Approximately 150 students are currently enrolled in the School of Physics and Astronomy's undergraduate Physics major. Physics graduates go on to careers as high school teachers, industrial physicists, medical physicists, engineers, lawyers, and finance managers. After graduate study in physics, others will become professors, junior college teachers, and researchers at national labs or industrial research centers. Annually, the department's 59 faculty members also teach over 4,500 students from 30 different majors enrolled in its writing-intensive introductory Physics courses.
In its first implementation phase, this department developed teaching resources for several large-enrollment introductory lab courses. Developing and piloting a Revised Grading Rubric, a Review of Graphs, and an Interactive Guide to Writing Lab Reports, the department endeavored to ensure that these multi-section courses, which primarily enroll non-majors, approach writing instruction and grading in a uniform manner.
As the department implements the third edition of its Writing Plan, it has focused on developing teaching resources for selected upper-level courses. The first of these courses was PHYS 2605 Quantum Physics Laboratory, which is an intermediate lab course for physics majors. In this lab, students develop writing skills important to their field of study, including keeping a well-organized and detailed record of their work in a lab logs and writing formal scientific papers. Resources offer students examples of excellent/poor practices in keeping lab log books and writing formal papers. The course has recently been designated a 3K-level course, and through WEC-related work, the course now has a “writing intensive” identifier: PHYS 3605W. Furthermore, peer review continues to be explored for courses such as PHYS 3605W and another advanced physics laboratory (PHYS 4052W Methods of Experimental Physics II) as a way of improving student engagement and understanding of what practices make the communication of science work successful.