Pete Schwartz

Physics Department at Cal Poly

Resume / CV


I’m interested in sustainability in all facets: energy, resources, equity, and collaboration and community building especially with people in the developing world. In what I see as an imminent transition in energy, resources, and information, I am interested in both the technologies and the related societal transitions (in the USA as well). I transitioned to sustainability research from nanotechnology in 2006 due to a realization after I purchased a house: that I would now hold myself accountable for the way I live. The changes to our house and lifestyle make our home a laboratory, documented in this video and this book chapter. Subsequently, I took sabbatical in the Energy and Resources Group at UC, Berkeley. Besides physics, I direct classes on Appropriate Technology, and Energy, Society, and the Environment. My classes are “flipped” with all instruction from online videos, freely available on my Shared Curriculum Website.

Our research team explores the deployment of inexpensive direct connected DC solar electricity.  Simple “Moore’s Law” extrapolation of the well-established price decrease of both photovoltaic (PV) panels and integrated circuits will render these technologies accessible to all people. Already the cost of PV panels is a small portion of the cost related to PV deployment. How will inexpensive solar electricity and micro processing affect the way we use energy? My students and I work with these and other energy/environmental/society questions.

One particular interest is cooking in the developing world. Presently the traditional “3 stone fires” consume resources, tax families’ time and financial resources, produce CO2 and emit other pollutants. Our Photovoltaic Electric Cooking can displace biomass fires and the associated deforestation and indoor air pollution responsible for an estimated 4 million deaths annually – more than malaria and AIDS combined. Our research is briefly described in this 2-page summary.  Our research group and students from appropriate technology classes are exploring opportunities to collaboratively introduce these technologies along with rural electrification at the grass roots level with about 10 global collaborators in Africa, Nepal, India, and the Caribbean.

I am also exploring an alternative introductory physics learning model, called “Parallel Pedagogy” (where concepts are developed simultaneously) in a flipped classroom methodology based on video lectures. I describe the learning style in this paper in The Physics Teacher and in this short video. All my materials for the class can be accessed via this website. I’ve also developed a video curriculum for Energy, Society, and the Environment, a class I’ve directed since 2007. These classes and the websites are under continual development, and I’m happy to communicate with interested instructors.

For the academic year, Sept. 2022 – Sept. 2023, I traveled in Africa and Asia visiting collaborators in solar electric cooking technologies and kept this Trip Log.