2005 AAPT Summer Meeting Highlights

Meeting Highlights
AAPT 2005 Summer Meeting — Salt Lake City, UT
Aug. 6-10, 2005

The 2005 Summer Meeting was held on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Aug. 6–10. The University of Utah campus with the surrounding Wasatch Mountains provided a beautiful setting for the 1,100 participants who attended. The weather was excellent during the entire meeting with daytime temperatures in the low nineties (°F) and low humidity and with night-time temperatures in the mid-seventies (°F).

In the week preceding the AAPT meeting, the fourth Summer Institute of the Rural PTRA Program was held in the physics department at the University of Utah. Eighty Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) attended an intensive week of workshops presented by their fellow PTRA and by other professional educators. The PTRA program has extended into more rural areas by establishing Rural Centers at colleges and universities throughout the United States through funding from the current NSF grant. More than 800 teachers participated in workshops at the 33 Rural Centers this summer. The PTRA program began in 1985 and the 20th anniversary of the program was celebrated with a picnic at the end of the Institute. Additional information about the PTRA program can be found at the PTRA website (www.aapt.org/PTRA/index.cfm).

About 200 graduate students and faculty attended the Physics Education Research Conference (PERC) at the end of the Summer Meeting. The theme of PERC2005 was "Connecting Physics Education Research (PER) to Teacher Education at All Levels: K-20." Poster sessions, plenary talks and breakout groups were utilized to encourage participation and aid in an exchange of ideas about issues related to teacher education. The conference organizers are publishing proceedings from the conference, and additional information is available on the conference website (http://web.phys.ksu.edu/perc2005/).

A similar conference is being planned in conjunction with the 2006 AAPT Summer Meeting at Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.

Workshops and Continuing Education
There were 666 registrants (289 individuals with multiple registrations) for the 43 workshops and tutorial sessions that were offered during the two days prior to the paper presentations. Ziggy Peacock and Gernot Laicher of the University of Utah Physics Department were very helpful in making arrangements for the AAPT workshops as well the PTRA Summer Institute. Many of the workshops presented ways in which physics concepts can be taught using the results of physics education research and computer-related technologies. Popular workshops included Physics and Toys I: Force, Motion, Light, and Sound, VPython: 3D Programming for Ordinary Mortals, What Every Physics Teacher Should Know About Cognitive Research, Research-based Alternatives to Problem Solving, Using Open Source Physics Software, Tutorials in Introductory Physics: A Research-Based Approach to Increasing Student Learning, and Physics for Elementary Teachers: A New Curriculum.

Members of the Physics Instructional Research Association (PIRA) again presented a two-day lecture demonstration workshop that was very popular; similarly, two workshops on introductory and intermediate educational laboratories attracted many participants. Thirteen commercial workshops added additional educational opportunities for meeting attendees.

Paper Sessions
The meeting offered 88 invited papers, 276 contributed papers, 132 poster papers, and 13 crackerbarrels organized into 87 sessions. A number of sessions were devoted to pedagogical issues such as sessions entitled PER in Upper Division Courses, Issues Related to Active Engagement Instruction, Innovations in Teaching Introductory Physics, Course Reform and Improvement of Learning, Pedagogical Theories and Related Topics, Teaching with Personal Response Systems, Assessment of Online Learning Tools, Problem Solving, Student and Teacher Attitudes and Beliefs About Teaching and Learning, and The Art of Teaching.

Several of the sessions had papers that addressed specific subdisciplines in the undergraduate curriculum. Typical sessions of this type included Non-Linear Dynamics in the Undergraduate Environment, Thermal Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Introductory E&M, Innovations in Teaching Astronomy, Upper Level Classical Physics, and Modern Physics. Other well-attended session included two sessions sponsored by PIRA: Topics from Einstein for Demos and Labs and World Year of Physics in Progress. Others included Reading and Writing in Physics, Electronic Learning Across the Professional Continuum, and Physics and World Development in the 20th Century. The meeting also provided an opportunity for undergraduate students to showcase their research in a special poster session and a paper session entitled SPS Undergraduate Research. The abstracts for all papers presented at the 2005 Summer Meeting are available online at www.aapt.org/AbstractSearch/.

Award and Plenary Sessions
At the Monday Ceremonial session, Wendy Freedman of Carnegie Observatories, delivered the Klopsteg Memorial Lecture, "The Accelerating Universe." Freedman discussed recent measurements that have led to a new cosmological model: one in which the universe is flat and accelerating, one-third of the matter-energy density is matter, mostly dark matter, and the remaining two-thirds of the matter-energy density is in the form of a dark energy component. Freedman discussed the successes and challenges for this new model and the ongoing and proposed experiments that will improve the precision to which cosmological parameters are measured. This award is given in memory of Paul Klopsteg, a principal founder, former president, and a longtime, active member of AAPT. Recipients are chosen to give a major lecture at the Summer Meeting on a topic of current significance.

At the Tuesday Ceremonial session, John Rigden of Washington University in St. Louis, gave the Robert A. Millikan Award Lecture, "The Mystique of Physics: Relumine the Enlightenment." According to Rigden, society has held physics and physicists with higher regard than scientists in other disciplines. As a test, Rigden suggested that you ask someone waiting in line at the grocery store to name a great chemist or a great biologist. However, Rigden cautions that the role of physics and science in our society are currently being challenged as at no previous time in our history. How do we as physicists and scientists respond to this challenge?  The Millikan Award recognizes teachers who have made notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics.

At Wednesday’s Ceremonial session, Patrick Callahan, recipient of the Excellence in Pre-College Physics Teaching Award, discussed how his role as a physics teacher has evolved over his 30-year career. Callahan’s approach to teaching has been strongly influenced by colleagues, workshop participants, supervisors, and his participation in the AAPT/PTRA program. Callahan currently teaches at Delaware Valley Regional High School in Frenchtown, New Jersey.

Gary Gladding, recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching Award, described the procedure that the University of Illinois Physics Department used to reform their introductory physics courses. Gladding was one of the leaders in the reform effort that changed the way introductory physics is taught for both calculus-based and algebra-based courses. The courses are now more engaging and less a burden for faculty to teach, and participation in the teaching of the introductory courses is now an expectation of most of the faculty in the department. Gladding is professor of physics at the University of Illinois, Urban-Champaign.

The three plenary sessions departed somewhat from what has become the norm at AAPT summer meetings. Plenary I, arranged by Rod Grant, John Layman and Howard Voss, was a tribute to Melba Newell Phillips. Melba Phillips was an influential leader in AAPT and the physics education community as well as AAPT’s first women president. Rod Grant, Sallie Watkins, Len Jossem, and Dwight Neuenschwander shared their personal memories of Phillips and provided the audience with an understanding of her contributions both as a physics educator and as a human being. Wolfgang Panofsky, Phillip’s co-author for the textbook Classical Electricity and Magnetism, concluded the session by discussing the current challenges to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the failure of nuclear weapons states, especially the United States, to de-emphasize nuclear weapons in international relations. One of Melba Newell Phillips’ many interests included the search for peace in our time. Plenary II was presented by 1998 Noble Prize winner Horst L. Störmer, Columbia University. In his entertaining talk, Small Wonders: The World of Nano Science, Stormer discussed how small numbers of atoms can be manipulated at the nano-scale in physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering with the potential of shaping our technological future. The talk was sponsored by the University of Utah Physics Department and was open to the public.

The APS Forum on Education and Carl Wieman from the APS Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (DAMOP) organized Plenary III, which featured presentations by Wieman, Philip Bucksbaum, and Steven Chu. In his talk Bose-Einstein Condensation: Quantum Weirdness When Flirting with Absolute, 2001 Nobel Prize winner Carl Wieman, University of Colorado, discussed how a Bose-Einstein Condensate is created and some of the research ongoing. The study of the properties of Bose-Einstein Condensates has become an important subfield of atomic physics. Philip Bucksbaum, University of Michigan, demonstrated learning algorithms that teach laser light pulses to alter their shape in order to perform a desired task in his talk, Coherent Control: Light That Learns on the Job. This technique offers a new way to explore and manipulate matter with lasers. In his talk The Quantum Interference of Particle Waves, 1997 Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, discussed the modern double slit experiment in which the detection of many individual particles still results in an interference pattern that is described by the mathematics of waves and is believed to be an essential feature of nature. According to Chu, even though quantum interference lies at the heart of our inability to intuitively understand quantum mechanics, we have learned to use these phenomena to create the most sensitive measuring instruments we have today.

Contests and Exhibits
The physics photo contest attracted much attention and many favorable comments. The 100 photos were conveniently located near the registration area and the Exhibit Hall, where more than 35 vendors displayed their products. Mary Winn coordinates the photo contest, and Trina Cannon coordinates the video contest. Vernier Software & Technology provides the prizes for both contests. The AAPT Committee on Apparatus conducted the annual apparatus competition, and the entries were on display in the PIRA Resource Room. Pictures and descriptions of the entries are available at www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/r/e/ref7/apparatus/. PASCO scientific provides the prizes for the competition.

In Conclusion
Almost 500 participants attended the picnic on Monday, followed by an outstanding demo show that attracted approximately 1,500 people, including many from Salt Lake City. The demo show was organized by Ziggy Peacock with assistance from PIRA members from all over the country. Approximately 100 attendees boarded buses on Tuesday evening to La Caille Estate in Little Cottonwood Canyon for fine French cuisine. The Univ. of Utah was very welcoming to participants, and the meeting was well organized by AAPT staff, with assistance from the Utah Univ. staff, especially Sid Rudolph from the physics department and Ziggy Peacock.

Warren W. Hein, Associate Executive Officer