TTU Physics Department.

TTU Physics: Faculty

Picture of Dr. Beth Thacker.
Beth Thacker
Associate Professor of Physics
Office Phone: (806) 742-2996
Office: 15 Science Building


Ph.D. Theoretical Physics, Cornell University (1990)

M.S. Physics, Cornell University (1986)

B.S. Physics, Davidson College (1980)


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Research Interests

I do research of students’ qualitative and quantitative understanding of physics concepts in courses taught by traditional and non-traditional methods and students' understanding of topics in modern physics and quantum mechanics. Recently, I was a Principal Investigator on a Large-Scale Assessment Project at Texas Tech University (TTU), that included systematic and comprehensive assessment of all of the introductory undergraduate courses at TTU, utilizing conceptual inventories, free response pre-/post-testing, and TA evaluation inventories. We found that when PER-informed materials and instruction are introduced in the labs and recitations, independent of the lecture style, there is an increase in students’ conceptual inventory and free-response gains. There is also an increase in those gains if PER-informed instruction is used in the lecture. The highest gain increase is achieved (in both conceptual inventories and free-response pre-/post-tests) by the combination of PER-informed lectures and laboratories in large class settings and by PER-informed hands-on, laboratory-based, inquiry-based courses (past of a curriculum designed for health science majors) taught in a small class setting. I am presently working on the development of a “Bridge” course for graduate students. It is a course designed for students who need some extra work at a level between upper-level undergraduate and core graduate courses before taking the core courses. I am also working on assessment instruments that go beyond conceptual inventories and are designed to assess mathematical, laboratory and thinking skills, in addition to conceptual understanding.

Selected Publications:

Beth Thacker, Hani Dulli, Dave Pattillo, and Keith West, “Lessons from a Large-Scale Assessment: Results from Conceptual Inventories,” Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 10, 020104 (2014). (

Beth Thacker, “A Study of the Nature of Students’ Models of Microscopic Processes in the Context of Modern Physics Experiments,” Am. J. of Phys. 71 (6), 599-606 (2003).

Beth Thacker, “Recent advances in classroom physics,” Rep. Prog. Phys. 66, 1833 – 1864 (2003).

Beth Thacker, Suzanne M. Lea, Eunsook Kim and Kelvin Trefz, “Comparing Problem Solving Performance of Physics Students in Inquiry-Based and Traditional Physics Courses,” Am. J. Phys. 62 (7), 627-633 (1994).

B. A. Thacker and G. P. Lepage, “Heavy Quark Bound States in Lattice QCD,” Phys. Rev. D 43, 196 (1991).