Physics Colloquium: Laura Clarke
April 3 | 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Title: Wolff-Reichert Award: sustainable laboratory experiences spanning the physics curriculum to address diverse students and career preparation
Abstract: I recently won the APS Wolff-Reichert Award for Excellence in Advanced Laboratory Instruction. The department nominated me for this award to raise the profile of our undergraduate program changes. Many of you have been involved in these changes. Paul asked me to give my award talk to the department so we can discuss what we now know and where we might go in the future. Here’s my abstract: Physics careers require diverse skills: working on a team, design and testing, technical writing, and project management. In contrast, physics undergraduate programs primarily focus on content knowledge, with potentially detrimental consequences. Students with strong professional skills and interest in real world applications sometimes leave physics. Students who “fit well” with physics undergraduate education may struggle in transitioning to jobs. Since 2012, NC State Physics has experimented with adding short (1-2 week) career-focused, hands-on activities occurring frequently in freshman-junior years capped by a term-long senior design course intended as a bridge to the workplace. Mini-labs introduce real-world applications for freshmen and later add an experimental component (a single lab innately associated with the course content) to theory-only classes. Physics senior design is a mock-work experience where small groups of students design and construct a scientific apparatus for a sponsor in 10 weeks, while weekly presenting their progress to a rotating group of observers. Graduate tracking provides detailed pertinent career information for students. I will discuss these innovations and assessment of resultant physics ability beliefs, belonging, persistence, and career outcomes.
Host: Paul Huffman