Joanne Farley Rhodes graduated from the University of Memphis with a BSEE and a BS in physics. While an undergraduate UM student she began doing basic physics research in the Department of Physics, which led to her first research publications.
After graduation she did research for DOD in advanced optical signal processing techniques. This work led to a patent for an Optical Adaptive Filter, the first real time optical feedback system. The invention and experimental results have been included in two books on optical electronics. Still at DOD, she returned to research begun at UM with irradiated crystals for applications in radiation dosimetry. After several years of publishing in this field of research she returned to the University of Memphis and completed her Master of Science degree in the Department of Physics.
Ms. Rhodes began teaching and enjoyed it so much that her interests shifted toward math and physics education. She has taught in the Dept. of Physics and/or the Dept. of Mathematics at several colleges and universities in Memphis and in St. Louis. (photo to right: Joanne Rhodes and Neil deGrasse Tyson, taken in 2016)
She joined the faculty of the Department of Physics at University of Memphis and has been teaching classes in astronomy and conceptual physics here since 2009. In 2016 she received an Excellence in Teaching Award given annually by the Briggs Foundation. She incorporates the use of technology into her classroom in ways which are intended to improve the educational experience of students. She has developed an online course for Survey of Astronomy as well as a traditional course, Astronomy II. She continues to enjoy sharing her passion about physics and astronomy with her students and highly values increasing student science literacy in the process.
With an avid historical and current interest in the Department of Physics and Materials Science, she coordinated the 2012 University of Memphis Centennial event for Physics, and the observance of the 50th anniversary of the Physics Department in 2016. She has been the prime organizer of the annual Lois McGlothlin Donaldson Endowed Lecture in Physics from 2016 to the present. These lectures have been about topics in astrophysics given by experts in the field. Ms. Rhodes has also conducted outreach events for Einstein's birthday and World Space Week, and held a physics film fest or other special film events with Q&A followup. The total solar eclipse of 2017 afforded extra opportunity for community outreach. She handed out several thousand pair of eclipse glasses while giving talks to groups of all sizes about the details solar eclipses.
Ms. Rhodes hopes that UM will someday have an astronomical observatory so that all students can have the opportunity to look through a telescope and gain a cosmic perspective.