APS Spring Meetings Preview: Forum on Education Sessions

The Forum on Education has a wide range of exciting sessions planned for the March and April 2012 APS meetings, to be held in Boston and Atlanta, respectively. The meetings are somewhat unusual this year in that the March meeting starts in February and the April meeting starts in March!

Here we present some highlights of the March meeting sessions being organized by the Forum.

K-12 Science Education: Closing the Gap with the Leading Nations

Helen Quinn

Helen Quinn

This invited session will open with Helen Quinn, a Stanford theoretical particle physicist and member of the National Academy of Sciences who serves on numerous boards and committees studying physics education. She will speak about a new report from a committee she chaired at the National Academy, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education,” which identifies the key concepts, ideas and practices that students should learn by the time they finish high school. Other speakers in the session are George deBoer from AAAS, who will speak about “The Globalization of Science Education,” Arthur Eisenkraft from University of Massachusetts, who will talk about “Physics For All,” Gay Stewart from the University of Arkansas and Vice President of AAPT, who will discuss the overhaul of AP algebra-based physics, and Philip Sadler from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who will present findings on “The Role of Pre-College Preparation in College Physics Success.”

K-12 STEM Outreach to Underrepresented Communities

This invited session, co-sponsored by the APS Committee on Minorities and the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, features programs that help K-12 teachers enrich the in-class STEM experience, and after-school programs that provide enrichment not possible in the classroom. Programs successful in attracting underrepresented populations to STEM fields will be discussed by five speakers with proven track records in this arena. 

Scientific Reasoning in a Physics Course 

This invited session contains reports on various aspects of student reasoning in undergraduate physics by leading researchers in the field of Physics Education.

Using the Technologies of Astronomy to Teach Physics 

This session features five speakers with first-hand knowledge of the development or use of astronomy’s technologies such as CCD cameras, adaptive optics, high resolution spectroscopy, or other remarkable detectors developed to make astronomical observations in the infrared, millimeter, x-ray, and gamma-ray parts of the spectrum. They will describe the technologies and their basic physics, describe their impact on astronomy, and point out ways physics instructors might use descriptions of the technologies as contexts for teaching physics ideas and principles to undergraduate physics students. The goal of this session is similar to that of the 2012 Gordon Research Conference: Physics Research & Education, which has as its central theme “Astronomy’s Discoveries & Physics Education.” For more details go to the URLs http://betterphysics.org and http://www.grc.org/programs.aspx?year=2012&program=physres. Peter Shaffer and Charles H. Holbrow are co-chairs of this Gordon Research Conference. 

Other sessions of interest to physics educators and students

Entrepreneurship is the topic of an invited session organized in co-operation with the Forum on Graduate Student Affairs. A fact that is rarely communicated clearly to graduate students in physics is that businesses with fewer than 100 employees represent over 99.7% of all employers and employ some 50% of the total US workforce, providing 60-80% of net new jobs annually. An earlystage company can offer an exciting environment for directed scientific research, for technology innovation, and for career progression. This symposium is crafted to convey the excitement and the challenges involved in launching and driving the early growth of a new technology company. The invited speakers, luminaries in entrepreneurship, will share entrepreneurial experiences, highlighting factors involved in transitioning a research innovation towards real business potential. 

Also of interest to graduate students and early-career physicists, an invited session organized jointly with the APS Topical Group on Quantum Information will highlight liberal arts colleges as potential career choices for quantum information scientists.

Finally, two focus sessions, consisting mainly of contributed papers, have been proposed (http://www.aps.org/meetings/march/scientific/focus3.cfm – scroll to bottom of page). The first, Research Collaboration Between Mentors and Undergraduate Students, has an unusual format, because each submission requires two abstracts, one from an advisor and one from an undergraduate student. It provides a setting for coupled presentations by faculty-student pairs. The expectation is that the faculty member will provide the broader physics background of an undergraduate research area, and convey how undergraduate students have profitably worked within it. The student presenter will describe the results of the research completed while being mentored by the faculty member. The second focus session, Students, Physics and Innovation, has a goal of developing a community of APS members interested in connecting curriculum with experiences in innovation and entrepreneurship. Doug Arion from Carthage College will kick off this session with an invited presentation “Physicists and Economic Growth: Preparing the Next Generation.”

Renee Diehl, a physics professor at Penn State University, is Chair-Elect of the APS Forum on Education

Disclaimer- The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.