Student, faculty research highlighted at conference

Physics research conducted by Grove City College students and faculty was featured at the national meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers last month in Atlanta, Georgia.

Physics/secondary education major Shannon Armstrong ’18, of Westchester, Pa., presented a research poster entitled “Differences in Students’ Treatment of Forces on Solid and Liquid Objects.” Armstrong’s research focused on her summer work through the University of Washington’s Physics Education Group. She studied how students understand pressure and buoyancy in a liquid, specifically how students treat forces acting on solids and liquids, and how they can use what they have learned about forces to help them understand pressure.

Dr. DJ Wagner, professor of physics, presented a poster entitled “Sticky Liquids Make Things Float? Probing ‘Interesting’ Buoyancy Conceptions.” Her research primarily focused on investigating ideas people have about buoyancy and why things sink and float. Through her discoveries, Wagner was able to organize those ideas into a taxonomy. Her research included an extensive literature search, on-campus interviews and analysis of long-answer responses by students.

“In the course of the investigation, I came upon a few ideas that seemed unique or surprising,” explained Wagner. “I wondered how prevalent those ideas were. I constructed questions which probed those particular conceptions, and gave the questions to students at both Grove City and the University of Washington, where I spent my sabbatical last spring.”

Both Armstrong and Wagner assisted with the Students Exploring Engineering and Science outreach event, which brought 75 middle school children to the conference for hands-on science activities. 

“Attending conferences is a very important part of developing professionally, and I strongly encourage my students to attend and present at conferences,” said Wagner. “The presenters gain experience and receive feedback from others about their work, and all attendees have a valuable opportunity to network and learn about the latest research in their field.”

To learn more about Grove City’s Physics department, please visit gcc.edu/phys​.

Student, faculty research highlighted at conference

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