TTU Physics Department.

TSF12 Invited Speakers

Joint Fall Meeting of the Texas Sections of the APS, AAPT,
and Society of Physics Students (Zone 13)
October 25-27, 2012

Educational and Professional Success - A Lesson in Resilience and Persistence
Ginger Kerrick, NASA Flight Director
Ms. Kerrick will share the personal and professional challenges she has faced as she pursued her dream of working at NASA. This will include her experiences growing up in El Paso, attending Texas Tech University, and her career at NASA.
Ginger Kerrick is a Flight Director at the NASA-Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. She is a native of El Paso, Texas. She received the BS and the MS in Physics from Texas Tech University in 1991 and 1993, respectively. She began working at JSC as a summer intern in 1991 and as a co-op in 1992. She started her first permanent assignment at JSC in 1994 with the Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance directorate as a Materials Research Engineer. In 1995 she, was reassigned to the Mission Operations Directorate as an instructor for the International Space Station (ISS) Environmental Control and Life Support System. Her responsibilities included training development, simulator development, and training conduct for both crew and flight controllers.
In 1997, Ms. Kerrick was selected for the newly-formed position of Russian Training Integration Instructor, which was designed to address the integration of Russian and US training programs for all Expedition Crews, with special focus on the Expedition 1 crew. She supported all Expedition 1 training both in the US and Russia. This experience enabled her to provide integration not only in the area of crew training, but also assist the operations community with the integration of US and Russian displays, procedures, and operations nomenclature. Following the launch of the Expedition 1 crew, she supported operations from Mission Control Center, Moscow as a Crew Support Engineer. Shortly after the Expedition 1 crew’s return to Earth in 2001, she was presented with a unique opportunity – to become the first non-astronaut ISS Capcom (Capsule Communicator) in Mission Control Center, Houston. As a member of the Capcom Branch, she worked console for Expeditions 3 – 11, and held positions as the Expedition 5 Lead Capcom, ISS Lead Capcom, and Capcom Deputy Branch Chief.

From the Inflationary Universe to Black Holes to Dark Energy using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment
Karl Gebhardt, University of Texas at Austin
Observations over the next decade will examine the expansion history of the universe, given that we have little understanding for what drives the expansion either at late times (i.e., the nature of dark energy) or early times (i.e., inflation). I will describe an observational approach based on a large redshift survey called the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX). Our goal is to understand the universe expansion, and also we will exploit the unique opportunity to study black holes and dark matter profiles in galaxies. The latest results for both the dark matter profiles and black holes show important trends that impact theories of galaxy formation and black hole growth. Thus, the inflationary universe has much to offer.
Karl Gebhardt is the Suit Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Astronomy at UT-Austin. His research ranges from black holes to dark matter to dark energy. He has measured more black hole masses than anyone else in the world, and he is actively targeting many more galaxies for this study. He currently focuses on understanding dark energy using the Hobby-Eberley Telescope Dark Energy Experiment at UT’s McDonald Observatory (HETDEX), which is expected to begin operation in 2014. This will be the first major experiment to search for dark energy, a central problem in 21st century physics. As Steven Weinberg has said, any understanding of dark energy “must rely on new observations by astronomers.” Dr. Gebhardt’s many awards include a UT Teaching Excellence Award and (in 2012) the prestigious O’Donnell Award in Science.

Physical Theory of the Immune System
Michael W. Deem, Rice University
I will discuss to theories of the immune system and describe a theory of the immune response to vaccines. I will illustrate this theory by application to design of the annual influenza vaccine. I will use this theory to explain limitations in the vaccine for dengue fever and to suggest a transport-inspired amelioration of these limitations.
Michael Deem is the John W. Cox Professor of Bioengineerng and Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Rice University. He applies techniques of statistical physics to immunology, evolution, and materials. His group has developed statistical methods to understand diseases including influenza, dengue fever, and HIV. He has developed a hierarchical approach to protein molecular evolution and a theory for how biological modularity spontaneously arises in an evolving system. Dr. Deem was selected as a Top 100 Young Innovator (MIT, 1999) and he received a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award and a Colburn Award (American Institute of Chemical Engineers). He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. In 2012 Dr. Deem received the prestigious O’Donnell Award in Engineering.

Physics of Failure
Michael Marder, University of Texas at Austin
One of the questions solid state physics was long supposed to answer was why a glass shatters when you drop it on the floor but a spoon does not. It turned out not to be such an easy problem and was only occasionally addressed until a series of major accidents in the 1940's and 1950's directed scientific attention to it. I will talk about the basic ideas of fracture mechanics that emerged as the answer, and display some recent applications to failure of silicon, rubber, and graphene.
Michael Marder is Professor of Physics and Associate Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UT-Austin. He is an expert on fracture in materials – why do glasses, metals, and graphene break? Since 1998 Marder has also been co-director of the UTeach B.S. program for training science and math teachers. This program has become widely acclaimed and is now being replicated at many universities throughout the United States (e.g., GeauxTeach at LSU, CalTeach at UC Berkeley, and UKanTeach at U. Kansas). Now Dr. Marder is applying techniques from physics to understand failure in the educational process: he is analyzing the vast amount of data available from student testing.

Selected Stories from the History of Wine
Stefan Estreicher, Texas Tech University
The archaeological and chemical evidence of wine making shows that vines were cultivated and wine produced well over 7,000 years ago. Wine has been a part of the history of Western Civilization ever since. This talk will start with a brief overview of the key events in the history of wine, and then I will select a few topics which will be discussed in more detail. One of the topics includes a rather tenuous conncection to Isaac Newton himself, a futile attempt on my part to justify the very existence of this talk at a TX-section APS meeting.
Stefan Estreicher is Horn Professor of Physics at Texas Tech University.

Higgs Searches at the CMS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider
Nural Akchurin, Texas Tech University
The Higgs boson was suggested in mid-1960s within the standard model and has been the subject of numerous searches at accelerators around the world. Its discovery would verify the existence of a complex scalar field thought to give mass to three of the carriers of the electroweak force - the W and Z bosons - as well as to the fundamental quarks and leptons. The CMS Collaboration has identified, with a statistical significance of 5 standard deviations, a new particle in proton-proton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The evidence is strongest in the two-photon and four-lepton (electrons and/or muons) final states which have the best mass resolution in the CMS detector. The probability of the background fluctuating as high as the observed signal is about 1 in $3\times10^6$. The new particle is a boson (i.e. a particle with integer spin) with spin different from one, and has a mass of approximately 125 GeV. Its measured properties are, with the present data, consistent with those expected of the Higgs boson.
Nural Akchurin is a Professor of Physics at Texas Tech University. He has been a member since 1994 of the CMS experiment at CERN, where he has served in several leading positions through the design, construction, and commissioning phases.  He led the R&D and construction of the quartz fiber calorimeters that now cover forward and backward directions in the experiment.  These detectors play a crucial role in identifying tagging jets in the production of the Higgs boson in the vector boson fusion.  He is widely acknowledged as an expert in high-energy physics calorimetry, and he focuses on precision energy measurement of high-energy cosmic rays and the analyses of data from the CMS experiment.

Theory and experiment in biomedical science
Roland E. Allen, Texas A&M University
A physicist might regard a person as a collection of electrons and quarks, and a biologist might regard her as an assemblage of biochemical molecules. But according to some speakers at a recent Welch conference [1], biology is a branch of physics. Then biomedical research is a branch of applied physics. Even if one adopts a more modest perspective, it is still true that physics can contribute strongly to biomedical research. An example on the experimental side is the recent studies of G protein-coupled receptors (targeted by more than 50 percent of therapeutic drugs) using synchrotron radiation and nuclear magnetic resonance. On the theory side, one might classify models as microscopic (e.g., simulations of molecules, ions, or electrons), mesoscopic (e.g., simulations of pathways within a cell), or macroscopic (e.g., calculations of processes involving the whole body). We have recently introduced a new macroscopic method for estimating the biochemical response to pharmaceuticals, surgeries, or other medical interventions, and applied it in a simple model of the response to bariatric surgeries [2]. An amazing effect is that the most widely used bariatric surgery (Roux-en-Y-gastric bypass) usually leads to remission of type 2 diabetes in days, long before there is any significant weight loss (with further beneficial effects in the subsequent months and years). Our results confirm that this effect can be largely explained by the enhanced post-meal excretion of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), an incretin that increases insulin secretion from the pancreas, but also suggest that other mechanisms are likely to be involved, possibly including an additional insulin-independent pathway for glucose transport into cells.
[1] Physical Biology, from Atoms to Medicine, edited by Ahmed H. Zewail (Imperial College Press, London, 2008).
[2] Roland E. Allen, Tyler D. Hughes, Jia Lerd Ng, Roberto D. Ortiz, Michel Abou Ghantous, Othmane Bouhali, Abdelilah Arredouani, “Biochemical response and the effects of bariatric surgeries on type 2 diabetes” (submitted).
Work supported by the Qatar Foundation through the Qatar Biomedical Research Institute and Texas A&M University at Qatar.
Roland E. Allen has been a faculty member at Texas A&M since 1970, working in condensed matter, chemical, and optical physics, and other areas, before recently turning to biomedical/biological physics. He  received a B.A. from Rice University and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin (both in physics). He was a Sabbatical Scientist at  the Solar Energy Research Institute (now called the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) and a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Illinois. Last semester he taught and did research in Education City, Qatar, a rather amazing country with unexcelled  multiculturalism and aspirations. More information is at his website.

Answering Dirac's Challenge: Practical Quantum Mechanics for Materials
Jim Chelikowsky, University of Texas at Austin
Over eight decades ago, after the invention of quantum mechanics, P. A. M. Dirac made the following observation: “The underlying physical laws necessary for the mathematical theory of a large part of physics and the whole of chemistry are thus completely known, and the difficulty is only that the exact application of these laws leads to equations much too complicated to be soluble. It therefore becomes desirable that approximate practical methods of applying quantum mechanics should be developed, which can lead to an explanation of the main features of complex atomic systems..” The creation of “approximate practical methods” in response to Dirac's challenge has included the one electron picture, density functional theory and the pseudopotential concept. The combination of such methods in conjunction with contemporary computational platforms and new algorithms offer the possibility of predicting properties of materials solely on the basis of the atomic species present. I will give an overview of progress in this field with an emphasis on materials at the nanoscale.
Jim Chelikowsky obtained a BS degree, Summa Cum Laude, in physics from Kansas State University in 1970 and a PhD degree in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975, where he held a National Science Foundation fellowship.  He performed postdoctoral work at Bell Laboratories from 1976-1978 and was an assistant professor at the University of Oregon from 1978-1980.  From 1980-1987 he worked at Exxon Research and Engineering Corporate Research Science Laboratories.  In this capacity, he served as group head in theoretical physics and chemistry.  He went to the University of Minnesota in 1987 as a professor within the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.  He was named an Institute of Technology Distinguished Professor at Minnesota in 2001.  He assumed his current position as the W.A. "Tex" Moncrief, Jr. Chair of Computational Materials and professor in the Departments of Physics, Chemical Engineering, and Chemistry and Biochemistry in 2005.
He has been active in the Materials Research Society having organized several symposia and in in the American Physical Society where he served on the Executive Committee of the Division of Materials Physics from 1993-1996 and as the Chair of the Division in 2004. He was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1987.  He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996.  During the tenure of this Fellowship he spent a sabbatical at EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland.  He was the Neal Amundson Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science in 1996 and a Miller Institute Professor at the University of California at Berkeley in 1999.  He received the David Turnbull Lectureship Award from the Materials Research Society in 2001 and the David Adler Lectureship Award from the American Physical Society in 2006.  In 2007, he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  He was named an Outstanding Referee for the American Physical Society, 2008 (lifetime award). In 2011, he was named a Fellow of the Materials Research Society.
His research has made significant contributions within the field of computational materials science.   His work has focused on the optical and dielectric properties of semiconductors, surface and interfacial phenomena in solids, point and extended defects in electronic materials, pressure induced amorphization in silicates and disordered systems, clusters and nano-regime systems, diffusion and microstructure of liquids, and the development of high performance algorithms to predict the properties of materials.  He has published over 345 papers, including 5 monographs.

Protein Unfolding and Alzheimer's
Kelvin Cheng, Trinity University
Early interaction events of beta-amyloid (Aβ) proteins with neurons have been associated with the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Knowledge pertaining to the role of lipid molecules, particularly cholesterol, in modulating the single Aβ interactions with neurons at the atomic length and picosecond time resolutions, remains unclear. In our research, we have used atomistic molecular dynamics simulations to explore early molecular events including protein insertion kinetics, protein unfolding, and protein-induced membrane disruption of Aβ in lipid domains that mimic the nanoscopic raft and non-raft regions of the neural membrane. In this talk, I will summarize our current work on investigating the role of cholesterol in regulating the Aβ interaction events with membranes at the molecular level. I will also explain how our results will provide new insights into understanding the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease associated with the Aβ proteins.
Kelvin Cheng is the Otis M. Williams and Evelyn Freeman Williams Endowed Professor in Interdisciplinary Physics at Trinity University and a faculty on leave at Texas Tech University. His research interests involve the physics of various biological systems at the molecular, cellular and tissue (or device) levels. At the molecular and cellular level, he focuses on studying the molecular organization and dynamics of the multi-component lipid bilayer and how they regulate the membrane protein unfolding insertion and activities. At the tissue or device level, he is interested in the MRI-based gel dosimetry, relaxation and diffusion MRI, development of sensors for forensic applications and cell-based biochips. Currently, he uses an integrated computational and single-molecule experimental approach to investigate the role of cholesterol on the unfolding, insertion, and cytotoxicity of human Alzheimer's protein on neurons. In addition to his biophysics research at Trinity and Texas Tech, he has also served as a consultant for a start-up biotechnology company and is currently the Chair-Elect of Texas Section APS. He was also a PI of an NIH-STEM award to study the effectiveness of research-based laboratory reform on improving the conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills of students in introductory physics courses.

Integration of functional oxides and semiconductors
Alex Demkov, University of Texas at Austin
The astounding progress of recent years in the area of oxide deposition has made possible the creation of oxide heterostructures with atomically abrupt interfaces. The ability to control the length scale, strain, and orbital order in these materials structures offers a uniquely rich toolbox for condensed matter physicists. Because the oxide layers are very thin, the physics is often controlled by the interface. The electronic properties of oxide interfaces are governed by a subtle interplay of many competing interactions such as strain, polar catastrophe, electron correlation, and Jahn-Teller coupling, as well as by defects and phase stability. It is not clear which, if any, of these newly discovered systems will find applications in future high-tech devices. However, they undoubtedly hold tremendous promise, particularly when integrated with conventional semiconductors such as Si. In this talk, I will review our recent results in theoretical modeling and experimental realization of several epitaxial oxide heterostructures. I will set the stage with a brief discussion of extrinsic magnetoelectric coupling at the interface of a perovskite ferroelectric and conventional ferromagnet. I will then describe our recent successful attempt to integrate anatase, a photo-catalytic polymorph of TiO2, with Si (001) using molecular beam epitaxy. In conclusion, I will talk about strain stabilized ferromagnetism in correlated LaCoO3 (LCO) and monolithic integration of LCO and silicon for possible applications in spintronics. The integration is achieved via the single crystal SrTiO3 (STO) buffer epitaxially grown on Si. Superconducting quantum interference device magnetization measurements show that, unlike the bulk material, the ground state of the strained LaCoO3 on silicon is ferromagnetic with a TC of 85 K.
Alexander Demkov earned his Ph.D. in theoretical condensed matter physics from Arizona State University. He is a Professor of Physics at the University of Texas at Austin. He moved to the University of Texas after nine years as a principal staff scientist in Motorola’s R&D organization, where he worked on the physics of nano-scale materials and devices, and on conduction mechanisms in nano-systems. He has made significant contributions to the understanding of the physics of high dielectric constant materials, i.e., transitional metal oxides including perovskites, and their interfaces with semiconductors and metals. In his university research, Demkov has pursued applied research on materials for advanced CMOS technology. Currently his primary research interest is focused on the physics of oxides, oxide heterostructures and oxide epitaxy. Current work includes: (1) electronic properties and crystal growth in epitaxial semiconductor/oxide systems; (2) properties of thin films and nanostructures involving multiferroic oxides; (3) phase transitions and dielectric properties of transition metal oxides; (4) properties of biomaterials. Demkov is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award. In 2011, he received the IBM Faculty Award. He has published more than 100 research papers, and has been awarded seven U.S. patents. He co-authored the 2005 edition of the Semiconductor Roadmap, and has served as associate editor of the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology, and guest editor for several issues of the journal physica status solidi (b). He has contributed to several books and edited a book entitled “Materials Fundamentals of Gate Dielectrics.”

Transient Plasma Physics: Nanosecond Pulsed Power Applied to Energy, Engines, and Other Things
Martin Gundersen Group, University of Southern California, Presented by Scott J. Pendleton
A plasma in a formative state prior to equilibration of the electron energy distribution, (referred to here as a “transient plasma''), is studied for improvement of engine efficiency in various types of fuel-burning engines. Ignition by transient plasma has demonstrated substantially reduced ignition delay, and shows promise for improving engine efficiency through improved combustion efficiency. This transient plasma persists for only a short time, and requires for operation short (< 100ns) pulsed high voltage, and typically small pulse energy (10mJ to < 1J). It thus requires nanosecond-time scale pulsed power. The plasmas, combined with the subsequent combustion, provide a rich physics. Results for studies of several varied engine types including internal combustion engines and pulse detonation engines will be reviewed. Experiments and modeling to determine the physics and some ideas for future directions will be presented. In addition, some other diverse applications for nanosecond pulsed power will be briefly described.
Scott J. Pendleton is the most recent Ph.D. graduate of Prof. Martin Gundersen's Pulsed Power Group at the University of Southen California.  A native of Oregon, he received the BS in Physics from the University of Washington in 2006.  After a one year research appointment at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Scott began his Ph.D. work at USC in Physics which he completed in 2012.  While at USC he was a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. His research work has focused on spectroscopy and optical diagnostics, from optical thermometry of solid state cooling at LANL to optical thermal and species measurements of fast plasmas in combustion environments at USC.  He is representing Professor Martin Gundersen's group, a highly interdisciplinary group which specializes in the development and applications of pulsed power.

Characterization and Optimization of Multiscale and Multicomponent Nanosystems
Kelly Nash, University of Texas at San Antonio
Materials with new combinations of properties are increasingly needed to meet the requirements of energy, transportation, and medical applications. The use of multi-component systems, with potentially complementary properties, represents a unique path to improve the materials properties for a variety of applications. Among the most interesting applications of these materials is in the development of contrast agents in biological imaging and dynamic sensing applications. Although a variety of techniques to characterize these materials exist, noninvasive characterization methods, such as optical-based techniques, are ideal for studying these materials in their native states and for monitoring dynamic changes. The proposition becomes even more attractive when at least one of the components carries an optical signature. The use of optoacoustics (OA) is an emerging technology based on studying optically absorbing nano and microstructures in the sample by recording transit pressure waves generated from laser-induced thermal expansion. More recently OA has been developed as a vibrant technology for medical applications and some growing applications are for material characterization in research and industrial applications. Specifically, OA can assist in the characterization and optimization of composite materials containing nanoparticles when paired with other characterization techniques. The present work illustrates an overview of select hybrid nanomaterials, including their unique optoacoustic signatures utilizing an all optical OA technique. The results of this work show that optical based techniques such as OA, provide a noninvasive, nondestructive means to study multi-material, multi-scale, multi-functional materials. This is important in the development of novel multi-component nanomaterial schemes and elucidating the structure-function relationship in these materials.
Kelly L. Nash is an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research focuses on the structure and functional relationships in nanocomposite materials. She has worked on the synthesis and characterization of nanoparticles and their incorporation into polymeric systems. Her current interests are focused on developing novel biocompatible nanocomposites systems that respond to external stimuli while simultaneously utilizing spectroscopic analysis techniques such as absorption and photoacoustic properties to understand the material properties.
Dr. Nash has authored several papers in the area of rare earth nanomaterials and is a past Director’s Fellow with the Center for Biophotonics at UC Davis. She has been very active in education and outreach. As a devoted teacher and mentor, she currently hosts high school and community college students in the research lab, is an education and outreach coordinator for the UTSA/Northwestern University NSF-funded PREM program and serves as the faculty advisor the Society of Physics Students.

DNA in Nanoscale Electronics
Jason Slinker, University of Texas at Dallas
DNA, the quintessential molecule of life, possesses a number of attractive properties for use in nanoscale circuits. Charge transport (CT) through DNA itself is of both fundamental and practical interest. Fundamentally, DNA has a unique configuration of π-stacked bases in a well ordered, double helical structure. Given its unparalleled importance to life processes and its arrangement of conjugated subunits, DNA has been a compelling target of conductivity studies. In addition, further understanding of DNA CT will elucidate the biological implications of this process and advance its use in sensing technologies. We have investigated the fundamentals of DNA CT by measuring the electrochemistry of DNA monolayers under biologically-relevant conditions. We have uncovered both fundamental kinetic parameters to distinguish between competing models of operation as well as the practical implications of DNA CT for sensing. Furthermore, we are leveraging our studies of DNA conductivity for the manufacture of nanoscale circuits. We are investigating the electrical properties and self-assembly of DNA nanowires containing artificial base pair surrogates, which can be prepared through low cost and high throughput automated DNA synthesis. This unique and economically viable approach will establish a new paradigm for the scalable manufacture of nanoscale semiconductor devices.
Jason Slinker is an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Texas at Dallas. He received his PhD in Applied and Engineering Physics from Cornell University in 2007 working under the direction of Professor George Malliaras. In 2007-2010, he was a postdoctoral scholar with Professor Jacqueline Barton of the California Institute of Technology. He moved to UT Dallas in 2010. His research involves understanding and controlling the interplay between ionic and electronic charges in soft materials to produce unique electrical properties and novel device capabilities. His work with electrochemical devices includes DNA bioelectronics for nanoscale circuits and sensors and organic optoelectronic devices for energy efficiency. His efforts have led to over 30 publications with a total of over 1000 citations and three patents. He is a member of the American Physical Society and the Materials Research Society.

Implementation of Math Pre-testing and Tutorials for Improving Student Success in Algebra-based Introductory Physics Course
Donna Stokes, University of Houston
The student success rate in the algebra-based Introductory General Physics I course at the University of Houston (UH) and across the United States is low in comparison to success rates in other service courses. In order to improve student success rates, we have implemented, in addition to interactive teaching techniques, pre-testing as an early intervention process to identify and remediate at-risk students. The pre-testing includes a math and problem-solving skills diagnostic exam and pre-tests administered prior to all regular exams. Students identified as at risk based on their scores on these pre-tests are given incentives to utilize a tutoring intervention consisting of on-line math tutoring to address math deficiencies and tutoring by graduate Physics Teaching Assistants to address student understanding of the physics concepts. Results from 503 students enrolled in three sections of the course showed that 78% of the students identified as at-risk students by the diagnostic exam who completed the math tutorial successfully completed the course, as compared to 45% of at-risk students who did not complete the math tutorial. Results of the pre-testing before each regular exam showed that all students who were identified as at risk based on pre-test scores had positive gains ranging from 9% -- 32% for the three regular exams. However, the large standard deviations of these gains indicate that they are not statistically significant; therefore, pretesting before exams will not be offered in the course. However, utilization of the math tutorials as remediation will continue to be offered to all sections of the algebra-based course at UH with the goal of significantly improving the overall success rates for the introductory physics courses.
Donna W. Stokes is an Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Houston, where she has been a faculty member since 2000. Her research focuses on understanding the structural, optical and electrical properties of semiconductor materials for the development of novel detectors and lasers for infrared applications. She is also the Undergraduate Academic Advisor for the Department of Physics. Dr. Stokes is actively involved in improving the introductory level physics courses through development of teaching pedagogy. In the Fall 2006 semester she was part of a team that developed and implemented a diagnostic exam for the General Physics and University Physics courses. They also developed a new course, Phys 1100, Physics Problem Solving Techniques, which has been taught since the Fall 2007 semester. They also developed an interactive course for the algebra-based physics course which is structure the same as the Phys 1100 problem solving course. Dr. Stokes has also been instrumental in establishing a teaching pedagogy based on an alternative teaching method known as “Peer Instruction” which was developed by Harvard professor Eric Mazur. This teaching technique also incorporates the use of a personal response system during classroom lecture for gauging the students understanding of the physics concepts.

Lessons From a Large-Scale Assessment Project at Texas Tech
Beth Ann Thacker, Texas Tech University
Some results of a large-scale assessment project at Texas Tech University will be discussed. We will discuss (1) the use of both written pre- and post-tests and commonly used conceptual inventories as a measure of students' understanding in the introductory courses, (2) the efficacy of multiple choice assessment, based on research on the effect of problem format on students' answers and (3) the need for the development of a more comprehensive assessment instrument(s) that could be used to compare students' analytical, quantitative, computational, laboratory, and critical thinking skills, as well as their conceptual understanding, across courses and universities. We present results of the work done at Texas Tech University and discuss work being done nationally as part of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) to move towards a more comprehensive assessment of our introductory courses.
Beth Ann Thacker is an Associate Professor of Physics at Texas Tech University. She received her Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics (Lattice Gauge Theory) from Cornell University in 1990. She transitioned from Lattice Gauge Theory into Physics Education Research (PER) while a postdoc at The Ohio State University, working with the, then fledgling, PER group headed by Kenneth Wilson. She spent five years at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, before moving to Texas Tech in 1999.
Dr. Thacker is heavily involved in PER. She has developed a laboratory-based, inquiry-based curriculum for the introductory algebra-based physics course, researched students’ qualitative and quantitative understanding of physics concepts in courses taught by traditional and non-traditional methods and researched students' understanding of topics in modern physics. Recently, she has been heavily involved in assessment and the development of more comprehensive assessment instruments, designed to assess skills beyond conceptual understanding.

Local Host Contact:
Charles W. Myles, Chair, Local Organizing Committee
Department of Physics, Mail Stop 1051, Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX 79409-1051. Telephone: (806) 742-3767, Fax: (806) 742-1182