Peter McMahon: From School of Applied & Engineering Physics to Your Daily Physics Dose

Peter McMahon

Peter McMahon

If you’ve found this blog, you’re in luck! Peter McMahon, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics at the School of Applied & Engineering Physics (SAEP), will be sharing articles with you that are geared toward your interest in physics, engineering, science in general, and related fields – both technical and creative. You can reach him at his SAEP email or phone number below or via Twitter at @petermcmahonphd if you want to send questions or ideas to contribute to this new platform. Enjoy!

Meet The Writer

Peter McMahon is an applied physicist and a member of the MIT faculty. He earned his PhD in physics from MIT, where he has been teaching for over 20 years. In addition to teaching introductory courses in physics and engineering, Peter has also taught calculus-based physics at the high school level.

Peter’s research interests include high-speed optical systems, precision measurement techniques, and data acquisition systems for interferometric instruments. His work has been published in journals such as Optics Letters, IEEE Photonics Technology Letters, Journal of the Optical Society of America A: Optics Image Science and Vision (OISV) group was founded in 2010 to study various aspects of imaging including holography, computational photography, inverse scattering, spectral imaging and photonic crystals. Peter McMahon joined this group after being introduced by one of his former students Dr. Brian Wilson (former postdoc).

The goal of this project is to explore the use of photonic crystals for spectral filtering with applications in light harvesting devices. They are exploring how dielectric materials can be used to manipulate light waves and slow them down or speed them up which could lead to new discoveries in fields such as astrophysics or microscopy.


Peter McMahon is a high-energy physicist and professor in the Department of Applied and Engineering Physics at Stanford University. His research is focused on particle physics, dark matter, and the cosmological constant.

He has authored more than 100 scientific papers, including two widely cited papers on potential evidence for dark matter. Peter earned his PhD from Harvard in 1999 and was an assistant professor at Princeton before joining Stanford in 2009.

Over his career, Peter’s work has been featured in major news outlets such as Science News, Science Magazine, New Scientist and Discover Magazine. But where you might be most likely to recognize him is on Twitter (@peter_v_m), where he contributes amazing daily facts related to science (e.g., Your heart beats faster when it’s cold because your body wants heat faster. The aha! moment comes when you realize your hands get warmer by rubbing them together!).


Peter McMahon is a physicist, engineer, educator and author. He currently teaches at the University of Toronto as an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and has been teaching there since 2002. Peter’s research interests include nanophotonics, optical metamaterials, photonic crystals and other semiconductor-based structures for photonic devices.

With his colleague Shaul Ladany from Technion in Haifa he authored the popular textbook Photonics for Dummies published by Wiley in 2012. Peter was also awarded the prestigious Early Career Research Award from CIFAR in 2010. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) as well as a Fellow of the Optical Society (OSA).

In 2003, Peter received both the Gabor Award and the Fellowship Prize for his contributions to science education from OSA and in 2004 he received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. In addition, he holds six patents and is co-founder of Kinekt Technologies Inc., which recently launched its first product aimed at eliminating Wi-Fi dead zones called Skyfi Connect. Peter McMahon lives in Canada with his wife Kate and their three children Nathaniel, Declan and Sophia who all keep him on his toes!

Peter McMahon

Work Experience

Peter McMahon is an accomplished physicist and engineer who has worked in the fields of applied physics, physics education, astronomy, and instrumentation. He has also been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Dartmouth College, and Gordon College.

Peter’s educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University (1978) and a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Princeton University (1982).

He has authored more than fifty peer-reviewed journal articles and other publications on topics ranging from particle astrophysics to nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to teaching the subject of physics. Peter has also won several awards for his work with students as well as for his research accomplishments.


Peter McMahon has always been a thinker, and he was no different during his time at the U.C. Berkeley. After completing his Ph.D., Peter went on to teach at various universities and research institutes, including MIT, California Institute of Technology, and the University of Texas-Austin.

Peter’s research spanned particle physics and astrophysics; in particular, he focused on nuclear physics experiments that measure deep inelastic scattering events in atomic nuclei as part of an effort to determine what protons are made up from.

Inspirational Quote

Peter McMahon, a physics teacher and PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is working hard to make science accessible for everyone. He’s making videos on YouTube that teach people about concepts like quantum mechanics, general relativity, and even how the universe could have been created by a giant explosion.

He’s also authoring a book called The Universe in Minutes which features short explanations that are perfect for reading during your morning commute or while waiting at the dentist’s office. Peter is committed to helping people understand science because he wants them to be able to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Contact Details

Dr. Peter McMahon is a professor at the School of Applied and Engineering Physics (SAEP). He received his PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Toronto, and then went on to do postdoctoral research at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Peter teaches courses on General Physics I, II, and III; Introductory Astronomy; Astrophysics I and II. He has taught more than 200 classes for over 8000 students.
Peter is committed to making physics accessible for everyone who wants it – including you! Tune in every day for a new blog post about physics topics that matter to you. And check back often for updates about special lectures, events, or other happenings at SAEP.

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