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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.
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
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
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
ad