Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education

We are now accepting applications. The deadline to apply is August 2, 2024.

Recognition for Departments & Programs of Distinction

The American Physical Society's (APS) Committee on Education (COE) seeks to recognize improvement in undergraduate physics education and support effective practices in education at the undergraduate level with the COE Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education. COE accepts applications from physics departments and/or undergraduate-serving programs in physics, regardless of the size of the institution or the number of physics majors. All programs that have a significant impact on undergraduate physics students are eligible to apply.  

Applicant Program Achievements

Applicants should describe their deliberate and intentional process for improving the department’s educational efforts over a period of at least a few years and should clearly articulate how their program achieves one or more of the following:

  • Undergraduate educational transformation
  • Revival of moribund programs
  • Improved student understanding of physics
  • Increased enrollments through outreach, retention, and/or program revisions
  • Improved retention of enrolled students
  • Increased number of graduating majors
  • Increased number of underrepresented minorities and women studying physics and their sustained enrollment to graduation
  • Enhanced support for members of traditionally underrepresented groups
  • Enhanced support for physics majors choosing K-12 teaching careers
  • Enhanced preparation of students for a variety of careers
  • Expanded or enhanced undergraduate research opportunities
  • Expanded or enhanced internship opportunities
  • Implementation of other recognized effective educational practices (e.g., “high impact practices,” such as capstone courses and projects, collaborative assignments and projects, active learning, learning communities, research-based learning, etc.)

Recognition Details & Expectations of Programs

The IUPE award will recognize up to three programs each year and will focus on entire undergraduate physics programs rather than individual members of a department. 

Please note that it is neither expected nor required that any given program will exhibit improvement in all of the categories listed in the applicant program achievements. It is expected that recognized programs will have excelled in one or more of those areas.

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.

Gray Arrow Awardees for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education

How to Apply

To apply, please submit your application through the APS IUPE Application Form.

  • Application requirements include:
  • Department faculty, student, and graduation data as requested in the IUPE application form.
  • Two- to three-page narrative that includes:
    • A clear outline of the improvements and achievements for which the program is seeking recognition.
    • A description of the overall undergraduate physics program at the institution, including the curriculum at both the introductory and upper-division levels, the student populations served, any regional factors, resources and facilities, and other information that is relevant to establishing the excellence of the program.
    • A summary of relevant data and documentary evidence to support 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.
  • Supplementary materials (of up to 10 pages) will be accepted, but the two- to three-page narrative should describe programmatic efforts completely, independent of supplements.
  • Additional supporting letters may be included but are not required.

We encourage programs not recognized in a particular year to submit new applications after the award period has ended.

A program may submit only one application per year. To encourage broad participation by many programs and to encourage individual programs to commit to sustained improvement and achievement, awardees are eligible to submit new applications after three years.

If you have any questions, please email the APS Education Department.

Review & 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.

Current and past awardees are shown at Awardees for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education.