Physics at brigham young university
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Physics at Brigham Young University. Steve Turley June 26, 2010. Outline. Introduction to BYU Department Culture Introductory Courses Advanced Courses Student Mentoring Majors. Facts About BYU. Location: Provo, Utah Total Undergraduate Enrollment: capped at about 30,000

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Physics at brigham young university

Physics at Brigham Young University

Steve Turley

June 26, 2010


Outline

Outline

  • Introduction to BYU

  • Department Culture

  • Introductory Courses

  • Advanced Courses

  • Student Mentoring

  • Majors


Facts about byu

Facts About BYU

  • Location: Provo, Utah

  • Total Undergraduate Enrollment: capped at about 30,000

  • Private, Religiously Oriented

    • significant financial support from LDS church

    • vast majority of students are Mormon

  • Students from all 50 states and 110 foreign countries, but mostly from the West

    • 30% from Utah

    • 13% from California

    • 5% each from Washington, Idaho, Texas


History

History

  • University founded 1875 (high school)

  • First physics course 1881

  • First full-time physics instructor 1901

  • First physics graduate (Fletcher), 1907

  • Department formed 1911 (Fletcher)

  • C. F. Eyring head, 1916-1951

  • MS degrees 1933, PhD in 1959


Admissions selectivity

Admissions Selectivity

  • Some enrollment pressure, but most applicants are admitted

  • Some self-selection

    • Average high school GPA: 3.8

    • 90% have ACT scores between 24 and 30

  • Relatively high retention (about 93%)


Byu physics faculty

BYU Physics Faculty

  • 33 Full-Time Faculty (11 Prof/16 Assoc/6 Asst)

    • Almost all are research-active

  • Research areas

    • Astronomy/astrophysics

    • Acoustics

    • Plasma

    • Atomic

    • Optical

    • Condensed Matter

    • Nuclear

    • General Relativity

    • Statistical Mechanics


Number of physics majors

Number of Physics Majors

  • Grew significantly from 1995-2000, a period when other programs were shrinking

  • Stable since then.


Graduates per year

Graduates Per Year


Relatively small graduate program

Relatively Small Graduate Program


Department culture

Department Culture

  • Student emphasis

  • Collegiality

  • College and institutional ties strong

    • past history

    • alignment with institutional values

  • Values

    • Teaching

    • Relationships

    • Excellence


Attracting and retaining majors

Attracting and Retaining Majors

  • Orientation

  • Advisement

  • Promoting student-student interactions

  • Faculty mentoring

  • Undergraduate research

  • Teaching emphasis

  • Department culture


Orientation

Orientation

  • Freshmen meeting with SPS Officers, Associate Chair, and U-grad Advisor

    • Introductions

    • Suggestions for Success

    • Undergraduate Handbook

  • Required Introduction to Physics Class


Advisement

Advisement

  • Formal Advising

    • Class advisors

    • On-call advisors

    • College Advisement Center

    • Peer Advisors

  • Informal Advising

    • Research Advisors

    • Other Students


Promoting student student interactions

Promoting Student-Student Interactions

  • Very Active SPS Chapter

    • Monthly meetings

    • Outreach

  • Undergraduate Study Room

  • Open Tutorial Labs

  • Peer Instruction

  • Undergraduate Research Groups


Teaching emphasis

Teaching Emphasis

  • Evaluation

    • Annual interviews

    • Rank and status reviews

  • Departmental Teaching Discussions

  • Outstanding full-time faculty teach general education and service courses

  • Student involvement as TA’s

  • Collegial environment for constructive formative and summative evaluation of each other’s teaching


Introductory courses

Introductory Courses

  • taught in large sections (100-300)

  • taught by our best full-time faculty

  • mostly taken by engineers, other majors in our college, and potential physics majors

  • seen as critical to attracting and keeping majors

    • many decide on a physics major their freshman and sophomore years


Calculus based physics

Calculus-Based Physics


Algebra based physics

Algebra-Based Physics


General education

General Education


Physical science 100

Physical Science 100


Transition courses

Transition Courses

  • Introductory labs taught early in their experience to give them tools needed for undergraduate research

  • Modern Physics class first one with mostly physics majors

    • emphasis on professional development

    • encouragement to seek research experiences

    • connections with other majors


Upper division courses

Upper Division Courses

  • variety, taught frequently (large department)

  • enrollment 25-35

  • standard texts and sequences: math physics, computational physics, labs, thermal physics, optics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics

  • specialized courses: astrophysics, acoustics, solid state

  • special topics (rare): biophysics, chaos


Faculty mentoring

Faculty Mentoring

  • Undergraduate Research Experiences

    • Many start in first and second year

    • Students recruiting students

    • SPS Research night

  • Inviting students to lunch

  • Faculty accessibility

    • Office hours

    • Open door policy


Undergraduate research

Undergraduate Research

  • Senior Thesis, Honors Thesis, Capstone Experience, or Student Teaching required of all graduates.

  • Most get department, college, or university support

  • Assessment

    • Alumni survey: overwhelming majority said it was a good or excellent experience

    • Exit interviews: very challenging, but often a defining undergraduate experience

  • Requires a lot of faculty time


Senior and honors theses

Senior and Honors Theses


Capstone projects

Capstone Projects


Majors

Majors


Physics education

Physics Education

  • Used to complain about the preparation of our entering students

  • Realized, we were training most of their teachers

  • Allies and colleagues

    • student preparation

    • recruitment

  • Great TA’s

  • Stimulate department discussion of teaching


Relationships

Relationships

  • strong support from college and other departments

  • good cooperation with College of Education

    • gave us an FTE to hire teacher education specialist

    • we help them a lot with supervising student teaching and many committee assignments

  • students get strong reinforcement from faculty about choice of secondary teaching (class and research groups)

  • these are sometimes some of our best students (Carolyn Evans)


Decision on physics education major

Decision on Physics Education Major

  • all of the students I interviewed made final decision about major after coming to BYU

  • majors

    • some from other physics majors

    • many from other departments (flexible entry)

  • introductory courses matter a lot

    • pedagogy

    • engagement


Departmental support

Departmental Support

  • full-fledged students (Spring Research Conference Award winners)

  • rewards for excellence in tutoring labs, etc.

  • mentoring (teaching and research groups)

  • “every way we can”

    • facilitate late entry into major

    • ask students and TA’s for opinions on teaching

    • personalize courses to their interests (paper topics, for instance)

  • students need to feel valued, cared for, and assisted


Cultural helps

Cultural Helps

  • service-oriented school

  • strong culture of teaching

    • department

    • missionary experience

  • strong emphasis on families

    • secondary school teaching often a good choice for students who want to spend f a lot of time with families

  • momentum (word of mouth)

  • many different reasons for making choice


Other factors

Other Factors

  • Methods class taught by someone with classroom experience

  • Shared core courses

  • One physics teacher responsible for whole group

  • Excellent relationships with local schools

  • Weekly “group meetings”

    • build apparatus

    • talk about salaries

    • discuss job opportunities

    • answer questions


Change of culture

Change of Culture

  • Five years ago we averaged a couple of physics graduates a year

  • Major change

    • hired good people

    • shift in department culture

    • concerted effort

  • Now average about 12 physics education graduates a year

  • 5% of total U.S. physics education graduates in 2006


Alumni survey recruiting

Alumni Survey—Recruiting

  • Personal enrichment (91%)

  • Reputation of faculty (29%)

  • Reputation of program (36%)

  • Interest in subject area (100%)

  • Influence of family (39%)

  • Influence of other students (13%)

  • Influence of faculty members (20%)


When students chose major

When Students Chose Major

  • Before college 53%

  • Freshman year 21%

  • Sophomore year 14%

  • Junior year 4%

  • Senior year 1%


Why students chose major

Why Students Chose Major

  • Direct interest in subject (53)

  • Understanding how things work (48)

  • Indirect Interest

    • Math (23)

    • Other field(4)

    • Flexible/Broad major (17)

  • Difficulty

    • Challenge/Intellectual Stimulation (22)

    • Aptitude (10)


Choosing a physics major

Choosing a Physics Major

  • Disciplinary Characteristics

    • Fun(13)

    • Religious/Aesthetic Reasons (10)

    • Problem solving (9)

    • Hands-on (8)

    • Fundamental, logical, concrete, meaningful, creative surprises

  • Financial

    • Career good (4)

    • Scholarship (1)


Recruiting influence of others

RecruitingInfluence of Others

  • High School Course/Teacher (23)

  • College Course

    • Introductory Course (14)

    • Caring Faculty (2)

  • Family (6)


Why students kept major

Why Students Kept Major

  • Continued interest in subject (69)

  • Community: Professors (28), Students (11)

  • Inertia/Perseverance (23)

  • Challenge/Reward/Growth/Prestige (23)

  • Research Experiences (10)

  • Job/Career (8)

  • Broad Subject, Options (7)

  • Aptitude (6)

  • Still fun (5)


Other reasons to stay

Other Reasons to Stay

  • Predictable subject (“not art”)

  • Like learning new things

  • Organization of Department or Major

  • Increased understanding

  • Enjoy math or problem solving

  • Family encouragement

  • Want to help world or community

  • Religious motivations

  • Scholarship requirement


Summary

Summary

  • Many factors lead to a strong department

  • Department culture and relationships important

    • result from intangibles

    • passing these on to the next generation

  • Count the cost

  • Play to your strengths

  • Physics education defines our future


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