Posts related to the teaching mission of the Physics Department.

Hands-on teaching of introductory physics gains momentum

Students in PHYS 1601Q, taught by Professor Jason Hancock, work during a lab that observes how an external mass can affect oscillation by producing torque. They use a device called an ioLab to record data, and use the data in a program called Mathematica for analysis. The lab was in the Edward V. Gant science complex on April 20, 2018. (Garrett Spahn/UConn Photo)


A recently renovated physics classroom in the Edward V. Gant Science Complex was built to pilot a new approach to physics education, integrating lecture with lab rather than the classical approach of separating these components.

Students and instructors apply concepts with hands-on activities throughout the lecture, practice new tools, and problem solve as a group. The space is equipped with whiteboards on every wall, and computers and projectors for each station. Though built for entry-level courses such as Physics 1601 and 1602, the end goal is to convert larger classes into this format as well, including entry-level engineering and biology classes, for a more interactive learning experience.

– Garrett Spahn ’18 (CLAS) & Elaina Hancock

21st Annual Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture

Monday, March 26, 2018

The 21st Annual Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture was hosted by the UConn Physics Department, featuring Dr. Takaaki Kajita, 2015 Nobel Prize Winner from the University of Tokyo, speaking on “Oscillating Neutrinos.”  After the lecture,  a banquet with the speaker was held for members and guests of the department. We enjoyed welcoming alumni and visitors to the department for this special occasion, made possible by a generous gift from UConn Physics alumnus Henry Katzenstein and his family.

Video recording of the lecture

Katzenstein lecture 2018

UConn offers new minor in Astronomy

The Physics Department has recently expanded its research and teaching specialties to include Astronomy with the addition of three new junior faculty: Cara Battersby, Jonathan Trump, and Kate Whitaker. In addition to the expertise in Observational Astronomy using the latest instruments and techniques, they are also spearheading a suite of new courses in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Following on with the popularity of these course with our students, we have now introduced a new minor in Astronomy to give undergraduate majors across a broad range of majors the opportunity to make Astronomy a prominent part of their studies.

Professor tests innovative approach to teaching Introductory Physics

Students in PHYS 1601q, taught by Professor Jason Hancock, work during a lab that observes how an external mass can affect oscillation by producing torque. They use a device called an ioLab to record data, and use the data in a program called Mathematica for analysis. The lab was in the Edward V. Gant science complex on April 20, 2018. (Garrett Spahn/UConn Photo)

Following up on results from Physics education research conducted at MIT and elsewhere, professor Jason Hancock  has begun the process of transforming the way Introductory Physics is taught at the University of Connecticut. Starting with the course PHYS 1601Q for physics majors, Prof. Hancock has developed a curriculum that integrates aspects of both lecture and lab components in an active learning environment that introduces students to all of the essential physics covered in the traditional lecture course, but in a format where students work in groups and discover the principles of classical mechanics for themselves using a hands-on approach. Experience gained with PHYS 1601Q will lay the ground work for the eventual conversion of the full suite of calculus-based Introductory Physics courses into an active learning format.

Katzenstein lecture brings Nobel Laureat, UConn alumni to Storrs

Leon Cooper
Leon Cooper, 1972 Nobel Laureat delivered the Distinguished Katzenstein lecture at UConn in October, 2016

The Katzenstein Distinguished Lectures series continued in Fall 2016 for its 19th year, with an October 28, 2016 lecture by Professor Leon N. Cooper of Brown University, entitled “On the Interpretation of the Quantum Theory: Can Free Will And Locality Exist Together In The Quantum Theory?” Professor Cooper shared the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physics with Professors J. Bardeen and J. R. Schrieffer. The Nobel Prize was awarded for the first microscopic theory of superconductivity, now known as the BCS Theory. Superconductivity as evidenced by the disappearance of electrical resistivity was first observed in Mercury by Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911. Immediately, many theorists including Albert Einstein, set out to explain this newly observed phenomena. However it was not until 1933 that the essential property of magnetic flux exclusion was observed by Meissner and Ochsenfeld. No successful microscopic theory was developed until the 1957 Physical Review Paper that developed the BCS theory. A crucial element for the theory was published in a short letter to the Physical Review in 1956 by Leon Cooper, entitled ‘Bound Electron Pairs, in a degenerate Fermi Gas’. These pairs are now commonly referred to as ‘Cooper Pairs’.

The 2016 lecture took place in Physics Building Lecture Room P-36, and an excellent attendance included physics undergraduates, graduate students, faculty from Physics and other departments, and a number of UConn Physics alumni. Prior to the lecture, Professor Cooper met informally with Physics students in the Physics Library, and then met people at a reception that preceded the lecture. Following the lecture, Professor Cooper joined with Henry Katzenstein’s son David, a Professor at Stanford Medical School, along with faculty, staff, alumni and guests for a gala dinner at the University of Connecticut’s Foundation Building. The Katzenstein Lectures are made possible by an endowment established by the late Dr. Henry S. Katzenstein and his wife Dr. Constance A. Katzenstein. Cornell Professor David Lee (1996 Nobel Laureate in Physics and 1956 M. S. alumnus of UConn) gave the first lecture of the current series of annual lectures by Nobel Laureates, in 1997. Henry Katzenstein received the very first Ph.D. in physics from our Department in 1954 after only three years as a graduate student here.


Katzenstein lecture 2016
UConn Physics lecture hall PB-36 filled for 2016 Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture



This story was published in the University of Connecticut 2017 Annual Newsletter.

UConn Physics welcomes new teaching faculty

Assistant professors in residence (APiRs) are primarily responsible for teaching and managing large introductory service classes in cooperation with faculty.

The Physics Department has recently promoted Diego Valente to APiR from his former position of Visiting Assistant Professor. Congratulations Diego on a well-deserved promotion.

The department extends a warm welcome to three other APiRs, Belter Ordaz-Mendoza, Hani Duli, and Xian Wu, who are recently recruited to help advance our growth initiatives.