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Boyd Featured on Pioneer Public Television

Posted by Cassidy Long '17, Joliet, Illinois on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013

Work by Sylke Boyd, associate professor of physics, was featured last week on Pioneer Public Television’s Postcards, which highlights regional art, culture, and history. The opportunity came about after her photographs were displayed in the Stevens County Historical Museum as a part of the project Horizontal Grandeur.

Boyd, whose research interests have shifted to atmospheric physics in recent years, first began taking photographs as a part of a local weather watch. The small project quickly grew into a hobby.

“I became a little obsessed,” says Boyd. “It turns out if you try to convey weather to people who are not actually there, you have to choose your motif thoughtfully.”

Her photos, many of which feature optical effects such as halos and sundogs, have mirrored her research. The appearance of the effects can reveal the shapes of the ice crystals that are present in high-altitude clouds. Reflection and refraction from large numbers of these crystals cause these optical effects.

Working with two students, James Froberg ’14 and Stephen Sorenson ’14, Boyd will be collecting data on the frequency and conditions under which optical effects like a halo might appear. This research not only provides learning materials for her physics courses, but also motivates her to keep taking photos.

“What interests me about it is the fact that you can not intentionally go out and seek a particular weather or optical event because it will not be there all the time,” she says. “The subject matter is transient. You have to seize the moment, and you can’t go back and ever do it again.”

Postcards is on every Sunday at 7 p.m. on Pioneer Public Television. For more information and links to episodes, visit