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Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
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Research Areas:

Astronomy and Astrophysics

Biological Physics

Condensed Matter Physics

Educational Physics

Optical Physics

Particle Physics

Undergraduate Research

Contact Us:

Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 Eighth Street, Troy, New York 12180-3590 USA

(518) 276-6310
Fax: (518) 276-6680

Research Focus:

Educational Physics

In general, the program involves creative work related to the improvement of physics instruction. Much of our current work centers on using technology enhanced instructional methods to promote interaction in the classroom and improve the level of student learning in physics.

Physics Education Group

Students in the Physics Education Group engage in undergraduate research opportunities and earn graduate degrees by conducting research on the learning and teaching of physics. Graduate students in the group actively participate in the development and teaching of departmental courses. 

Specific topics include:

  • Development, use and assessment of web-based and other multimedia materials.
  • Effective use of computer based data collection and analysis technology.
  • Issues related to student grouping in collaborative learning environments.
  • Assessment of student learning as a guide to curriculum development.
  • Assessment and development of problem solving skills in introductory physics students.
  • Teaching physics using numerical modeling techniques.
  • Development of an effective curriculum for instruction in the field of information technology.
  • Outreach to pre-college classrooms.

Students may participate in programs of the educational development group to fulfill thesis requirements for the M.S. degree.

Studio Approach

Rensselaer’s Physics Education Group pioneered the “studio” approach to physics instruction. The defining characteristics of studio physics classes are integrated lecture/laboratory form, a reduction in lecture time, a technology-enhanced learning environment, collaborative group work, and a high level of faculty-student interaction.

The studio physics environment employs activities, computer tools, and multimedia materials that allow students to participate in their own learning and to construct their own scientific knowledge.

Allowing students to learn directly from their interactions with the physical world through “hands-on” activities is a high priority.

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