Committee on Laboratories

The AAPT Committee on Laboratories is a community of individuals committed to teaching and learning physics as an empirical science in both formal (in-class) and informal (out-of-class) settings at all grade levels.

2015 Area Committee of the Year


The current version of the mission statement was finalized on January 20, 2020. The Purpose and Composition Statement and the Values Statement should be reviewed and possibly revised once every three years. The Strategies Statement should be reviewed and possibly revised at least annually.

Mission Statement


The overarching purpose of the Committee on Laboratories is to support AAPT’s mission as it applies to formal (in-class) and informal (out-of-class) laboratory learning environments at all grade levels, from K–12 through higher education.


The Committee on Laboratories is an AAPT Area Committee, and members of the Committee are also members of AAPT. We are educators, education researchers, staff, and students who are committed to teaching and learning physics as an empirical science.


Values are aspirational statements of principle that the Committee uses to guide the decisions and actions it chooses to undertake.

  • The Committee values the breadth of objectives, activities, and environments that facilitate laboratory education. We recognize that learning objectives can be cognitive, affective, social, or skill-based in nature; activities can be apparatus-based, virtual, computational, or a hybrid; and environments can be formal or informal. Objectives, activities, and environments can be flexibly implemented to reflect the priorities, constraints, and accommodations of local stakeholders.
  • The Committee values diversity and a sense of community among stakeholders in laboratory learning environments. Diversity includes diversity of personally or socially ascribed identities (e.g., ability, class, gender, race, or sexuality), professional status (e.g., educator, education researcher, staff, or student), and expertise (e.g., geophysics or biophysics). We recognize that some groups and perspectives are marginalized, minoritized, or missing in the Committee due to systemic and interpersonal biases that impede community building.
  • The Committee values inclusive and accessible laboratory learning environments because learners, educators, and other stakeholders deserve the opportunity to learn, teach, and practice physics free from bullying, harassment, explicit or implicit bias, or unmet accommodations.
  • The Committee values laboratory learning environments that emphasize ethical conduct of research, including impacts of physics on people, communities, and society, and vice versa. We recognize that physics is a human endeavor that is interactional in nature and entangled with present-day policy and past history.


Strategies are statements of specific actions that the Committee will undertake to promote its purpose and values.

  • Coordinate with a variety of Area Committees to identify topics of mutual interest and co-sponsor sessions or workshops.
  • Invite diverse groups of people, as defined in the Values Statement, to present in sessions and workshops.
  • Prioritize session and workshop topics that align with, reinforce, or critique policy documents created by the Committee or other bodies.
  • Continue organizing the following session and workshop series:
    • Intermediate and Advanced Lab Workshop
    • Workshops on introductory labs in rotating topic areas (e.g., optics and waves, thermal physics, and electricity and magnetism).
    • Sessions and workshops focused on the AAPT Recommendations for  the Undergraduate Physics Laboratory Curriculum.
  • Examine the possibility of establishing liaisons responsible for communication between the Committee on Laboratories and other Area Committees.
  • Invite diverse groups of people, as defined in the Values Statement, to serve as members or chairs of the Committee, organize sessions, facilitate workshops, and participate on task forces or other Committee efforts.
  • Examine the possibility of using technologies for synchronous and asynchronous virtual meetings (e.g. internet video or team chat software) to help plan for in-person meetings during conferences.
  • Provide guidelines or other supporting documents to Committee members for carrying out Committee work according to the mission.
  • Write white papers, position statements, or policy documents in response to articulated community needs and interests.
  • Coordinate activities or events with organizations within and beyond AAPT. Examples of activities and events include organizing sessions and workshops or distributing white papers. Examples of organizations include the American Physical Society (APS), Advanced Laboratory Physics Association (ALPhA), Partnership for Integration of Computing into Undergraduate Physics (PICUP), or commercial partners.
  • Examine the possibility of supporting departmental self-studies about lab education.
  • Examine the possibility of collating and distributing information about grant/funding programs available for lab instructors.

  • Monitor trends in co-sponsorship with other Area Committees. Identify any Area Committees with whom the Committee has neglected to recently co-sponsor sessions or workshops. Prioritize collaborating with those Area Committees in the near future.
  • Monitor trends in demographics of Committee members, session and workshop organizers, and invited speakers in sessions or workshops sponsored by the Committee. Coordinate with the Nominating Committee or other relevant stakeholders to improve the diversity of Committee members, organizers, and invited speakers. Establish strategies informed by historical and ongoing factors that contribute to inclusion and overrepresentation of some groups, and exclusion and underrepresentation of others.
  • Monitor trends in session or workshop topics as they relate to the Committee’s values. Identify any values that have few or no explicit connections to the topics of recent sessions or workshops. Prioritize organizing sessions or workshops whose topics explicitly align with those values.

AAPT Recommendations for the Undergraduate Physics Laboratory Curriculum



Committee Members

Troy C. Messina, Chair (Term ending after WM2021)

Nathan D. Powers, Vice Chair (Term ending after WM2021)

Nancy Beverly (Term ending after WM2021)

Yongkang Le (Term ending after WM2021)

Paul M. Nord (Term ending after WM2021)

Beth A. Cunningham, Ex Officio

Past Chairs

Mary Ann H. Klassen (2018)

Jonathan R. Mumford (2019)

Dimitri R. Dounas-Frazer (2020)