Maria Goeppert-Mayer Lectures

These lectures are annually given by outstanding women physicists, in honor of Maria Goeppert-Mayer. Goeppert-Mayer was a theoretical physicist who developed the nuclear shell model while at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago from 1946 to 1959. She received the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics for her “discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure”.

2018: Science, Engineering and Art as well — why is it hard to teach Science well?

Thursday, November 8, 2018, 4pm
Helen Quinn, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Helen Quinn, SLAC, is a particle theorist and science educator. Helen's honors include the Dirac Medal, the Oskar Klein Medal, the Sakurai Prize, the Karl Taylor Compton Medal, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society. She was President of the American Physical Society in 2004. She has been focusing on K-12 science education in the recent years and she would like to give a talk on this subject. As Chair of the Board on Science Education of the National Academy of Sciences, she led the effort that produced A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas — the basis for the next generation science standards adopted by many states.

I will reflect on what we know about teaching science for k-12 students and for undergraduates, how we know it, and what it tells us about good teaching. To teach well you must engineer the right learning conditions with careful design goals for what is to be learned, you must understand both the subject area you wish to teach and something of what research on learning tells us about critical aspects of learning that area (this is known as pedagogical content knowledge or content knowledge for teaching) and then you must be a skilled improvisational performance artist to pull off the lessons as intended, responding to the needs of students who enter your classroom with a wide range of prior knowledge, engaging them all as active participants in the learning.

This talk is based on work I have been doing in the area of science education since my retirement in 2010 from physics research, summarizing what I have learned in the process. Illinois and approximately 30 other states have adopted new science standards based on the NAS study “A Framework for k-12 science education” that I led. This study tried to capture the learning about learning from science education research as well as to shift the goals for what needs to be learned. I will discuss how it, together with research studies focused on teaching physics or other sciences at the undergraduate level, suggests changes in undergraduate teaching approaches as well.

2017: Dear Maria, Oh My, How Particle Physics has Changed

Thursday, October 19, 2017, 4pm
Melissa Franklin, Harvard University

Melissa Franklin is the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University . She is an experimental particle physicist who studies proton-proton collisions produced by Large Hadron Collider(LHC). She is a collaborator on the ATLAS experiment at the LHC where she works in collaboration with over 3000 physicists.  Franklin was co-discoverer of the top quark and the Higgs boson. She is presently studying the properties of the Higgs boson and searching for new physics beyond the Standard Model.  Professor Franklin, born and raised in Canada, received her B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and her Doctorate from Stanford University. She worked as a post-doctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, was an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard, before joining the Harvard faculty in 1989. In 1992 she became the first woman to receive tenure in the Physics department  and she served as Chair of the Physics department from 2010-2014.

This talk will in effect be a letter to Maria Goeppert-Mayer and other pioneering women particle physicists, describing both a brief  history of  the particle accelerators that have made remarkable discoveries in particle physics possible and the slow turn of experimentalists attention from the discovery of the building blocks of matter to the study of  the universe with nothing in it, the so-called vacuum.