What do I add to a first-year university physics class on simple harmonic motion? Anything? What’s the point of a class on simple harmonic motion? Why do first-year physics classes exist? I was thinking about these questions exactly six months ago, pre-pandemic, when I started writing a blog post that seems especially relevant now. I … Continue reading What’s the point of a first-year physics class?
Last week we had another successful run of our Physics & Human Physiology “SAIL” outreach day camp for high school students. I just realized that this is the 10th year I’ve co-run a SAIL camp, which means I should probably offer some grand assessment of it. Instead, I’ll just jot a few notes, post a … Continue reading SAIL Recap 2017
I’ll continue describing a graduate biophysics course I taught in Spring 2015. In Part I, I wrote about the topics we covered. Here, I’ll focus on the structure of the course — books, assignments, in-class activities, and the students’ final project — and note what worked and didn’t work. (What didn’t work: popsicle sticks.) Click … Continue reading Recap of a graduate biophysics course — Part II
In Spring 2015 I taught a graduate biophysics course for the first time. It was a first in several ways: the course didn’t exist before, so I developed it from scratch, and it was also the first graduate course I’ve taught in my nine years as a professor! I’ve been thinking for months that I … Continue reading Recap of a graduate biophysics course — Part I
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?
As of yesterday, the graduate student union here at the University of Oregon is on strike*. (I walked past three separate picket lines on my way to get coffee.) I don’t have anything profound to write about labor issues, but I thought I should post something that’s graduate-student-related! Quite often, the topic of “time to … Continue reading Universality, Scaling, and Time-to-Ph.D.
Like last year, several of us from the Physics Department manned a booth at the Oregon Country Fair, the long-running hippie / arts / music / performance / counterculture festival that occurs each year outside Eugene. I worked there today, which was lots of fun. Though our booth was mostly about energy — lots of … Continue reading “You should do birthday parties!” — Year 2 at the Oregon Country Fair
Our Physics Department Colloquium this week is on a topic I’m fond of: the analysis of super-resolution microscopy images. This occurrence isn’t surprising, since I invited the speaker, Alex Small, with whom I co-wrote a recent review paper on the subject. The problem that superresolution microscopy confronts is that it’s hard to see tiny things. … Continue reading I should think of a title involving the words “Small” and “Microscopy”
How does a department recruit graduate students? Like many physics departments, ours brings accepted prospective students to visit, funneling most of them into two days during which we try to convey information about our research, the university, the area, etc. Faculty in different research areas think of ways to spend an hour or so describing … Continue reading Grabbing graduate students with graphs
Since I’m a physicist who works on biological systems and cares about education, what could be better than a special issue of CBE Life Sciences Education on “Educational Initiatives and Research at the Intersection of Physics and Biology?” (OK, lots of things — I’m not that boring a person — but humor me.) I’ve read … Continue reading Physics, Biology, and STEM education