In addition to teaching core courses in physics, I have designed a wide variety of courses from the introductory level to advanced seminars for majors. The opportunities for creativity have resulted in a number of successful curricular developments.
A course on the design of whales and porpoises starts with the remarkable characteristics of these aquatic mammals and moves to the physics, chemistry, biology and engineering principles needed to understand their functional adaptations. For example, to appreciate the ability of sperm whales to dive to depths of over a mile and surface rapidly without the bends, we study the ideal gas law, pressure and the solubility of gases in liquids.
In Medical Physics students study the physical basis of anatomical phenomena such as human performance, blood flow and nerve propagation. They also learn about the design of diagnostic and treatment technologies such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, computer aided x-ray tomography and laser surgery.
Under a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's New Liberal Arts Program, several colleagues and I developed a course called Critical Decisions and Medical Technology. This course is designed to provide exposure to both the challenges posed by technology and the skills needed to address them. In the context of particular cases such as amniocentesis, we introduce elements of data representation, probability, statistics, genetics, acoustics, electronics, ethics, and decision and cost-benefit analyses. Students explore these areas in lectures, discussion groups, laboratory sessions, site visits and seminars with invited experts. Teams of students prepare final projects that are decision analyses of real cases based on the medical literature. This course was selected for publication in The Liberal Art of Science: An Agenda for Action published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
For use in introductory physics courses and across the campus, I have designed Project AVID -- Active Video. As AVID learners, the students use video equipment to record and take data on a wide variety of phenomena .The students move beyond the confines of the laboratory setting and use the world around them as the source of interesting and measurable phenomena. In addition to its role in physics courses, AVID can be used in mathematics, physical education, dance classes, art courses and many other contexts where students can be motivated to enrich their experience and learn the relevant science and technology in a natural way. The AVID project has been extended to younger learners in middle school and high school as well as to other colleges and universities. It has been used directly in the classroom and in teacher training programs and workshops. My work on AVID led to a collaboration with TERC (Technical Education Research Center) on the development of CamMotion. The heart of CamMotion is a computer software package designed to provide the learners with an interactive analysis of video images of real-world events they have captured. AVID was selected as one of the winners of the national Joe Wyatt Challenge sponsored by EDUCOM to identify successful projects using information technology in higher education.
An additional course that came out of my work with video was Television Technology and Projects Workshop. The pedagogical goals of the course were to have the students learn how video technology works through the underlying principles of physics, engineering, communications and human perception. The students get their hands on video and other laboratory devices early on to develop an understanding of the realization of the principles in the actual equipment design. This understanding informs their gradual development of production and post-production skills using video equipment and lead up to their creation of video projects motivated by their interests which range from art and music to science and documentaries.