Building a Thriving Undergraduate Physics Program Invited Speakers

Joint Plenary Speaker

Ron Henderson, Middle Tennessee State University

Dr. Ron Henderson is professor and chairman of the department of Physics and Astronomy at Middle Tennessee State University.  He obtained degrees from the University of Tennessee, Duke University, and the University of Virginia (Ph.D.) before joining MTSU in 1996.  Since becoming chairman in 2008 he has focused on growing the program by preparing physics majors for life after the bachelor's degree, with special attention given to students that are not pursuing graduate degrees.  Efforts have included reforming introductory courses, creating career-focused curricular pathways, and requiring research involvement of all physics majors.  The department created concentrations in Physics Teaching and Applied Physics, won a Robert Noyce Scholarship Grant, was funded as a comprehensive PhysTEC site, and the university became a UTeach program replicate.  The physics department was recently chosen for the inaugural President's Award for Exceptional Departmental Initiatives for Student Success at MTSU, and was selected for an Improving Undergraduate Physics Education Award from the American Physical Society.  Dr. Henderson has dozens of publications related to semiconductor nanostructures and optical devices, and has given invited talks at PhysTEC and UTeach annual conferences, as well as APS workshops for chairs of Physics and Astronomy departments.

Plenary Speakers

Theodore Hodapp, American Physical Society

Theodore Hodapp is the Director of Education and Diversity for the American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, Maryland. The APS Department of Education and Diversity runs programs that advocate issues relevant to minorities and women, and in areas of education and careers.  Hodapp is Project Director of the APS Bridge Program, and also helps lead a large NSF and APS-funded national effort, the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC), which seeks to improve the quality and quantity of high school physics teachers.

Before coming to the APS, Hodapp served as Program Director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Undergraduate Education, working with programs in curriculum development and implementation, teacher preparation, scholarships, education assessment and the digital libraries.

Prior to coming to the NSF, Hodapp was professor and chair of the Hamline University Physics Department in St. Paul, Minnesota. He served as chair of the Physics and Astronomy Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research, and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. His research interests include laser cooling, optical modeling, and physics education research.

Toni Sauncy, Texas Lutheran University

Dr. Toni Sauncy served as the Director of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and Sigma Pi Sigma from 2012-2014 at the American Institute of Physics (AIP). She was previously the elected president of SPS, serving from 2009-2012. She was a professor in the Department of Physics at Angelo State University from 2000-2014, one of the schools featured as an "undergraduate program that works" in the SPIN-UP study. She is currently the chair of the physics department at Texas Lutheran University. Sauncy has a history of proven leadership as demonstrated by her service on numerous collegiate and professional association committees, including those of APS, AAPT and SPS. Sauncy is a long-time friend of Sigma Pi Sigma and SPS, beginning first as a student, later as a chapter advisor and Zone Councilor for Zone 13 from 2005-2009. In addition to her academic pursuits, she has a strong history of engaging the undergraduate physics community in physics outreach and scientific citizenship. Sauncy has a record of successfully funded research & research training projects in solid state materials physics. She is well known for her dedication to undergraduate students in and out of the classroom and has mentored more than 50 student research projects, which have resulted in numerous presentations at regional, national, and international professional physics meetings and conferences. In 2010 she was honored with the Angelo State University President's Faculty Excellence in Leadership & Service Award and in 2007 she was awarded SPS's most prestigious honor, the Outstanding Chapter Advisor Award. While at AIP, Sauncy took on the challenge of leading the NSF-Funded Career Pathways project that has resulted in important new resources for undergraduate physics departments and physics students.  Sauncy holds a Ph.D. in Applied Physics, a M.S. in Physics, and a B.S. in Mathematics (magna cum laude), all from Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Case Study Speakers

Vivian Incera, University of Texas at El Paso

Dr. Vivian Incera is a professor of physics and the Dr. C. Sharp Cook Chair in Physics at the Department of Physics of the University of Texas at El Paso.  She earned her Ph.D. at the P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute, in Moscow, Russia.  Dr. Incera is an internationally known expert in the field of quantum field theories under extreme conditions.  Her research has been continuously funded by grants from NSF and DOE. In 2005 she was recruited as the new chair of the Physics Department at Western Illinois University, where in just four years she helped to develop and implement a vision that strengthened their programs and revamped departmental productivity by identifying research areas that made them unique within their peer institutions, and by paving the conditions that led their graduate program to become one of the nationwide top-producers MS in Physics programs nowadays. In January of 2009 Incera was hired by UTEP to become the new physics chairwoman, a position she held until December 2013. Under her leadership, UTEP physics department experienced a deep transformation that led to significant improvements in research funding and faculty productivity, the development of new concentrations and programs, and a jump in the physics majors' enrollment from 15 to over 110. Dr. Incera is currently serving as a Member of the National APS Committee on Minorities and was recently elected Vice-Chair of the Texas Section of the APS. She has served as co-Chair and as member of several steering committees for APS and AAPT conferences and is often invited as a panelist and presenter at APS and AAPT conferences and workshops.

Mike Jackson, Central Washington University

Mike Jackson is a professor of physics at Central Washington University (CWU). Along with faculty duties, he served as chairperson of the department of physics at CWU (2007-2013) and UW-L (interim, 2006-2007).As chair of the CWU physics department, Dr. Jackson spearheaded an effort to transform the program resulting in a 4-fold increase in the number of physics majors, and graduating classes twice the size of national averages for programs at comparable universities. Revamping of the introductory physics sequence, addressing unmet student and department needs, revision of the curriculum, incorporating meaningful research experiences
for undergraduates, and leading department faculty to adapt and overcome significant externally imposed challenges were key elements of Dr. Jackson's strategy to spur the department's growth.

Dr. Jackson is the 2013–2014 winner of the Society for College Science Teachers (SCST) Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award (OUSTA) and the recipient of the 2013 David Halliday and Robert Resnick Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching given by the American Association of Physics Teachers. He was also a member of the UW-L physics department when it received the 2004 Regents Teaching Excellence Award for a Department from the UW-System Board of Regents and when it was recognized as a thriving physics program by the National Taskforce on Undergraduate Physics.

Willie Rockward, Morehouse College

Dr. Willie Rockward received a B.S. degree in Physics, cum laude, from Grambling State University. While completing a M.S. degree in Physics from State University of New York at Albany, he transferred into the doctoral program in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). After completing his doctoral studies at Georgia Tech, he served as a civilian Research Physicist for the Advanced Guidance Division of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Currently, Dr. Rockward is an Associate Professor of Physics and the Research Director of the Micro/Nano Optics Research & Engineering (MORE) Laboratory at Morehouse College. His current research interests include crossed phase optics, micro/nano optics fabrication, optical quadrature microscopy, extreme ultraviolet lithography, terahertz imaging, nanostructure characterization, and termite behavior. He is a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Society of Physics Students (National officer), the National Society of Black Physicists, the National Technical Association, the Optical Society of America and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He also serves, voluntarily, as the Director of Science and the Coordinator of Special Projects for the Miller's Preparatory Academy for Boys.

Gay Stewart, West Virginia University

Gay Stewart is professor of physics and serves as the Eberly Professor of STEM Education at West Virginia University, where she directs the Flexible Education Research Network, a trans-disciplinary effort to improve STEM education at the university and in the state, K-20. She is advisor for the UArk PhysTEC site that she helped develop, still thriving well past funding. She received her Ph.D. in experimental high energy physics from UIUC in 1994. Upon graduation, as a mother of two, she shifted her intellectual efforts to the condition of science education in the US. In May, 1995 her work first gained NSF support through a DUE CCD grant. She chaired UArk's physics undergraduate affairs committee during a transitional time, when the average number of graduating majors in physics increased by a factor of five in four years.  She served on APS education-related committees and governance. In 2009, she was named an APS fellow for contributions to physics teaching and teacher preparation. She is past president of the AAPT. She chaired the College Board's Science Academic Advisory Committee, co-chaired the Advanced Placement Physics Redesign commission, and now the AP Physics 2 Development Committee. She was an author of the 6-12 College Board Science Standards for College Success. She is teaching assistant mentor, and developed a preparation program that grew into one of four sites for the NSF/AAPT "Shaping the Preparation of Future Science Faculty," still active. She was co-PI of an NSF GK-12 project that places fellows in middle school mathematics and science classrooms. The results were so favorable that helping mathematics and science teachers to work together is a component of the $7.3M NSF-MSP, College Ready in Mathematics and Physics Partnership. Through the Noyce program she has received $1,050,000 for support of students and master physics teachers.

Stamatis Vokos, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo

Stamatis Vokos, Professor of Physics at Seattle Pacific University, has directed several projects on the learning and teaching of physics and has contributed to local and national science reform efforts in grades K-20.  In particular, he has provided leadership to teacher education and enhancement programs in Washington State, in which two thousand pre-service and in-service educators have participated.  He is currently PI of two NSF-funded projects, which strive to improve teacher diagnostic skills in physics and physical science.  Before joining SPU in 2002, Vokos was a senior member of the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington and contributed extensively to the Group's efforts.  At SPU, Vokos and his colleagues in physics and science education are involved in research and development projects on undergraduate course reform and teacher professional preparation and development. Funding from NSF, the Boeing Co., and the PhysTEC project has enabled a multi-year collaboration with FACET Innovations LLC and several of the largest school systems in Washington State to improve the effectiveness of the teaching of physics at a systemic level.  Vokos has served as member and two-term chair of the AAPT Committee on Research in Physics Education, member of the AAPT Committee on Graduate Education, member of the APS Executive Committee of the Forum on Education, and chair of the AAPT Physics Education Research Elections Organizing Committee.  He is vice chair of AAPT's Committee on Teacher Preparation, chair of the National Task Force on Teacher Education and an APS fellow.