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The Ramavataram Fund was established in 1983 through donations from the family and friends of Dr. Kilambi Ramavataram, an Indian-born teacher and researcher in nuclear and molecular physics who died in 1977. Its aim is to improve undergraduate physics teaching in India by allowing outstanding Indian physics teachers to visit institutions in North America, to observe and study teaching methods. Recipients are named by a Ramavataram fellowship selection committee in India.
Ray is spending the first nine months of his visit in Michigan State University's Department of Physics, and will spend the final three months at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. At MSU, he is taking part in developing and implementing an introductory-level general physics course called "Multimedia Physics." Instead of attending lectures, students will learn the material from a Website, using their respective computers. Each can then follow the course according to their convenience and pace of understanding.
"Apart from text, the material we present online includes simulations and animations, both interactive," said Ray, adding that it also includes online video of live experiments and phenomena, including sound. Other interesting features include individualized home-work problems, with the software giving "hints" tailored to mistakes made by the student.
At Berkeley, the medium and the tools of the work will be similar, but the challenge will be at the "content" level - to cull matter from postgraduate/research level physics of particle beams in accelerators that may interest upperclass physics majors and beginning graduate students. Ray will also prepare a multimedia presentation to attract more to this field. This is a project funded by the APS Division of Physics of Beams. Ray expressed appreciation for the exposure to a wide variety of physics educational software during his fellowship tenure, which he hopes to make available of students back in India. "They take learning to a higher order of magnitude," he said, adding that physics teachers in India are becoming aware of this mode of instruction.
Ray received his PhD in solid state theoretical physics from the University of Oregon in 1978, with a thesis on observable properties of crystalline electrons in magnetic fields. In addition to his position with the physics department at St. Xavier's College, he is a part-time lecturer at the college's Computer Centre, which he helped establish in 1985. He has also served as a member of the editorial committee of The Physics Teacher, published by the American Association of Physics Teachers.
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