Dr. Karen Gipson

Karen Gipson

Professor of Physics
139 Padnos Hall of Science, 224B LOH
Department of Physics
Tel: (616) 331-2319, (616) 331-8126
Fax: (616) 331-3740
Email: [email protected]


  • Ph.D. in Physics, Washington State University, Pullman WA (1998).
  • M.S. in Physics, University of North Texas, Denton TX (1987).
  • B.S. in Physics, North Texas State University, Denton TX (1982).

Professional Experience

  • Professor of Physics, Grand Valley State University, 2014 - present
  • Physics Department Chair, Grand Valley State University, 2007 – 2010 and 2011-2012
  • Interim Assistant Dean of Curriculum, Grand Valley State University, 2009
  • Associate Professor of Physics, Grand Valley State University, 2005- 2014
  • Assistant Professor of Physics, Grand Valley State University, 1999- 2005
  • Instructor in Physics, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma WA, 1998 – 1999
  • Instructor in Physics, Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport LA, 1988-1990


  • General Education Courses: LIB 100, HNR 244, PHY 303, PHY 307.  
  • Lower Division Courses: PHY 200, PHY 220, PHY 221
  • Upper Division Courses: PHY 302, PHY 309, PHY 340, PHY 360.

Research Interests

  • Physical Acoustics
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Contemplative Pedagogy

Research with Undergraduates

  • “Improving the Musical Response of an Auditorium,” GVSU music/engineering major Bailey Groendyke is studying properties of musically reverberant halls and making measurements of Louis Armstrong Theater in an effort to understand its current musical responsiveness and propose suggestions for improvements (Summer 2014 – present).   
  • “A Study of Oboe Reeds,” GVSU physics/music major Julia Gjebic is investigating how the physical structure of oboe reeds affects their acoustic spectrum. Preliminary work (Spring 2013) revealed qualitative trends for comparisons of American reeds; current work (Fall 2013-Winter 2014) focuses on exploring European reeds and performing quantitative analysis for both sets of reeds. Co-supervisor: M. Vavrikova of GVSU’s Department of Music and Dance.
  • “Intensity and Spectral Measurements of SBSL” GVSU physics major Jeremy Peshl measured light intensity of single-bubble sonoluminescence (SBSL) using a photomultiplier tube and spectral characteristics using a fiber optic spectrometer (Spring 2012 – Winter 2013).
  • “Color Detection,” GVSU physics majors Mallory Fuhst and Daniel Pawlak investigated color discrimination and detection at the request of Stone Plastics and Manufacturing (Summer 2012). Co-supervisor: R. Vallery. 
  • “Parameters Affecting SBSL,” GVSU physics major Gerrad Foster explored levitation of sonoluminescing bubbles in cells of various geometries, using microscopic analysis to document acoustic modes of the cells and bubble behavior for various parameters (Fall 2007 – Winter 2008).
  • “Vibrational Modes of an Acoustic Guitar,” GVSU physics major Cristina Carabeula explored the vibrational modes of an acoustic guitar. Her work involved both identification and visualization of the modes using particle tracers. In addition, she created successful holograms and made important advances towards the construction of an acoustic holography interferometry system (Winter 2006).
  • “Cavitation Caused by Ultrasound,” GVSU physics major Kenneth Bader investigated possible consequences of therapeutic ultrasound. His initial work (Fall 2003-Winter 2004) focused on the threshold for cavitation and the consequent possibility of damage to bone structure. Subsequent work (Spring 2004) used a light scattering technique to measure cavitation levels in an attempt to detect microstreaming. Concluding work, “Microstreaming Caused by Cavitation” (Fall 2004-Winter 2005), focused on direct observation of microstreaming and included quantitative estimates of fluid velocities.
  • “Therapeutic ultrasound,” GVSU biology major David Siik investigated issues related to therapeutic use of ultrasound (Winter 2003).
  • “Surface Waves and Fluid Properties,” GVSU physics major Jeff Johnson studied the use of surface capillary waves as a non-destructive method of measuring fluid properties. His laser scattering system was successful in measuring viscosity and surface tension of water and could be extended to other liquids (Fall 2001 – Winter 2002).
  • “Velocity profiles in turbulent and laminar flows,” GVSU physics major T.J. Ellis investigated the onset of turbulence in a fluid constrained to flow between two concentric rotating cylinders. His apparatus was sufficiently sensitive to observe various stages during the onset of turbulence and could easily be used in future studies (Fall 2000-Winter 2001),
  • “Understanding Defective Orchestra Chimes,” GVSU physics major J. Scott Sheline investigated defective orchestra chimes. This work was performed at the request of a chime-tuner at the Yamaha Music Factory in Grand Rapids, Michigan and successfully identified the cause of problematic  “beating” of the chimes (Summer 2000).
  • “Sonoluminescence: Light from Sound,” GVSU physics major Aric Meyer successfully constructed a functional single-bubble sonoluminescence (SBSL) chamber. His experimental setup was an original design and laid the groundwork for future research (Fall 1999-Winter 2000).

Selected publications

  • J. Gjebic, K. Gipson and M. Vavrikova, “A Study of Oboe Reed Construction,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am, Vol. 134 (abstract).
  • K. Gipson, “Integrating Personal Practice with Classroom Instruction,” Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education 2013 conference proceedings (abstract).
  • J. Peshl and K. Gipson, Light Intensity and Spectral Analysis of an Inexpensive SBSL Experiment,”  NCUR 2013 proceedings, (abstract).
  • K. Gipson, The Minority Chair - A Balancing Act, American Council on Education Online Resource Center, Aug.25,2009.
  • K. Bader and K. Gipson, “Cavitation effects of therapeutic ultrasound: Observations of cavitation activity and microstreaming,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am, Vol. 117 (abstract).
  • K. Gipson and P. L. Marston, “Backscattering enhancements from Rayleigh waves on the flat face of a tilted solid cylinder,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol.107, January 2000.
  • K. Gipson and P. L. Marston, “Backscattering enhancements due to reflection of meridional leaky Rayleigh waves at the blunt truncation of a solid cylinder in water,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol.106, October 1999.
  • P. L. Marston, K. Gipson, and S. F. Morse, “Convolution formulation for solids and shells with truncations,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 103 (abstract).
  • K. Gipson and P. L. Marston, “Backscattering enhancements due to retroreflection of ultrasonic leaky Rayleigh waves at corners of elastic cubes in water,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol.104, October 1998.

Grants and Awards

  • Outstanding University Service, 2014. Presented by GVSU.
  • Student Summer Scholars Program (with physics student Julia Gjebic), Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS), GVSU, 2013.  $6000 grant to purchase equipment and student stipend for summer research project.
  • Student Summer Scholars Program (with physics student Jeremy Peshl), OURS, GVSU, 2012.  $3500 grant to purchase equipment for summer research project.
  • Michigan Space Grant Consortium (with physics student Jeremy Peshl), Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC), 2011.  $2500 grant awarded to pay student stipend for summer research project.  
  • Industrial partnership (with R. Vallery). Recruited funds from Stone Plastics & Manufacturing for summer 2012 stipends to support two physics students  to perform research on color detection.
  • Women’s Impact Award, 2008. Presented by the Women’s Commission for outstanding community service.
  • Student Summer Scholars Program (with physics student Kenneth Bader), OURS, GVSU, 2004. $3000 grant awarded to purchase equipment for student summer research project.
  • Michigan Space Grant Consortium (with physics student Kenneth Bader), MSGC, 2004. $3000 grant awarded to pay student stipend for summer research project.  
  • Presidential Teaching Initiatives Award (with physics faculty J. Thompson and B. Ambrose), Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, GVSU, 2001. $15,000 grant awarded to revise introductory physics laboratories. 
  • Professor of the Year, 2001. Presented by Student Senate for excellence in teaching.
  • Student Undergraduate Research Program (with physics student Scott Sheline), Math and Science Dean’s Office, GVSU, 2000. $2500 grant awarded to pay student for summer research project; $500 awarded for equipment.

Invited presentations

  • Center for Inquiry (Grand Rapids MI), “The Limits of Models,” July 2007. Talk presented to approximately 100 CFI members.
  • Grand Valley State University (Grand Rapids MI), Responder to Keynote Speaker at Grand Dialogue Conference on Science and Religion, March 2007.
  • Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI), Models of Reality,” March 2006. Presenter of a poster based on a writing project begun during sabbatical leave at GVSU’s Sabbatical Showcase.
  • Grand Valley State University (Grand Rapids MI), “Models of Reality,” February 2006. Presenter of break-out session at Grand Dialogue Conference on Science and Religion.
  • University of Idaho(Moscow ID), “What Can Be Known?”February 1998. Presenter/panelist at Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference.
  • University of Idaho (Moscow ID), “The Importance of Direct Experience,” April 1996 . Seminar presented to Philosophy Student Club.

Professional Service

  • Faculty Sponsor of Women in STEM Fields (2014 – present)
  • Chair of the Executive Committee of the University Academic Senate (2013-present)
  • Faculty Director of Women in Science & Engineering Living Center (2013 – present)
  • Faculty Sponsor of the Society of Physics Students (2013- present)
  • Member of CLAS Faculty Council (2012 – 2013)
  • Member of the Executive Committee of the University Academic Senate (2012 – present)
  • Presenter at GVSU’s G3 camp (2012, 2013)
  • Presenter at GVSU’s Fall Science Update (2003, 2004, 2013)
  • Presenter at Gear-Up for College Days (2009 - 2011)
  • Presenter for GVSU’s MCAT prep course (2002 – 2009).
  • Inclusion Advocate (2008 – present)
  • Chair of CLAS Curriculum Committee (Winter 2007)
  • CLAS Curriculum Committee (2005 - 2007)
  • Presenter at Science IS for Girls (Seattle: 1999. Grand Rapids: 2000 -2007).
  • Presenter at GVSU’s King-Chavez College Days (2000 -2004)
  • Science Division/Cluster Curriculum Committee (2003-2004)
  • Science Division Research Committee (2000 – 2002)
  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council: Board member (2000-2007); Secretary (2005-2007)
  • Organizer of conference: Spirituality and the Environment (2002).
  • Event Supervisor at Michigan Science Olympiad (2000 – present).

Professional Affiliations

  • Acoustical Society of America
  • American Association of Physics Teachers
  • Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education
  • Association for Women in Science
  • Council for Undergraduate Research
  • Union of Concerned Scientists

Page last modified December 1, 2017