Member InstitutionMember Institution University of Southern Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi

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Chris Sirola

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Our department (and university) has several current efforts in physics and astronomy education:

* Dr. Sirola, who has interests in physics & astronomy education and related education research, is the head of the physics licensure program, i.e. a B.S. degree for teaching high school physics. Because of small numbers of majors (1 every 2 or 3 years), we combine our efforts with other STEM licensure programs - chemistry, biology, and math. In that vein, physics licensure collaborates with other STEM licensure programs in NSF's Noyce Scholarship program and accreditation (both NCATE/NSTA and SACS)

* Our college (of Science & Technology, or CoST) has a separate Center for Science & Mathematics Education (CSME), which provides instruction in science for K-12 pre-service and in-service teachers. CSME does not offer undergraduate degrees (individual departments handle that), but does offer M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in science & math education for in-service teachers. In conjunction with CSME, our department offers graduate-level courses for teachers of high school physics, K-12 astronomy, and independent study (all of which may contribute to M.S. degrees). For example, we are offering "Physics for High School Teachers" and "Astronomy for Teachers" in the summer of 2013.

* Our department also offers a one-semester course in physical science for education majors (based on models from San Diego State University and Marquette University). The course, previously taught by Dr. Jacob Blickenstaff (now with PTEC) is currently taught by Dr. Sirola.

* CoST is in the beginning stages of implementing a UTEACH-type program (the college is currently pursuing funding), which will emphasize candidate teaching in area schools in STEM topics much earlier (freshman & sophomore) classes than previously. We have also submitted a proposal to NASA for a joint outreach effort with the INFINITY Space Center (an interactive museum targeting K-12 audiences), which is affiliated with the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

* Dr. Sirola is active in physics & astronomy outreach (such as the giving of talks & seminars to non-university groups & the writing of a biweekly newspaper column on science), as are other members of the faculty, including Dr. Alina Gearba & Dr. Michael Vera (faculty advisors to our award-winning chapter of the Society of Physics Students) and Dr. Lawrence Mead (who helps coordinate an annual undergraduate physics research conference in conjunction with the University of South Alabama and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette).