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Upcoming Events

Title: The Lasting Impact of Introductory Physics for Life Sciences (IPLS)

Ben Geller, Associate Professor - Swarthmore College

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024 at 3:00pm on 1400 BPS and Zoom


Two primary goals of Introductory Physics for Life Sciences (IPLS) curricula are (1) to prepare students to effectively use physical models and quantitative reasoning in biological and biomedical contexts, and (2) for students to come to view physics as relevant to the life sciences. To assess whether these goals arebeing met, we conducted a longitudinal interdisciplinary study of the impact of IPLS on student work in later biology and chemistry courses, and on student attitudes toward physics. In this talk I will report on differences in student reasoning and attitudes that we found to be associated with prior or concurrent enrollment in IPLS. In particular, we found that IPLS students were more likely than non-IPLS students to reason quantitatively and mechanistically about particular biophysical phenomena, even up to two years after leaving the IPLS course, and were significantly more successful at building a physical model that combined ideas in a manner they had not previously seen. We also found that positive changes in IPLS students’ attitudes about the relevance of physics to the life sciences persisted for at least two years after the course ended. I will also describe our ongoing efforts to better understand how our IPLS course ecosystem – the pedagogy, the curriculum, and the messaging – is supporting the attitudinal gains that we have observed.

Link: https://msu.zoom.us/j/96470703707
Password: PERSeminar

Title: Factors of Student Success in Computing and Physics 

Patti Hamerski, Assistant Professor - Oregon State University

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024 at 3:00pm on 1400 BPS and Zoom


In this presentation, I address emergent problems that computing presents as it poses new challenges for students in newly integrated computational environments. I will provide the findings of a study conducted in an introductory undergraduate interdisciplinary computing course. My team conducted interviews with students to gain insight into how their experiences aligned with the development of self-efficacy, a psychosocial construct tied to persistence, aspirations, interests, identity, and academic performance. We then connected these experiences to student-articulated aspects of the course design to show how students can be supported when using computing as a tool for disciplinary learning, including physics. We found significance in experiences of struggle and success, as well as sweeping implications for the importance of personally relevant course material, curricular emphasis on building resources, and investments in supportive group dynamics. These findings bring fresh questions and challenges to STEM classrooms and curricula where computing is used.

Link: https://msu.zoom.us/j/96470703707
Password: PERSeminar
Past Events
Doris Li

Title: Investigating students’ perceptions of the inclusiveness of learning environment in physics courses
Doris Li (she/her), Associate Professor - Oregon State University

Wednesday, December 6, 2023 at 3:00pm on 1400 BPS and Zoom


Students’ motivational beliefs and academic performance at the end of a physics course are important course outcomes. Prior studies have shown that factors such as students’ prior preparation, quality of teaching, and sociocultural factors can influence students’ motivational beliefs and academic performance. However, very few studies have investigated the effect of students’ perceptions of the inclusiveness of the learning environment on their motivational beliefs and academic performance. In this talk, I will share research results about students’ perception of the inclusiveness of the learning environment and its relationship to gender, motivational beliefs, and academic performance in introductory physics courses. These findings suggest that instructors play an important role in developing a more equitable and inclusive learning environment, in which all students can thrive.
Liam G R McDermott

Title: Performing Physics, Performing Identity, and Performing Research in a Neurodivergent Way
Liam G. E. McDermott (he/they), Graduate student - Rutgers University

Wednesday, November 8, 2023 at 3:00pm on 1400 BPS and Zoom


Neurodiversity, the celebration of the diversity of minds, is increasingly discussed in recent STEM education literature and across STEM departments. As more and more neurodivergent students enter higher education, it is paramount for educators, researchers, and administrators to comprehend neurodiversity, implement supportive structures, and facilitate the academic and professional success of neurodivergent students and colleagues. I Equally crucial is an examination of how the higher education system, by design, contributes to the stark disparities in degree completion and employment outcomes among neurodivergent students.  This presentation synthesizes recent literature and incorporates my research on neurodivergent learning, identity, and experiences within STEM departments. Additionally, I propose evidence-based solutions aimed at deconstructing neurotypical-normative systems within higher education, as substantiated by extant literature.
E. Prasad Venugopal

Title: Windmills and Rockets: Integrating Social Justice Issues in Introductory Physics
E. Prasad Venugopal, Associate Professor - University of Detroit Mercy

Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 3:00pm on 1400 BPS and Zoom


Windmills and Rockets: Integrating Social Justice Issues in Introductory Physics
Abstract: Integrating social issues into the physics curriculum has the potential to “change the culture of science to be more welcoming and inclusive” by broadening the cultural contexts in which scientific knowledge is created and science is practiced. Yet, in many efforts at creating inclusive pedagogies the introductory curriculum remains unaffected by the deeply social nature of the traditional physics topics taught in these courses. Creating assignments and fostering reflections on who does physics, who doesn’t, and under what conditions has been a more challenging task.

This presentation will discuss two multi-week course projects that required students in introductory physics to read historical biographies and respond to the scientific and social issues in these stories. Assignments typically included two components crafted from the narratives: (1) a numerical physics worksheet, and (2) student reflections on social issues described in the stories. In the first semester students were required to read Margot Shetterly’s Hidden Figures while the second semester biography was The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. In both biographies, introductory physics concepts – Newtonian mechanics, energy conservation, electromagnetism – are embedded within rich sociocultural contexts involving race, gender, neocolonialism, and indigenous knowledge systems.

The talk will present some data on student attitudes and responses to the assignments, as well as outline new and ongoing research directions.
Shuly Kapon

Title: To Engagement and Beyond: Exploring Science Engagement Profiles and the Role of Extracurriculars in Shaping Identities Among Women of Color Engineers
Vicky Phun (she/her), Postdoctoral Researcher - Michigan State University

Wednesday, September 27, 2023


The research seminar will be a two-in-one presentation focusing on Vicky’s prior work as a graduate student in providing an overview of dimensions and patterns of engagement in science, as well as her dissertation work examining extracurricular experiences in shaping the identities of women of color in engineering. First, she will provide an overview of dimensions of engagement and share about eight distinct, momentary engagement patterns found across science classrooms and STEM programs among middle and high school learners using the experience sampling method. In addition, she will share about supports for promoting a full engagement profile (high across all affective, behavioral, and cognitive engagement dimensions). Second, she will share about her dissertation of exploring the role of affinity groups, internships, and undergraduate research in shaping the identities of women of color in engineering using mixed-methods research. Exploring identity affinity groups, internships, and undergraduate research together and as examples of supporting gender, racial/ethnic, and engineering identity highlighted the importance for viewing these experiences as complementary.