A remarkable graph I came across a few weeks ago, copied below, shows the changes in the numbers of students majoring in various topics between 2011 and 2017. Part of an insightful article by Benjamin Schmidt titled “The History BA Since the Great Recession”, it reports a sharp drop in history majors, a steep rise … Continue reading Local trends in college majors (Or: Do Oregon students choose offbeat degrees?)
Assessing exams I’m fond of analyzing the outcomes of exams I give. My favorite assessment is to look at how the score on each exam question correlates with the overall total score, and to plot this correlation coefficient versus the fraction of students who got that question correct. Roughly, I’d like the plot to turn … Continue reading Graphs and Grading: Winter 2016
What makes a good exam question? Not surprisingly, I try to write exams that most students who are keeping up with the course should do well on — almost by definition, the exam should be evaluating what I’m teaching. But I also want the exam to reveal and assess different levels of understanding; it would … Continue reading What have I got in my pocket?
This post is really just an update to the last one, on our recent paper on watching the growth of gut bacterial communities, but I thought I’d post separately that I just learned that we made the cover of mBio. (Or more accurately, the illustration I submitted is the “featured image” for this issue — … Continue reading A bacterial clock
Occasionally, things go exactly as I’d hoped. We’re discussing scaling in my Physics of Life class, starting with things like the scaling of volume and area with size. I mentioned in passing that this issue comes up in advertising, and since students seemed interested, I brought the following to the next class — an interactive … Continue reading How to lie with scaling
This week’s Economist has a fascinating map of the number of UFO sightings per capita, by state: When I saw this last Friday, it raised a few questions: What’s up with Washington? How well do UFO reports correlate with population density? (Do aliens have a fondness for sparsely settled, wide-open spaces?) Could I use any … Continue reading Sasquatch is an alien! (A proof in three graphs)
I spent the past week at a fascinating conference on teaching at the interface of physics and biology: a mix of biophysics research talks, education talks, and combinations of the two. I presented a poster on my ‘biophysics for non-science majors’ course, which went over well. Perhaps its biggest impact was superficial, though: everyone (including … Continue reading A soft, silky, scientific poster