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Physics Researchers, Teachers to Meet on Campus

Gathering Slated for April 8–9

Physics-teaching_tn.jpgThis April’s joint meeting of the New England sections of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers will feature sessions on materials science, undergraduate education and physics teaching.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

UMass Lowell will host the joint spring meeting of the New England sections of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) on April 8 and 9.

The meeting’s Friday sessions will be held at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center in downtown Lowell while the Saturday sessions will take place at the Olney Science Center on North Campus.

“This joint gathering provides an opportunity for dialog between research physicists belonging to the APS and physics teachers affiliated with the AAPT,” says Prof. James Egan, the graduate program coordinator in the Physics and Applied Physics Department. “These two organizations can be cross-fertilized with new ideas in basic and applied physics research and in physics teaching.”

The meeting features 13 distinguished invited speakers and 63 contributed papers. The speakers include Assoc. Prof. Viktor Podolskiy (UMass Lowell), materials-science researchers Nader Engheta (University of Pennsylvania) and Richard Averitt (Boston University), Alain Karma (Northeastern University), Michael Rubner (MIT), Zhifeng Ren (Boston College), noted science author Mark Silvermann (Trinity College) and Robert Beichner (North Carolina State University), who is a leading figure in undergraduate physics education.

Also speaking are three education experts: Asst. Prof. David Lustick (UMass Lowell), Sachiko Tosa (Wright State University) and William Church, a teacher at Littleton High School who uses robotics to teach high-school physics.  

Eric Mazur, dean of applied physics at Harvard University, will deliver the banquet address on Friday evening. 

“Dr. Mazur is an internationally recognized research scientist and a renowned authority on physics education,” says Egan. “All talks at the meeting are aimed at a general physics audience.”

He says in addition to the program of speakers, there will be two teacher workshops on Saturday afternoon as well as tours of the various research laboratories on campus. These include the Submillimeter-Wave Technology Lab, the Photonics Center, the Center for Advanced Materials, the Radiation Lab, the Advanced Biophotonics Lab and the Laboratory for Nanoscience and Laser Applications.

“These meetings of the APS and the AAPT are held twice a year at institutions around New England,” says Egan. “Last fall’s meeting was at Brown University. We have hosted the APS New England section meetings twice before, in 1979 and in 1990.”  

He says hosting the meeting this year, with its theme of "Materials: The Foundation of Our Future," affords UMass Lowell the opportunity to bring the strength of its research programs in this important area of physics to the attention of physicists and students throughout New England.

“Our Department of Physics and Applied Physics receives more than $10 million in externally funded research per year, making it a prominent player in physics research in the region,” says Egan.