Liz Boatman


Assistant Professor in Physics

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, I am a midwest native who has lived on both coasts and even abroad. I chose to pursue my Bachelor's in physics and chemistry at Beloit College because I knew I wanted to be a physical scientist and wanted to remain somewhat close to home. During college, I undertook several summer research internships, the first at Beloit College, studying semiconducting nanocrystals with my chemistry advisor, the second at Stanford University investigating organic solar cell materials in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and the last in marine geochemistry at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, researching the relationship between selenium stable isotope fractionation and prehistoric increases in oxygen. 

After college, I went immediately to graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, where I earned my M.S.-Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. For my master's, I studied the high-temperature interfacial evolution of the platinum-sapphire system, which is a model system for ceramic and metal interfaces (like jet turbines) at high temperature. For my doctoral dissertation, I developed an interdisciplinary collaboration with the University of California Museum of Paleontology and several other scientists to better explore the nanoscale effects of fossilization on bone in prehistoric vertebrates (including dinosaurs!). During this time, I also undertook an experimental project designed to shed light on the possible mechanisms of preservation in blood vessels recovered from deep time (more dinosaurs!).

As a graduate student, I spent a lot of my time volunteering to teach science to K-12 students in local Bay Area schools, and participating in graduate student government. My interest in policy was born out of these experiences, specific to education policy, which led me to pursue the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship in Washington, D.C., after completing my Ph.D. My first appointment was joint between the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs and the Assistant Director's Office of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources in the National Science Foundation, where I focused on strategic communications, primarily public directed. Then, for the second year of my fellowship, I was re-appointed to the Office of Science and Technology in the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. In this position, I worked across offices within the agency to lead the re-design of NIJ's Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which included development of the strategic communications plan for promoting the fellowship. Toward the end of my policy fellowship, I decided to focus on pursuing a faculty position, because I missed teaching science and engineering topics to students. 

My first faculty appointment was as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, in the Department of Engineering and Technology, as the then-new B.S. Mechanical Engineering program was first launched. Two years later, I relocated to Wake Forest, North Carolina, for a position as a Founding Faculty member, on a team of four, in the new Department of Engineering at Wake Forest University, as the university simultaneously launched both this new department and new B.S. Engineering program. There, I worked intensively for two years with our team to build out the program and department, including leading the design of the department's materials characterization laboratory space.

Most recently, I was hired here to help bring elements of undergraduate engineering education to Gustavus. I started this position in the Department of Physics in the Fall of 2021, in the midst of COVID-19, which means that my first year was full of unexpected twists and turns. Nonetheless, I am enjoying living in the upper midwest, where I am able to regularly get outside for athletic activities (even during the winter!). I also appreciate the opportunity to once more collaborate on research with colleagues in the geological sciences, and to return to my roots in physics for much of my teaching.


B.S. Physics and Applied Chemistry, Beloit College; M.S.-Ph.D. Materials Science and Engineering, UC-Berkeley

Areas of Expertise

Materials Science and Engineering Education

Courses Taught

PHY-121 (General Physics I Lab), PHY-190 (Engr-Phys Sustainable), and PHY-191 (Engr-Physics Lab)

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
PHY-121 General Physics I Lab 2 2020/FA
PHY-340 Condensed Matter Lab 1 2021/SP
PHY-206 Mechanical Univ Lab 1 2021/SP
PHY-340 Condensed Matter 1 2021/SP
PHY-244 ST:Eng Mat'l/Mechanics 1 2021/JN
PHY-305 Experimental Modern Physics Lab 1 2020/FA
PHY-305 Experimental Modern Physics 1 2020/FA