AAPT_WM14program_final - page 68

Monday afternoon
Session DE: Physics for the Life
and Health Sciences
Location: Salon 7
Sponsor: Committee on Physics in Undergraduate Education
Date: Monday, January 6
Time: 3:30–5:30 p.m.
Presider: Nancy Beverly
3:30-4 p.m. The Challenges and Rewards of
Teaching Physics for Biology and Medicine
Invited – Jack Tuszynski, University of Alberta, Department of Physics,
Edmonton, AB T6G 2J1 Canada;
I made a transition from condensed matter physics to biophysics fol-
lowing my sabbatical year in Europe in 1993/4. Since that time I made
efforts to build a research program in biophysics and in computational
biology. My efforts to teach physics for biology and medicine resulted
in a textbook but the experience of teaching this course was less than
satisfying. Subsequently, I published graduate-level textbooks in
biophysics and taught biophysics to a class of physicists and various
blocks and invited classes in various departments including Oncology
and biochemistry. I also mentored medical students in the Discovery
Learning blocks covering almost all areas of medicine and tried to
introduce physical thinking whenever possible. I will describe this
experience and my conclusions about where the greatest challenges
and potential rewards lie in trying to educate life sciences students in
quantitative subjects such as physics and biophysics.
4-4:30 p.m. Adventures in Bioelectricity
Invited – Francis X. Hart, The University of the South, Sewanee, TN
All objects have material properties, such as conductivity and permit-
tivity. All objects also respond in some way to applied electric fields.
Living systems are no different in these respects from any other
material system. I will present three examples of bioelectric processes
and their applications. The first two examples concern responses to
applied electric fields. Galvanotaxis is the movement of cells under
the application of a weak dc field. It presents a simple experimental
system to investigate how cells detect the presence of an applied field.
Electroporation is a clinical technique in which very strong electric
fields are applied for very short times to cancerous tissue shortly after
the administration of a cancer drug. The strong fields open pores in
the cell membranes so that the drugs enter the cells more readily. The
third example involves measuring the increase with time of skin’s
inter-electrode capacitance to determine its viscoelastic properties.
4:30-5 p.m. The X-Laboratory: A Freshman
Laboratory Integrating Biology, Chemistry, and
Invited – David Julian,* University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-
Gabriela Waschewsky, University of Florida
The Cross-Disciplinary Laboratory (X-Lab), part of the UF-HHMI
Science for Life Program, has three main goals: increase STEM
retention by helping students develop a synthetic, cross-disciplinary
approach to understanding the natural sciences; engage students in
inquiry-based experiments that model modern, authentic research;
and train students in the key theoretical and practical skills necessary
to participate meaningfully in modern biomedical research as under-
graduates. The two-semester, six-credit course is targeted to STEM
undergraduates as an alternative to traditional laboratory courses
in general biology, general chemistry and physics. All laboratory
activities and experiments merge key concepts from at least two of the
traditional disciplines while emphasizing critical thinking, formulat-
ing and testing hypotheses, quantitative and analytical reasoning, and
communicating results. The courses meet the traditional laboratory
course requirements for all UF undergraduate STEM majors and the
Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine. More infor-
mation, including learning outcomes and skills, is at x-laboratory.org.
*Sponsored by Nancy Beverly
DE04: 5-5:10 p.m. A Virtual Optics Lab for Pre-health
Students Using Interactive Screen Captures
Contributed – Ralf Widenhorn, Portland State University SRTC, Port-
land, OR 97201;
Elliot Mylott Portland State University
Heike Theyßen, Sarah Struzyna, Universität Duisburg-Essen
We present a lab exercise based on interactive screen experiments
(ISEs) teaching geometrical optics and the functioning of the human
eye. The ISEs use a large number of screen captures of an actual lab
experiment and allows students to manipulate the experimental setup
online using a computer. The online lab was given to students at Uni-
versity of Duisburg-Essen, Heinrich-Heine-University of Duesseldorf,
Germany, and at Portland State University (PSU) in the U.S. The
participants at the Germany universities took an introductory physics
course as medical students, while the students at PSU were pre-health
majors. We will present pre- and post-test data as well as demographic
data and assessment of student attitudes toward the learning environ-
ment. We found significant learning gains and a positive response
by students in Germany and the U.S. even though the educational
systems and background differ significantly. The lab can be used
instead of an in-class lab or as a supplement or homework assignment
for pre-health students taking an introductory physics course.
5:10-5:20 p.m. Student Inquiry in Life Science
Homework Problem Solving
Contributed – Nancy Beverly, Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522;
Inquiry-based, real world homework problems for a first semester
algebra-based physics course for life/health science students were
formulated and answered by the students themselves. The standard
end-of-chapter word problems typically give all the values of the un-
knowns and students often see this as having to determine what equa-
tion to use to plug the values into. But students will not use this kind
of problem solving outside of physics class. An alternative is presented
where students considered or created scenarios in which they raised
their own questions of interest about a measurable quantity within
the confines of a topic, determined a strategy for finding an answer,
determined what information was needed for this strategy, found the
needed information either by measurement, estimation or from the
web and then calculated an answer to their question.
5:20-5:30 p.m. The Surprising Statistics of Birth
Control: Thermodynamics for Health Science
Contributed – Michael Daugherity, Abilene Christian University, Abilene,
TX 7969;9
Health Science students often see physics at best as an obstacle to
overcome, and at worst as a waste of their time. However, by mak-
ing physics interesting and relevant it is possible to motivate these
students to cultivate a curiosity about the world which can last a
lifetime. My algebra-based physics courses for pre-health majors have
often struggled in the thermodynamics and statistical mechanics
units. This talk will focus on two specific approaches that I have found
to be effective. First, probability lies at the heart of thermodynamics
and statistical mechanics, but it is difficult to address the many com-
mon misconceptions such as the classic Gambler’s Fallacy. A simple
exercise in calculating probabilities associated with contraception
provides a surprising illustration for students. Second, investing in
discussing philosophical ideas such as the arrow of time helps to spark
student interest.
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