Jim Legg


After about 8 years effort the Physics Education Group's work on developing materials to teach quantum mechanics is winding down. During that time the group developed materials to help students visualize quantum mechanics at a variety of different levels. Some of the materials are aimed at high school students while others are appropriate for students ranging from those enrolled in The Physical World to undergraduate physics majors. For each group the educational approach is different because both the needs of the students and their backgrounds in physics and mathematics differ. At this time the KSU Research Foundation is negotiating a contract for the distribution of the materials for high school students. Those materials shouldbecome available later this year. Other materials are still in the testing phase and can be downloaded from our website at www.phys.ksu.edu/perg/vqm

To provide access to contemporary physics for in-service teachers the group's postdoc, Kirsten Hogg, has been developing an online course. This course involves a combination of web-based instruction with experiments that the teachers can do at home or in their schools. Some fo the equipment that the teachers need for these experiments is available in their schools while others will be shipped to students who enroll in the course. With partial funding from the Department of Education, Dr. Hogg has designed a large number of web pages that involved interactions as the teachers work through the materials. Some of the interactions are simply responding to questions with the responses being stored so that an instructor at K-State may read and comment on them. Others involve the online version of our award winning visualization and modeling software. This course is now available for credit through the KSU Division of Continuing Education.

A new project began in January, 2001, and focuses on aspects of student learning of physics. With funding from the Research on Learning and Education program of the National Science Foundation, the Physics Education Group will study some aspects of what seems to block students learning of physics and what contexts are most conducive to learning. In preliminary work leading up to this project Dr. Hogg and then postdoc Lei Bao found that students could sometimes apply a concept correctly in one context. However, when given what seemed to be an indentical situation but a different scenario, such as changing the collision of football players to the collision of automobiles, the students were unable to be as successfuul. The problems with transferring the knowledge from one application to another and the transfer of knowledge from math courses such as trigonometry to physics will be the focus of this three-year research effort. In addition to the physics Education Group, Andy Bennett, Associate Professor at Ohio State University, will be part of the research team.

The Physics Education Group is in the process of adding a tenure-track faculty member at the Assistant/Associate Professor level for the first time in many years. The candidate should have experience in completing research and development related to the learning and teaching of physics, a record of quality teaching, and an ability to supervise physics doctoral and masters students in physics education.

In addition we will also appoint a research associate to begin by september 2001. The primary focus of this position will be on research and development related to students' applications of models in physics and mathematics and the use of technology to aid in assessment of these applications. More information about the KSU Physics Education Group and these positions can be found at www.phys.ksu.edu/perg.

Lei Bao, former postdoctoral research associate, left KSU to take a tenure-track position at The Ohio State University in August of this year. We will be collaborating with Bao on a new ROLE proposal from the NSF that will be funded shortly entitled "Technology & Model Based Conceptual Assessment: Research in Students' Applications of Models in Physics & Mathematics."

Kirsten Hogg, research associate, is beginning to plan her return to Australia following the AAPT Summer Meeting this year. In the meantime, she is designing a new online physics course for teachers and other students. In this course students will study and discuss the models that have been developed and experiments that have been performed by physicists during the Twentieth Century. They will begin the course by considering the observing of light emitted by a variety of everyday objects and learn how the projects of that light can help build models of very small objects such as atoms and moelcules. Then, they will see how a fundamental model(quantum mechanics) can be used to explain their observations and describe very small objects and apply this model to molecules, atoms, and objects smaller than atoms.

Former research associate Michael Thoresen and former undergraduate lab director Suzanne Maleki were married in June of this past year. Suzanne has joined Michael in Iowa where he is a faculty member in the physics department at the University of Northern Iowa. Former graduate student Lawrence Escalada is also a faculty member at UNI. Larry and his wifr Alison are now the proud parents of their first child, Alexander Escalada who was born March 7, 2000.

Dr. Zollman presented a talk, "Quantum Mechanics for Everyone: Can It Be Delivered Through Technology?," at the Conference on Simulation and Multimedia in Engineering Education in San Diego, in January, 2000. The KSU PERG held a workshop Conceptual Quantum Mechanics for Science and Engineering Students with the Physics Education Group from the University of Maryland this summer at the American Association of Physics Teachers Summer Meeting in Guelph, Canada. Dr. Zollman gave the keynote address in December of 2000 at the Australian Institute of Physics Congress in Adelaide, Australia.

-Dean Zollman.


Copyright © 2001 K-State Physics Department.