AAPT Committee on Physics in Undergraduate Education

2005 Annual Report

The central mission of the committee is to

1. Provide a forum for consideration of topics relevant to undergraduate instruction in physics in two-year colleges, four-year colleges, and universities.
2. In cooperation with the High School, Two-Year Collegel, and Graduate Education Committees, seek ways of improving articulation for students progressing from one level to another.
3. Aid in keeping the AAPT membership informed of ways in which the teaching of physics at the undergraduate level may facilitated.

A highlight for 2005 is the final publication of the "Guidelines for Self-Study and External Evaluation of Undergraduate Physics Programs." The document is a guide for departments during the evaluation of four-year physics programs. The guidelines were published with the endorsement from the Committee on Education of the American Physical Society (APS). Our committee would like to thank Ernest Behringer, Juan Burciaga, J. D. Garcia, Warren Hein, Don Holcomb, and Ruth Howes for all their hard work over the past few years putting this useful document together. We would also like to thank Beth Cunningham and Theodore Hodapp from the APS for their support and their work with the APS Committee on Education towards the endorsement of these guidelines.

The committee sponsors sessions devoted to undergraduate research and outreach at each AAPT meeting, working with the Society of Physics Students which provides modest travel stipends for student presenters. This past summer in Salt Lake 10 students show-cased their work in two sessions, with a prominent theme being outreach to the public through such diverse vehicles as current films, trebuchets, and SOCKs (SPS Outreach Catalyst Kits). At the Albuquerque winter meeting, about 100 people attended the lively poster session/reception which featured student posters and video presentation about fluids in space by astronaut Don Pettit. Musical instruments such as crotales (tuned cymbals), log drums and piano soundboards were featured in the oral sessions, as well as undergraduate research on a variety of new detectors.

The committee has sponsored various sessions and workshops having relevance across the full range of the undergraduate curriculum. For the Winter 2005 meeting we sponsored workshops entitled such as; Exploring Contemporary Physics in Introductory University Physics, Bridging the Vector Calculus Gap and Teaching Quantum Mechanics through Stern-Gerlach Spin 1/2 Experiments. We sponsored sessions such as a Crackerbarrel on Undergraduate Physics Programs and Visualizing Einstein's Theories. During the summer meeting the committee sponsored Matter and Interactions: A Modern Calculus-Based Introductory Course, Reaching, Teaching, and Keeping Underrepresented Groups in Physics, and Quantum-Interactive Learning Tutorials workshops. Sessions included Non-Linear Dynamics in the Undergraduate Environment, Physics and World Development in the 20th Century, NSF - CCLI Physics Projects, The Art of Teaching, and Contributions on Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics.

With the upcoming meeting in Alaska the committee has been having discussions concerning the frozen curriculum in undergraduate physics. Specifically, we have been discussing the frozen syllabus for the introductory course sequence and ways to thaw the course out. We will be sponsoring an invited session on "Thawing the Frozen Curriculum" along with an invited session on "Hot Topics in Alaska" during the winter 2006 meeting.

Submitted by Jeff Williams, Chair


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