Browsing articles in "Blog"

Compass and The Coalition

Apr 11, 2011   //   by JoshShiode   //   Compass News  //  No Comments

In a back room of Stephens Hall, the Coalition meets to discuss its programs.

“Was it worth the free cheeseboard?” It’s a question I’ve been asked over and over again: while leaving a two and a half hour budget meeting or after struggling with the tenth revision of our mission statement. It’s true, I was enticed by the free cheeseboard pizza at the info session in Spring 2010 and never would have guessed how Compass would change my course through graduate school and my life as a whole.

Compass goes to AAPT winter meeting!

Mar 6, 2011   //   by badr   //   Compass News, Compass Presentations, Physics Education  //  No Comments

Angie and I just got back from presenting a talk and poster at the Winter Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers in Jacksonville, Florida.  We presented the handsome poster you see below and a talk entitled “Teaching Physics Though Modeling the Physics Research Community” with the following abstract:

In this talk, we will discuss The Compass Project, a program we created at the University of California, Berkeley, five years ago to support physics students from all backgrounds.  Drawing on physics education research, we had two major goals in creating a two-week summer program for incoming freshman:  building community and helping students develop productive beliefs about what physics is and how to learn it.  This presentation will focus on a newly developed semester-long course that follows the summer program.  One focus of both the summer program and the course is developing the students capacity to see the world through physics models; students also hone their ability to communicate and collaborate productively with their peers.  We will discuss some of the successes and challenges of introducing college freshman to our model of a physics research community.

Pretty snazzy, huh?

Compass Lectures for Spring 2011

Jan 31, 2011   //   by gina   //   Compass News  //  No Comments

Hey guys!  The Compass Lectures are back!  This semester we have SIX exciting speakers for our lecture series.  Please note that the time has been changed to WEDNESDAYS from 4-5 with tea and cookies at 3:30. Lectures will still be held in 325 LeConte.

The Spring 2011 Schedule:

Joel Fajans, Feb. 16
Alex Filippenko, Mar. 2
Damon English, Mar. 30
Mike DeWeese, Apr. 6
Benji Aleman, Apr. 20
Imke de Pater, Apr. 27

See you there!


Poor Teaching Incentives for Science Professors

Jan 24, 2011   //   by badr   //   Physics Education  //  No Comments

Last week, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article entitled “Scientists Fault Universities as Favoring Research Over Teaching” by Paul Basken.  The article itself is interesting and cites two commentaries (one in Science, the other in Nature) in which scientists speak out about the skewing of reward structures at universities entirely towards research.   Any graduate student instructor at Berkeley could have told you how bad the situation is here, so it’s good to see that the issue is starting to receive more attention nationally in science and education circles.

Reflections on the Compass Lectures

Dec 9, 2010   //   by gina   //   Compass News  //  No Comments

This semester was the third set of Compass lectures I’ve organized since coming to Cal and it was probably the best I’ve seen since being here.  The lecture series has always done what they were intended to do- expose undergraduates to current on-campus research.   This semester I found them particularly meaningful, not just because I’m finally reaching the point where I can actually understand most of the content, but because it helps remind us of what science really is.  Being a third year undergrad studying physics is challenging, to say the least, and this semester I found myself taking the two most difficult and time consuming classes I have ever taken in my life.  My school life was characterized by so much self doubt about my ability to be a physicist.  But every other week, going to the Compass lectures reminded me why I’m spending hours in the reading room on work that seems meaningless- because at the end of all of this lies really badass research.  Every lecture inspired me and made me fall in love with physics again, after weeks of frustration.  I know that this sounds like an abusive relationship, but I guess what I am trying to say is that physics is hard.  The path to becoming a physicist certainly is not an easy one, but it is indescribably cool and enables you to do the most amazing things.  Thanks to Josh Bloom, Yury Kolomensky, Geoff Marcy, Feng Wang and Hal Haggard for reminding me of this.  You guys are awesome!

The importance of social relationships in science

Oct 7, 2010   //   by Anna Zaniewski   //   Physics Education  //  No Comments

As I evolve in my scientific career, I  understand more and more the incredible importance of group work.  Progress in science depends upon others- the notion of the isolated scientist making breakthroughs with his/her abilities alone, though popularized by mainstream media  (see, for example, Iron Man) is inconsistent with how science actually progresses.  Scientists are, first and importantly, humans.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of our species is our capacity for cooperation and socialization.  This characteristic gives us vast power for taping the collective intelligence of our species to understand nature and engineer technology.  This goes beyond summing up individual contributions.  It is my experience that we are most powerful when working together on a problem.   This experience is corroborated by a recent study published in Science: “Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups”

The Fall 2010 Lecture Series!

Oct 2, 2010   //   by gina   //   Compass News  //  No Comments

Hey everyone,

It’s that time of year again!  The Academic Activities Committee has worked hard to put together an awesome set of lectures for this fall’s Lecture Series.  As always, the lecture runs from 4-5 in 325 Leconte (Cyclotron Room) with tea and cookies in the foyer at 3:30.

Here is a list of this semester’s talks:

Josh Bloom 10/07 – What are gamma ray bursts?
Yury Kolomensky 10/21 – Precision Tests of the Standard Model
Geoff Marcy 11/04 – The Search for Earth-Like Planets and Life in the Universe
Feng Wang 11/18 – Graphene: A Two-Dimensional Electronic and Optical Material
Hal Haggard 12/02 – Atoms of Space

See you there!

Gina and Isha

2010 Compass Summer Program officially concluded

Aug 26, 2010   //   by Anna Zaniewski   //   Compass News, Summer Program 2010  //  No Comments

This post is a little late:  the 2010 summer program was concluded last Saturday, 8/21.  Which,  in blog time, is like 10,000 years ago.  But I’m going to blog about it anyway, belatedly.

I feel lucky to have worked with the people who made this year’s summer program a success.  We had amazing teachers who were willing to experiment with a new classroom structure, students who, though hesitant at first, really embraced the model of groupwork based learning, and an exciting level of involvement from older Compass students.

For me, there were many highlights of the summer program: climbing above of the Berkeley fog to watch the Perseids meteor shower with students who had never seen the milky way, the water balloon fight at 7 in the morning, the trip to the Altamont Pass wind farm and stargazing on Mt Diablo, the Sunday night swing dance and mixer with the PREP students, seeing the students’ final presentations, and most of all, just getting to know 17  smart, lively, great people.

A Class of My Peers

Aug 16, 2010   //   by JoshShiode   //   Physics Education, Summer Program 2010  //  No Comments

Like most of the new Compass students, the only experience I had discussing things with my teachers in high school (and really all through undergrad) came from staying after class, going to office hours, and random encounters outside of school all together. Every “discussion section” I had in undergrad consisted of a TA standing at the blackboard “helping” us work through the particularly difficult problems on the current homework (generally by solving the problem as we all watched and pretended to understand). So when I came to Berkeley… three years ago, and sat in on the first sessions of my class for first-time teachers and heard about students working in small groups to solve problems that are explicitly not on the homework, I was… confused… I thought to myself, “this actually sounds like teaching!” And then I thought, “Oh crap.. I can probably do their problem sets just fine, but I don’t actually know how to teach!”

An AA meeting for LECTUREholics

Aug 14, 2010   //   by Ana A. =D   //   Compass News, Summer Program 2010  //  1 Comment

Ordinary class setting
Time in class: 1 hour
Lecture time: 55 min
Hands-on time: Once in a blue moon
Learning: Regurgitate everything you memorized

Coming from a school with 2500 students and 530 students in my graduating class alone, it was close to impossible for teachers to give anything but lectures. The teachers believed that lectures was the most effective way to teach curriculum for the oh-so-dreaded AP exams. Rarely did we have entertaining projects and opportunities to grow on our own.

Since this refers to an AA meeting for lectureholics, I must confess that I liked the lectures. I have always had a good memory, so all I needed to do was write down as much information as possible and come the test remember it. Naturally when I arrived at Compass, I did not know what to expect. However I reasoned that since we’re working with graduate students we were gonna get some interesting lectures. WRONG!!!

Compass is anything but the ordinary classroom. We are truly challenged and encouraged to grow in our logical, mathematical, and conceptual reasoning. This gives us a “feel” of being a real researcher. We have questions and observations with no real idea of what it all means. All in all, it is a giant step away from the lectures. This is something really new to me, but I really like it.

I guess I’ve finally lost my “addiction” to lectures. At first, I was really needing a lecture. After being on “autopilot” for all summer, I couldn’t possibly remember everything. But by the end of the first week I reached an epiphany, thanks of course to the peer collaboration. Now I realize that I don’t need a lecture. I learn by questioning, debating, wondering, collaborating, and solving technical problems.

Thanks to Compass, I’ve been lecture free for 5 days. And I like this change. 🙂