Professor Donald Spector

Professor Donald Spector

Professor of Physics, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Particle theory, mathematical physics, quantum computing, interdisciplinary applications of physics

To Dream the Impossible Beam: Does Star Trek Physics Make Sense?

Programming schedule: To Be Announced


Donald Spector is a Harvard-trained (A.B., A.M., and Ph.D.) theoretical physicist, interdisciplinary scholar, and Star Trek fan. A professor of physics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges since 1989, he has taught his highly popular course “Beam Me Up, Einstein!”: Physics through Star Trek for over 20 years, attracting the attention of Cosmo Girl! magazine and the Dallas Morning News. And if Star Trek isn’t enough, you can also find Spector and his "rule of thumb for supernovas" in the best-seller What If? by xkcd’s Randall Munroe. Spector’s scientific research focuses on particle physics, string theory, and information theory. His work has been recognized by the National Science Foundation, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Foundational Questions Institute, and Research Corporation.

Spector sits on the boards of the Anacapa Society and the Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies. His work in theoretical physics has also offered insights into topics as varied as number theory and the expectations built into human vision. Spector has been a regular consultant to theatrical productions, as well as for plays in development. He has published and lectured on Waiting for Godot and the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, as well as on the manifestation of mathematical and physical ideas in music and art. Spector has exhibited video art which brings to life aspects of quantum measurement, created tools for music composition based on modular multiplication, and performed on stage himself, including as Kepler in Susan Gerofsky’s Kepler: A Renaissance Folk Play in Verse and as Patrick in John Mighton’s Half Life.