John Thompson

Professor of Physics

Chair, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Cooperating Professor of Education

Member of the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center) and the Physics Education Research Laboratory (PERL)

223 Bennett Hall
(207) 581.1030
Email John Thompson
URL: Physics Education Research Laboratory

Education:

  • Ph.D.  Physics, Brown University, 1998
  • Sc.M.  Physics, Brown University, 1992
  • B.S.  Physics (cum laude), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1990

Research Interests:

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.

For more on John’s research, visit his faculty profile on the PERL website.

Selected Publications:

Journal articles

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)