Thermal Physics Projects

Learning and Teaching Thermodynamics in Physics and Engineering

PI: Thompson
Sponsored in part by NSF grant DUE-1323426
Part of a project that spans thermodynamics (Thompson) and electronics (M. R. Stetzer) in the two disciplines

The goal of this project is to investigate student learning of physics concepts and topics that are critical to undergraduate engineering programs. In particular, this project extends the scope of existing research programs by the PI and co-PI in thermodynamics and electronics (including electric circuits) so that the populations under investigation include post-introductory students enrolled in both physics and engineering courses that cover similar topics. This work will probe the extent to which the nature of student understanding (including the prevalence of specific difficulties) depends upon the disciplinary context. The researchers propose to: (1) systematically analyze both the content in these parallel courses and content overlap across disciplines; (2) conduct in-depth investigations of student understanding across the disciplines, both before and after relevant instruction, by drawing extensively upon existing conceptual questions from both physics education research (PER) and engineering education research (EER) and by developing new questions informed by the project’s ongoing findings; and (3) draw upon research results to guide the modification and testing of existing instructional materials as well as the development of new materials for use across disciplines, with an aim of compiling research-based and research-validated materials well suited for cross-disciplinary use. Additional outcomes of the proposed work include the systematic compilation and curation of conceptual questions drawn from prior research in both PER and EER as well as the development of new questions expressly designed to either transcend disciplinary boundaries or elicit disciplinary differences more clearly.

  • Theses and Dissertations: Jessica Clark (Ph.D. expected 2016)
  • Contact John R. Thompson by email for more information


Thermal and statistical physics in upper-division courses

PIs: Thompson, Mountcastle

Collaborators: David E. Meltzer, Arizona State University, Polytechnic Campus; Michael E. Loverude, California State University – Fullerton; Warren M. Christensen, North Dakota State University
UMaine work sponsored in part by NSF grants DUE-0817282, REC-0633951, PHY-0406764

  • Project summary
  • Publications
  • Theses and Dissertations: Brandon Bucy (Ph.D. 2007), Evan B. Pollock (M.S. 2008), Trevor I. Smith (Ph.D. 2011), Rabindra Bajracharya (M.S.T. 2012)
  • Contact John R. Thompson by email for more information


Paradigms in Physics: Creating and Testing Materials to Facilitate Dissemination of the Energy and Entropy Module

Collaborators: David Roundy, Oregon State University; Corinne Manogue, Oregon State University; Michael Rogers, Ithaca College
UMaine work sponsored in part by NSF grant DUE-0837214

  • Contact John R. Thompson by email for more information