Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education Awardees

The American Physical Society's (APS) Committee on Education (COE) seeks to recognize physics departments and/or undergraduate-serving programs in physics (hereafter “programs”) that support best practices in education at the undergraduate level. These awards are intended to acknowledge commitment to inclusive, high-quality physics education for undergraduate students, and to catalyze departments and programs to make significant improvements. In 2014, there were three awardees:

Florida International University
Florida International University has undertaken program-wide initiatives to attract and retain students which have led to impressive growth in the number of physics majors. These include a strong program in Physics Education Research, and associated implementation of research-based curriculum, particularly in the first year. Additionally, several alternative tracks within the physics major have been created, including a physics education track, providing students with several possible career paths after graduation. FIU has been particularly successful in recruitment and training of underrepresented minority students.

James Madison University
James Madison University sustains a thriving physics department that has grown significantly over the past 15 years. The Department of Physics & Astronomy has developed a culture of engaging students in the education process through an emphasis on undergraduate research experiences, personalized attention and advising, hiring for mission, recruiting and outreach efforts, and an ongoing move to research-based pedagogies and assessment. Especially notable are the range of program offerings to serve a broad student population, including tracks in applied physics and technical communication, in addition to strong teacher education efforts as a PhysTEC site.

University of California, Davis
The University of California, Davis Department of Physics has created curriculum opportunities involving specializations and multidisciplinary applied degrees coupled with vibrant research options for a diverse student population. The emphasis is on student preparation for STEM careers. UC Davis Physics includes an innovative and collaborative introductory sequence, two distinctive career seminars, a series of research-oriented capstone courses, along with multifaceted opportunities for peer and faculty interactions and creative investigations. Within a decade this approach has doubled the number of physics majors, successfully preparing both incoming first-years and increasing numbers of transfer students for both graduate degrees and professional careers.

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.