The University of St. Thomas

NSF0311432

NSF-CCLI Grant #DUE-0311432

Incorporating Computer Modeling into the Upper-Division Physics Curriculum

Principal Investigator: Paul Ohmann
Co-Principal Investigator: Adam Green
Award Dates: 2003-2006
Award Amount: $96,832

The project incorporates computer modeling in the upper-division physics curriculum. Specifically, modules are adapted from research articles in the literature and developed in the Electricity and Magnetism, Optics, Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics, and Quantum Mechanics courses. The purpose of developing these modules is to: increase the applicability of the course material by introducing substantive, real-world problems into the upper classes, improve understanding through direct student participation in all aspects of problem solving, build the computational skill set of the students. These modules address a need identified by the physics community, that the majority of Physics Bachelor recipients employed in certain technical fields felt that their undergraduate preparation was lacking. These modules address this concern by developing computational skills to attack substantive problems, thereby providing an educational experience complementary to the analytical and laboratory skills developed in other parts of the curriculum. The emphasis on computation has a potentially broader impact: multiple tracks within the major (for example computational physics) provide graduates with marketable skills and also encourage students with broad scientific interests to major in physics. Furthermore, expanding the ways in which students discover how physics is done appeals to a broader student audience than usual.