Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education

The application deadline for 2022 has passed.

Recognition for Departments and Programs of Distinction

The American Physical Society's (APS) Committee on Education (COE) seeks to recognize excellence and 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. 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,
  • Improved student understanding of physics,
  • Increased number of graduating majors,
  • Improved retention of enrolled students,
  • Increased number of underrepresented minorities and women studying physics,
  • Reduced percentage of grades of D, F, or Withdraw,
  • Enhanced support for physics majors choosing K-12 teaching careers,
  • Enhanced preparation of students for careers,
  • Expanded or enhanced undergraduate research opportunities, and
  • Implementation of other recognized effective educational practices.

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.
Gray Arrow Awardees for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education

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 data form and supporting documentation, should not exceed 13 pages.

The application should include the following materials:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Additional supporting letters may be included but are not required.
  4. A clear outline of 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, and
    • 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 categories. It is expected that recognized programs will have distinction in one or more of these 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.

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.

How to Apply

To apply, email the following in a single PDF document to the APS Education Department (

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

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

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.

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 displays a list of current and past awardees with active links to their programs.