Engaging students in authentic scientific practices in physics lab courses

Prof. Heather J. Lewandowski, University of Colorado Boulder

February 19th, 2024, 15.00h – Aula Rostagni, Department of Physics and Astronomy (entrance from Via Paolotti)

Modeling, which includes developing, testing, and refining models, is a central activity in physics. Modeling is most fully represented in the laboratory where measurements of real phenomena intersect with theoretical models, leading to refinement of models and experimental apparatus. However, experimental physicists use models in complex ways and the process is often not made explicit in physics laboratory courses. Lewandowski’s group at Colorado Boulder have developed a framework to describe the modeling process in physics laboratory activities. The framework has guided lab course transformations, research into student learning, and assessment of student outcomes. Prof. Lewandowski will present the framework, the way they used it to transform their lab courses, and a new scalable assessment used to measure students’ modeling ability.

Free registration on Indico DFA

Streaming on the Aula Rostagni Youtube channel (in-person participation is preferred)

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The speaker

Photograph of Heather Lewandowski.

Heather J. Lewandowski is an experimental physicist and leader of the research group in experimental cold molecular physics and physics education at the University of Colorado Boulder and Fellow of the JILA. She serves on the board of the Advanced Laboratory Physics Association (ALPhA) and she has been involved in the creation of the Recommendations for the Undergraduate Physics Laboratory Curriculum (2014). The two research areas of Lewandowski’s group share an inherently interdisciplinary nature, bridging traditional boundaries of physics, chemistry, and social science. In experimental physics, they study how to cool and trap neutral and ionic molecules to explore how controlling the internal quantum states and translational motion can impact how they interact, also performing high-resolution spectroscopy. In physics education, the group’s research focuses on developing an understanding of how students learn experimental physics. In particular, they look at transforming laboratory courses (both introductory and advanced) for a better development of scientific abilities and expert-like attitudes towards experimental physics. Heather Lewandowski was awarded several prizes and awards, including the AAPT Homer L. Dodge Citation for Distinguished Service and the APS Wolff-Reichert Award for Advanced Laboratory Instruction for her commitment to “scholarly transformation of advanced laboratories”.

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