The department continues to work to expand our introductory Phys 211 and 212 offerings to better serve the life-science curriculums across the college. Department tech Steve Mahrley has worked this year planning and purchasing the equipment and instrumentation needed to clone our Phys 211 lab so that this coming fall we can run two separate lab facilities concurrently throughout the week. This will be a first for the department. We thereby hope to almost double this fall the number of students we teach life-science physics to compared to just two years ago. Budget permitting, we intend to expand this effort into next spring to include our 212 lab offerings.
The department initiated a rudimentary supplementary-instruction (SI) program this past spring semester for our life-science courses Phys 211 and 212. Physics majors Kevin Ralphs, Bobby Wright, and Casey Sanchez along with chemistry major David Fann coordinated throughout the semester with our 211 and 212 course instructors and with COHORT program director Christina Goode. These student SI instructors attended 211 and 212 lectures and held their own classes twice a week throughout the semester to give students in those courses opportunity for additional instruction and help with the course material. We hope to expand these efforts in the fall.
The department is also looking to strengthen and expand our general education offerings, in particular our astronomy curriculum. Both Pat Cheng and Josh Smith, our department astronomers, will be teaching Phys 120 Introduction to Astronomy in the fall. Josh and Mike Loverude have recruited physics major Gabriela Serna to work in Josh's class as a peer assistant and to help assess student learning by administering and analyzing special tests. Josh will be adopting an innovative research-based curriculum for his course, the Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy, and Gaby will be working to help evaluate the extent to which the course has changed student thinking on topics known to be difficult, as well as on the impact of student reasoning skills. The department hopes to use their project as a model for assessing student learning in other courses in our lower-division curriculum.
In a related effort to strengthen and expand our general education offerings, Greg Childers has fully redesigned and modernized our Phys 301 Energy & Environment and has taught it this past year online as Energy & Sustainability. The course has proven to be extremely popular especially among science-teacher candidates in Vikki Costas' Science Ed program.
Greg Childers and Josh Smith have spent the past year renovating our key upper-division lab courses Phys 380, 481, and 482 and investing in new technology, especially TeachSpin instrumentation, to establish a new teaching lab facility in Dan Black Hall. This new state-of-the-art department resource has been made possible with the continued generous support of Dan Black.
Former masters student and current lecturer Colin Campbell along with physics sophomore Cris Navarro have been working for the past year to reorganize, refurbish, and expand our extensive lecture demo collection top to bottom, another effort which has also been made possible with the generous support of Dan Black. Colin received a Special Appreciation Award from the department for his efforts this year, while Cris received this year's Eiker-Adams Creativity Award. Our new tech Patrick Meras will be taking over this effort in the coming year, as Colin is looking to enter a PhD program next year. Cris was this year's Eiker-Adams Award recipient for his new contributions to the collection, and we are looking to extend the Eiker-Adams Award as a fairly substantial scholarship for a physics major or masters candidate to focus on continued development of our lecture demo collection.