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Physics Education Research Laboratory

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Conferences in June 2010 at UMaine

There are two interdisciplinary conferences taking place on campus in June 2010.  First is Transforming Research in STEM Education (TRUSE), co-organized by John Thompson.  TRUSE is a research conference for researchers in undergraduate physics, mathematics, and chemistry education, with the intention to foster and support interdisciplinary research projects.  

The second is Integrating Science and Mathematics Education Research into Teaching (V), co-organized by John Thompson and Michael Wittmann, and run by the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center).

These conferences occur back-to-back in June:  June 14-18 for TRUSE, and June 20-23 for the Center conference.

See our meetings page for more details.

New publications: Hayes & Wittmann; Springuel, Wittmann & Thompson

We have been remiss in sharing evidence of our publications here.

Hayes and Wittmann on the use of signs in mechanics problem solving, April 2010 in The Physics Teacher.

Springuel, Wittmann, and Thompson with Erratum: Applying clustering to statistical analysis of student reasoning about two-dimensional kinematics [Phys Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 020107 (2007)], which refers back to this paper.

Another poem…. “Publish or Perish”

Trevor ended group meeting today with a poem, shared with all of you, below:

Publish or Perish

Writing a paper: what a time!
Copying’s easy, but it’s also a crime.
Making up thoughts is elusively hard,
Especially when others are ready to discard
The work that you’ve done in favor of better:
Poetics worthy of an Associate of Letters.
But sooner or later it’s sure to be through,
And you’ll slump in your chair with a well-deserved “Phew!”
The paper is done, and wasn’t it fun.
The next is sure to be written at the point of a gun.

NaPoWriMo: On developing an interview task

It’s National Poetry Writing Month, and we at UMaine PERL have decided to engage, each in our own way.

As I sat to write the question I remembered his suggestion,
And I thought of what he mentioned ere the meeting was adjourned:
“This,” he said was of great import, to which I promptly did retort,
“How then could we help support the lesson that we hoped they’d learned?”
Sitting, thinking, all a-wonder, ’bout the topic that was under
Consideration. Lest I blunder, to the research then I turned.
Luckily did I soon find, a revelation of the mind
Which was of the peculiar kind that cannot be quickly spurned.
Informed was I of what was needed to ensure they all succeeded.
All my hopes have been exceeded; honor will I surely earn.

———- Trevor I. Smith

NaPoWriMo: thermo limerick

It’s National Poetry Writing Month, and we at UMaine PERL have decided to engage, each in our own way.

Here’s a poem Trevor wrote on his work:

The student could answer the question,
but he humored us and suffered the lesson.
And near to the end,
he said to his friend,
“Look, it’s the origin of Boltzmann!”

Upcoming High School Physics Teachers Meeting, March 12

For 30 years, the University of Maine has been hosting an annual meeting that brings together physics and physical science teachers from throughout the state of Maine. We’ve always enjoyed hearing from teachers about what they’re interested in, and we’re always happy to facilitate teachers meeting each other and hanging out and talking shop.

If you’re interested in attending, check out the schedule of events that’s posted online. Hope to see you there!

Manogue and Dray visiting PERL

The UMaine PERL is pleased to be hosting Corinne Manogue and Tevian Dray, from Oregon State University.  They are the architects of two major curricular reform/overhaul projects:  Paradigms in Physics and the Vector Calculus Bridge project.

Their interests are in exploring the way mathematics is taught and used in physics and physical sciences.  We are looking forward to several conversations about teaching math in physics and in math, and comparing our research results with their curricular efforts and observations, and exchanging ideas about pedagogy in upper-division physics.

They will be at UMaine from January 20 to February 4 (weather permitting).  They have given a PERL group meeting, are leading a PERL group journal discussion, and are scheduled to give a seminar Monday January 25 as part of our Center for Science and Mathematics Education Research.  Other seminars may be scheduled as time and availability permits.

Four new papers posted

This summer, we had a strong presence at the national AAPT and PERC meetings held in Ann Arbor, MI. We contributed four papers to the PERC Proceedings, which are now available online. For more information, check out our blog of publications:

The papers are on: different ways of teaching Newton’s second law (Mindi Anderson, Michael Wittmann, Trevor Smith); resource creation when solving differential equations in mechanics (Katrina Black, Michael Wittmann); vector addition (Jeff Hawkins, John Thompson, Michael Wittmann); and curriculum development on heat engines and the Carnot cycle (Trevor Smith, Warren Christensen, John Thompson).


Welcome to the PERL Blog

We’ll be posting information about new publications, meetings, events, and life in our group here. Thanks for subscribing.



Contact Information

Physics Education Research Laboratory
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 5709 Bennett Hall
Phone: 207.581.1033; 207.581.1030; 207.581.1237E-mail:;;
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469