Department of Physics


(Yibo Zhang, Scott Gimbal, Lena Heffern, James Delles, Chris Kaneshiro, Daniel Lund, Adam Catching from CSU, Chico and Stephen Sun from Chico High School)

The 2013 National Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers was held July 13–17 in Portland, Oregon. This relatively local venue coincided nicely with a new goal of the Chico chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS): sending every physics major to present at a scientific conference.  With diligent fundraising efforts and financial assistance from the Department of Physics, we were able to send nine SPS students to the conference in addition to the six faculty and staff from the CSU, Chico physics department as well as a student from Chico High School. In number of attendees from a single department, Chico was second only to Portland State University, which had home-field advantage.

Students participated in sessions addressing concerns of graduate students, speed networking for young professionals, workshops on advanced lab experiments, and numerous special-topics sessions. But they were not merely passive participants in the meeting; they also presented their research and helped to teach at workshops.

  • Carlee Busse, Lena Heffern, Daniel Lund, and Patrick McDougall assisted Dr. Eric Ayars in presenting “Arduino Applications in the Lab and Classroom,” a workshop attended by over two dozen physics teachers.
  • Patrick McDougall gave a contributed talk describing a combination of experiments and computational modeling that shows great promise as a teaching tool for the physics advanced lab course.
  • Chris Kaneshiro presented a poster with Dr. Ayars detailing their research into a previously unreported systematic error present in the ultrasonic rangers used by every introductory physics lab in the country.
  • James Delles and Lena Heffern each presented posters describing their research at summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs. Scott Gimbal presented his research on polarization rotation with Dr. Anna Petrova-Mayor.
  • Chris Kaneshiro, Daniel Lund, and Steven Sun, with faculty Dr. Xueli Zou and Dr. Eric Dietz, presented a poster titled “A New Spinning Coil for Measuring the Earth’s Magnetic Field.” The apparatus described in this poster was also entered in the National Apparatus Competition, and the design attracted considerable interest from at least one major manufacturer of physics lab equipment.
  • Yibo Zhang and Adam Catching co-authored a pair of posters: one with Steven Sun, Xueli Zou, and primary author Lynda Klein on student difficulties with the concept of inductive charging; the other with Lynda Klein and primary author Steven Sun on different aspects of the same topic.

Other presentations from CSU, Chico included an invited talk on instruction of elementary teachers by Dr. Leslie Atkins and a workshop on the physics of baseball by “Dr. Baseball” himself, David Kagan.

Overall, it was a great learning opportunity for our students and a significant outreach for CSU, Chico. There were many complements from other departments about both the quantity and quality of our students, and the vibrancy of our SPS chapter.