Department of Physics

The 2017 total solar eclipse was likely the most viewed in human history, and was a spectacular moment of public engagement and interest in astronomy and science in general. Illinois Astronomers took full advantage of this opportunity, and members of the AstroIllini outreach group will demonstrate hands-on activities. Moreover, eclipses also provide unique laboratories.


We present several studies conducted in our lab that shed light on what students attend to when performing cognitive tasks in physics. The studies, drawing from a variety of methodologies from the learning sciences, aim to understand the obstacles to, and factors facilitating, competent performance.  The findings from some of the studies debunk biases/hunches that many physics professors have about what students do, and the audience will very likely find several of the findings surprising.  Pedagogical implications of the findings will be discussed.


The history of the universe tells us a lot about the properties of the stuff that it contains.  Of particular interest are the dark matter and dark energy, which together comprise 96% of the total energy.  I will describe the experimental and theoretical work in Physics and Astronomy, and at NCSA that hope to illuminate these dark" topics."


We have built an inexpensive battery powered wireless laboratory system that allows students to do hands-on physics activities outside the classroom, guided by their own computer. The system, called IOLab, combines flexible software with a wireless data acquisition platform containing an array of sensors to sample and display real-time measurements of position, velocity, acceleration, force, rotation rate, orientation, magnetic fields, voltages, light intensity, sound intensity, pressure, and temperature.


A brief overview of the Next Generation Science Standards will be presented with possible implications for teaching and learning highlighted. We hope this introduction will spark a rich conversation about where science teaching at the K-12 level is headed.


In this informal talk, Morten Lundsgaard and Avigail Snir will talk about their collaboration with University of Montana professor Lisa Blank on incorporating Etoys as a modeling tool in a science methods class for K-8 pre-service teachers


Professor Morten Lundsgaard will demonstrate a hands-on activity that simulates a way that astronomers look for exoplanets.


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