Physics Department

Nobel Prize Winner in physics Theodor Hänsch speaking in the Skogen Auditorium in Centennial Hall in November 2011.

Nobel Prize Winner in physics Theodor Hänsch spoke at the Skogen Auditorium in Centennial Hall in November 2011. Hänsch was the 12th Nobel Prize Winner in physics to visit UW-L as part of a Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics. Each year these renowned physicists visit campus offering a public lecture, physics seminar and engagement with physics students and faculty.

UW-L physics dept. is No. 3 nationally

The UW-La Crosse Physics Department has received national recognition for its high number of graduates and its potential to prepare more physics teachers.

The UW-L Physics Department is No. 3 nationally when it comes to granting degrees among bachelor’s degree-only physics departments. UW-L averaged 23 graduates each year from 2008-10. That’s behind only the U.S. Naval Academy (31) and the State University of New York Geneseo (26). It’s the second time the UW-L program has been ranked third nationally.

Physics Department Chair Gubbi Sudhakaran says undergraduate physics programs recently closed in Texas, Tennessee and Missouri. Programs are threatened in Maine, Florida and Louisiana because of low graduation rates.

While the UW-L program has averaged 23 graduates, more than 425 undergraduate physics departments in the nation have averaged four or less. “Our higher graduation rate is a direct reflection of the quality of our program,” says Sudhakaran.

Others are taking notice of UW-L’s success. The American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers hosted a special workshop in June on how to build a thriving undergraduate physics program. Sudhakaran was asked to showcase UW-L’s success as a model for other departments nationwide.

“Our department has a strong record of recruiting physics majors to its very successful undergraduate program,” explains Sudhakaran. “Our faculty members are committed to education.”

That stellar reputation also helped the department receive PhysTEC funding to further develop its physics teacher education program and increase the number of physics majors interested in teaching high school physics.

UW-L was one of only seven institutions nationally chosen from 35 applicants as PhysTEC sites for 2012-15. The department received $73,330 from PhysTEC. UW-L’s College of Science and Health more than matched that, bringing the grant total to $152,203.

The UW-L Secondary Teacher Education Preparation (STEP) program in physics education began in fall 2011. It has the potential to grow, notes Sudhakaran. The department recently hired a faculty member who specializes in physics education research to direct teacher education efforts. Teachers from local schools will mentor students. The program’s first student plans to graduate in December.

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