program_wb_i - page 104

Session EA: Panel – Bridging
Research and Teaching through
Location: STSS 330
Sponsor: Committee on Educational Technologies
Date: Tuesday, July 29
Time: 1–3 p.m.
Presider: Jan Tobochnik
Presenters will describe their research using computation and how
it can enrich the undergraduate curriculum.
1-1:30 p.m. Using Computation to Teach the Physics of
Phase Transitions
Panel – Robert H. Swendsen, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
The van der Waals model of a fluid has been an essential part of courses in
thermodynamics since it was first proposed in 1873. It is relatively simple,
but still gives a remarkably good description of the properties of real gases.
On the other hand, the analytic solution of the van der Waals equations
is non-trivial, which has led to the neglect of much of its richness. In this
talk, I’ll discuss how simple numerical methods can be used to generate
graphs of the compressibility, the coefficient of thermal expansion, and
the specific heat at constant pressure, all of which exhibit divergences at
the critical point. The behavior of these quantities and others at first-order
phase transitions turns out to be especially interesting. Numerical methods
give rise to new insights into the van der Walls model that can greatly
improve students’ understanding and appreciation of the physics of phase
1:30-2 p.m. Still Water: Dead Zones and Liquid-like Flow
from Granular Impact
Panel – Wendy W. Zhang, University of Chicago, The Physics Department
and the James Franck Institute, Chicago, IL 60637;
The impact of two colliding objects is the rudimentary process that
underlies splashing and coalescence at the human-size scale, as well as
cratering and even planet formation on the celestial scale. Impact leads to
catastrophic deformation as the incoming objects distort and change shape.
Impact has also been used to create the quark-gluon plasma, the primor-
dial constituents of the universe, in high-energy collisions in accelerators.
Nonetheless, the seemingly complicated physics of impact can sometimes
lead to elegant results that can be understood simply. I will describe
our studies on the impact of granular jets composed of densely packed
macroscopic grains. Impact onto a fixed target yields liquid-like ejecta flow
whose structure is controlled by dissipationless perfect fluid flow, despite
the fact that the impact process itself is highly dissipative. In contrast, the
collision of two jets can produce an impact region that drifts steadily over
time, with larger drift speeds produced by grains with larger coefficients of
friction. Joint work with Jake Ellowitz, Herve Turlier, Nicholas Guttenberg
and Sidney R. Nagel.
2-2:30 p.m. Teaching Statistical Physics with Python
Panel – Leonard M. Sander, University of Michigan, Physics, Ann Arbor, MI
I will outline my experience in teaching statistical physics at the graduate
level using computer simulations in Python. This course uses the author’s
recent textbook, Equilibrium Statistical Physics, (Createspace, 2013). The
book is based a point of view that the best way to learn this subject is to
do hands-on computer simulations as part of learning the subject. Almost
everyone who teaches physics courses knows that statistical physics seems
peculiarly difficult to learn. The pioneers of this subject possessed a power-
ful imagination which allowed them to visualize chaotic, many-particle
processes and understand their nature: this is the essential difficulty. Lesser
mortals are enormously aided by using simulations to guide learning. In
fact, I think that the easiest way to really grasp what is meant by entropy,
irreversibility, and thermal equilibrium is to watch small many-particle
systems develop in a concrete way, as I will demonstrate in the talk.
Session EB: Physics in a Biological
Context II
Location: STSS 312
Sponsor: Committee on Physics in Undergraduate Education
Date: Tuesday, July 29
Time: 1–2:20 p.m.
Presider: Nancy Beverly
1-1:10 p.m. Analyzing NEXUS/Physics Laboratory
Curriculum in a Large-enrollment Environment
Contributed – Kimberly A. Moore, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Wolfgang Losert, John Giannini, University of Maryland, College Park
UMd-PERG’s NEXUS/Physics for Life Sciences laboratory curriculum,
piloted in 2012-2013 in small test classes, has been implemented in
large-enrollment environments at UMD in 2013-2014. These labs address
physical issues at biological scales using microscopy, image, and video
analysis, electrophoresis, and spectroscopy in an open, non-protocol-
driven environment. We have collected a wealth of data (surveys, video
analysis, etc.) that enables us to get a sense of the students’ responses to this
curriculum in a large-enrollment environment and with teaching assistants
“new” to the labs. In this talk, we will provide a brief overview of what
we have learned and a comparison of our large-enrollment results to the
results from our pilot study. Additionally, we will share data examining the
change in self-reported student goals, which we believe is an indication of
our lab curriculum’s impact on student thinking. (This work is supported
by funding from HHMI and the NSF.)
1:10-1:20 p.m. Physics for the Life Sciences with the
MCAT In Mind
Contributed – Michael G. Cherney, Creighton University, Omaha, NE 68178;
A new algebra-based General Physics option will be available to Creighton
University students this fall. These courses are intended for life science
majors. The conceptual reasoning, the attention to medical and biologi-
cal applications of physics, the mental math skills and the new emphasis
on research skills and methods that will be promoted in the 2015 MCAT
are informing the development of the new syllabuses. This new General
Physics offering divides the traditional first-semester college physics topics
(including fluids and basic material properties) as well as rudimentary
statistical analysis between a three-credit lecture course and a one-credit
laboratory course.
1:20-1:30 p.m. Physics for the Life Sciences After the
Introductory Sequence
Contributed – Al J. Adams, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock,
AR 72204-1099;
I have designed and now taught a one-semester 3000-level physics course
entitled “Intermediate Physics for the Life Sciences.” The course was
populated by both upper-level physics majors and students in biology with
interest in professional schools in health care or biomedical research. The
course is designed to 1) allow students with a recent introductory sequence
experience the opportunity to apply the principles to systems of immedi-
ate interest to them, 2) explore many of the traditionally neglected topics
in the introductory sequence that are of importance in biology, 3) explore
some of the important ideas through laboratory measurements, and 4) al-
Tuesday afternoon
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