John R. Thompson
John earned a B.S. in physics in 1990 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, a Master’s in physics from Brown University in 1992, and a Ph.D. in physics from Brown in 1998. His doctoral dissertation was in experimental surface physics.
John started working in PER in the fall of 1997 as a postdoctoral research associate with the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington (Seattle, WA). From 2000-2002, John was a faculty member at Grand Valley State University, in Allendale, MI, near Grand Rapids. He’s been part of the Physics Education Research Laboratory since 2002, earning tenure and promotion in 2008 and promotion to full Professor in 2016.
John’s research interests include empirical investigations of (a) the interaction between student understanding of physics and the associated mathematics, and (b) student understanding of upper-division thermal physics (thermodynamics and statistical mechanics), both in physics and in engineering courses. He is PI on grant projects working with colleagues at UMaine and across the country conducting research and developing instructional resources in these areas.
John is one of the co-organizers of the Transforming Research in Undergraduate STEM Education (TRUSE) Conferences, bringing together researchers in physics, mathematics, and chemistry education, as well as some biology , engineering, earth science, and computer science education researchers for a week-long conference.
His other major interest is the understanding of teaching and learning in physics by current and future teachers, especially the interplay between specialized content knowledge and knowledge of student ideas.
As a member of the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center), John is also a co-PI in the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership, a regional collaboration to improve physical science learning and teaching in grades 6-9, as well as reform of university science courses and increased recruitment of science teachers from STEM majors.
John was one of the co-founders of the Topical Group in Physics Education Research (known as GPER) in the American Physical Society, and is serving as Chair-Elect in 2017. He was on the Editorial Board of Physical Review Physics Education Research from 2014-2016.
Selected Recent Publications
R.R. Bajracharya and J.R. Thompson, “Analytical derivation: A common epistemic game for solving mathematically based physics problems,” Physical Review Physics Education Research 12, 010124 (2016).
T.I. Smith, D.B. Mountcastle, and J.R. Thompson, “Student understanding of the Boltzmann factor,” Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research 11, 020123 (2015).
T.I. Smith, W.M. Christensen, D.B. Mountcastle, and J.R. Thompson, “Identifying student difficulties with heat engines, entropy, and the Carnot cycle,” Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 11, 020116 (2015).
T.I. Smith, J.R. Thompson and D.B. Mountcastle, “Student Understanding of Taylor Series Expansions in Statistical Mechanics,” Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 9, 020110 (2013).
W.M. Christensen and J.R. Thompson, “Investigating graphical representations of slope and derivative without a physics context,” Phys. Rev. ST Physics Ed. Research 8, 023101 (2012).
J.R. Thompson, W.M. Christensen, and M.C. Wittmann, “Preparing future teachers to anticipate student difficulties in physics in a graduate-level course in physics, pedagogy, and education research,” Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research 7, 010108 (2011); reprinted in Teacher Education in Physics: Research, Curriculum, and Practice, D.E. Meltzer and P.S. Shaffer, Eds., pp. 91-102 (American Physical Society, 2011).
- This book was distributed to every physics department chair in the United States.
Peer-reviewed conference proceedings
R. R. Bajracharya, J. R. Thompson, and J.L. Docktor, “Students’ visual attention while answering graphically-based fundamental theorem of calculus questions,” Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education, pp. 1011-1013 (Mathematical Association of America, 2015). http://sigmaa.maa.org/rume/RUME18-final.pdf
R. R. Bajracharya and J. R. Thompson, “Student application and understanding of the fundamental theorem of calculus at the mathematics-physics interface,” Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education (Mathematical Association of America, 2014). http://sigmaa.maa.org/rume/RUME17.pdf
J. W. Clark, J. R. Thompson, and D. B. Mountcastle, “Comparing Student Conceptual Understanding of Thermodynamics in Physics and Engineering,” in 2012 Physics Education Research Conference, P.V. Engelhardt, A.D. Churukian, N.S. Rebello, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings 1513, 102-105 (2013). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4789662.
T. I. Smith, D. B. Mountcastle and J. R. Thompson, “Identifying Student Difficulties with Conflicting Ideas in Statistical Mechanics,” in 2012 Physics Education Research Conference, P.V. Engelhardt, A.D. Churukian, N.S. Rebello, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings 1513, 386-389 (2013). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4789733.
R. R. Bajracharya, T. M. Wemyss, J. R. Thompson, “Student interpretation of the signs of definite integrals using graphical representations,” in 2011 Physics Education Research Conference, C. Singh, N.S. Rebello, P. Engelhardt, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings 1413, 111-114 (2012).
- Finalist, 2011 PERC (Physics Education Research Conference) Proceedings Paper Award
J. F. Wagner, C. A. Manogue, and J. R. Thompson, “Representation issues: Using mathematics in upper-division physics,” in 2011 Physics Education Research Conference, C. Singh, N.S. Rebello, P. Engelhardt, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings 1413, 89-92 (2012).
J. M. Hawkins, B. W. Frank, J. R. Thompson, and M. C. Wittmann, and T. M. Wemyss, “Probing student understanding with alternative questioning strategies”, in 2011 Physics Education Research Conference, C. Singh, N.S. Rebello, P. Engelhardt, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings 1413, 207-210 (2012).
T. M. Wemyss, R. R. Bajracharya, J. R. Thompson, and J. F. Wagner, “Student understanding of integration in the context and notation of thermodynamics: Concepts, representations, and transfer,” in Proceedings of the 14th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education, eds. S. Brown, S. Larsen, K. Marrongelle, M. Oehrtman (Mathematical Association of America, 2011).
T.I. Smith, J.R. Thompson and D.B. Mountcastle, “Addressing Student Difficulties with Statistical Mechanics: The Boltzmann Factor,” in 2010 Physics Education Research Conference, M. Sabella, C. Singh, N.S. Rebello, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings 1289, 305-308 (2010).
- Finalist, 2010 PERC Proceedings Paper Award
- Cited in Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering, Susan R. Singer, Natalie R. Nielsen, and Heidi A. Schweingruber, Editors; Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research; Board on Science Education; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council (2012); http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13362
List of all publications (via PERL publications blog)