Kirk is a physics professor by day, Olympic-aspiring sprinter, soccer coach and author by nightJune 11, 2013
Catch him in the morning and Taryl Kirk circles the indoor track at Rowan University’s Rec Center, running as though on air, posture perfect, feet slicing through space. Catch him later, and Dr. Taryl Kirk is busy explaining complicated physics topics to eager students.
He could be one of Rowan University’s most interesting professors.
Not only is he an assistant professor in Rowan’s Physics Department, he is a world traveler, a volunteer firefighter, a soccer coach and an aspiring Olympic athlete.
What Kirk has accomplished in 34 years is more than what some will in a lifetime.
From a young age, Kirk aspired to be a scientist. Growing up in Pennsylvania and California his academic role model was Albert Einstein.
“I always wanted to stay in school and study in Germany,” said Kirk. “I knew my career goal the whole way through school.”
Kirk started his undergraduate education in the United States at the University of California at San Diego. After graduating, he spent a few years in the workforce at IBM. He then pursued his dream of studying in Germany by attending the University of Stuttgart and doing research at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Physics.
After receiving his master’s degree in solid-state physics he went to Japan for an internship at NTT, the Japanese equivalent to AT&T.
His studies concluded in Switzerland where he earned his Ph.D. at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ).
During all of his studies and travels, running has been a consistent hobby.
“I’ve always enjoyed running,” said Kirk. “Growing up I played soccer, and soccer and running go hand in hand.”
He enjoys running short distances like the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sprints.
“It has always been in the back of my mind to try to compete at the Olympic level,” said Kirk.
With the summer Olympics just over three years away, training for the Olympic trials is going to take some serious work.
He has two citizenships, the United States and Trinidad and Tobago, but explained running for either country would be a challenge since both have excellent sprinters.
He will try to run independently or for a less competitive country that is willing to have him be a representative.
“Running in the Olympics is a dream,” said Kirk, “and it requires a lot of training.”
While he trains he also teaches.
The United States’ high academic standards were a deciding factor for Kirk and his family to leave Europe.
Kirk described Rowan as a “strong teaching university,” something he was looking for when he decided to go into teaching in the United States. He also enjoys how there is a lot of research going on at Rowan.
Kirk also is trying to spur interest in science by giving fun lessons at local elementary schools. He and his wife are also hoping to write fun, easy-to-understand, science-related children’s books.