Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education

Application Deadline: August 1

Recognition for Departments and Programs of Distinction

The American Physical Society's (APS) Committee on Education (COE) seeks to recognize excellence in undergraduate physics education and support best practices in education at the undergraduate level by accepting applications from physics departments and/or undergraduate-serving programs in physics for the COE Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education. All programs that have a significant impact on undergraduate physics students are eligible to apply. Applicants should consider how their program successfully

  • Engages in undergraduate educational transformation
  • Improves student understanding of physics
  • Increases the number of majors
  • Improves retention by reducing the DFW (Drop, Fail, or Withdraw) rate
  • Increases the number of underrepresented minorities and women in physics
  • Supports physics major choosing K-12 teaching careers
  • Prepares students for careers
  • Improves undergraduate research opportunities
  • Engages in other recognized best practices

APS will recognize one to three programs and departments each year.
Gray Arrow Awardees for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education

Distinction from the APS Excellence in Physics Education Award

In contrast to the successful Excellence in Physics Education Award, this effort will recognize multiple institutions, and focus specifically on undergraduate programs. We anticipate these two awards will complement each other. The Committee on Education intends this award to recognize exemplary programs among the larger physics community.
Gray arrow Excellence in Physics Education Award

Application Process

Applicants should complete the attached data form and submit an application documenting the achievements and improvements for which the program is seeking recognition. The total length of the application, including supporting documentation, should not exceed 10 pages.  

The application should describe:

  1. The overall physics program at the institution, including the student populations served, any regional factors, resources and facilities, and other information that is relevant to establishing the excellence of the program
  2. The program curriculum at both the introductory and upper-division levels. Include information about program requirements, student advising, and curriculum opportunities that go beyond what is typical of undergraduate physics programs
  3. The improvements and achievements for which the program is seeking recognition. These might include:
    • Growth in enrollment
    • Revival of moribund programs
    • Strength in teacher training
    • Implementation of research-based teaching methods
    • Exceptional internship and/or research experience programs
    • Strong student mentoring programs
    • Outreach
    • Student retention
    • Exceptional success supporting traditionally underrepresented groups

Please note that it is neither expected nor required that any given program will exhibit excellence or improvement in all of these areas. It is expected that recognized programs will have distinction in one or more of these areas. Applications should concentrate on what is novel or unique about the program.

The application should provide relevant data and documentary evidence for claims of improvement, transformation in the program, growth, impact, and other successes for which the program is seeking recognition. Data provided should show evidence that improvements have been sustained over a period of at least a few years. Supporting letters may be included but are not required.

The COE seeks to recognize improvement and success at all types of institutions, ranging from large research universities to small colleges. Applications will be judged within the appropriate context to the greatest extent possible.

Institutions may submit only one application per year. Applications should arrive from the program director or department chair. To encourage broad participation by many programs, and to encourage individual programs to commit to sustained improvement and achievement, awardees will be recognized for three years on the APS website. We encourage programs to submit new applications after the award period has ended.

Applications must be received by August 1.

How to Apply

To apply, email the following in a single PDF document to the APS Education Department (education@aps.org):

  • Data form Format - PDF
  • Two-page narrative that responds to the request described above
  • Supplementary materials (of up to 10 pages)

Supplementary Materials
Supplementary materials (of up to 10 pages) will be accepted, but the two-page narrative should describe programmatic efforts completely, independent of supplements. Institutions may submit only one application per year. Applications should arrive from the program's director or department chair. To encourage broad participation by many programs, and to encourage individual programs to commit to sustained improvement and achievement, awardees will be recognized for three years on the APS website. We encourage programs to submit new applications after the award period has ended.

Review and Announcement Timeline

The APS Committee on Education's Subcommittee on Undergraduate Education will review applications and make recommendations to the APS COE for their fall meeting. The entire committee will make final decisions based on the subcommittee's recommendations. We encourage representatives of the programs receiving an award to participate in a public recognition ceremony that will typically occur at the APS April Meeting. No travel funds are available to bring recipients to the award reception, nor is it required that they attend. A section of the APS Undergraduate website will keep a list of current and historical awardees with active links to their programs.