foland - UC Irvine Interview With Renowned Physicist Professor Michael Dennin




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

Undergraduate Education



Science of super heros

Accomplishments (5)

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)


Education (2)

University of California, Santa Barbara: PhD, Physics 1995

Princeton University: AB, Physics 1988

Affiliations (3)

  • 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?

OCRegister  online


“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.”

view more

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.

view more

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!

view more

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.

view more

Santa Is A Superhero, Says UC Irvine Professor Michael Dennin, And These Are His Super Powers

Bustle  online


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!

view more

Articles (5)

Exact Solution of a Strongly Coupled Gauge Theory in 0 + 1 Dimensions

Physical 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.

view more

Quantifying flow and stress in ice mélange, the world’s largest granular material

Proceedings 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.

view more

Bubble ribbons under imposed flow

Colloids 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.

view more

Understanding flow and stress in ice mélange: the world's largest granular material

AGU 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.

view more

Stable small bubble clusters in two-dimensional foams

Soft 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.

view more