Benjamin M. Zwickl

Assistant Professor

Contact Information

OfficeGOS 3344
Phone(585) 475-4512

Mailing Address

School of Physics & Astronomy
84 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, NY 14623-5603 

BS Physics, Purdue University (2000-2004)
PhD Physics, Yale University (2004-2012)
Postdoctoral researcher, University of Colorado Boulder (2010-2013)
Prof. Zwickl joined the School of Physics & Astronomy in 2013.  His research is in the field of Physics Education Research (PER), and he is a member of the Science and Mathematics Education Research Collaborative (SMERC) at RIT.  Within the field of PER, Prof. Zwickl studies how students develop experimental and research skills in the undergraduate curriculum and how those skills are applied after graduation, whether in PhD-level research, industrial careers, or other physics-related professions.  Along with Co-PI Prof. Martin in Communication, Prof. Zwickl is PI of NSF Award 1432578 "Transfer of math, physics, and communication skills into the entry-level photonics workforce" (2014-2017) and will be collaborating with dozens of Rochester area optics companies and academic research groups to better understand the links between coursework and careers in STEM.
During his postdoctoral research at the University of Colorado Boulder, he worked with Prof. Heather Lewandowski (Dept. of Physics/JILA) to implement a transformation process for laboratory courses that had broad support from faculty.  Prof. Zwickl has experience developing lab curricula, establishing lab-course goals, and assessing laboratory curriucula.  One widely disseminated assessment tool resulting from his work is the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey for Experimental Physics, which is currently being used in dozens of institutions nationally.
Prior to his involvement in Physics Education Research, Prof. Zwickl completed his PhD at Yale University under the guidance of Prof. Jack Harris.  His dissertation research was an experimental attempt to measure the radiation pressure shot noise (a randomly fluctuating force resulting from fluctuations in photon number) in an opto-mechanical system.  The work explored quantum mechanical effects in engineered mechanical systems.

Research Interests

Student learning in laboratory courses.  Creating broad access to high quality undergraduate research experiences.  Developing curricula and educational tools to enhance students' development of experimental and research skills. The use of models and representations in STEM professions and in STEM education.   

Selected Publications

  1. Epistemology and expectations survey about experimental physics: Development and initial results, Benjamin M. Zwickl, Takako Hirokawa, Noah Finkelstein, H. J. Lewandowski, Phys. Rev. Sp. Topics- PER 10, 010120 (2014)
  2. Bridging Physics and Biology Teaching through Modeling Anne-Marie Hoskinson, Brian A. Couch, Benjamin M. Zwickl, Kathleen Hinko, Marcos D. Caballero, Am. J. Phys. 82, 434 (2014)
  3. The Process of Transforming an Advanced Lab Course: Goals, Curriculum, and Assessments, Benjamin M. Zwickl, Noah Finkelstein, and H. J. Lewandowski, Am. J. Phys. 81, 1, 63-70 (2013)
  4. Development and Validation of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey for Experimental Physics, Benjamin M. Zwickl, Noah Finkelstein, and H. J. Lewandowski, PERC Proceedings 2012, AIP Press (2013)
  5. Observability of Radiation-Pressure Shot Noise in Optomechanical Systems, K. Børkje, A. Nunnenkamp, B. M. Zwickl, C. Yang, J. G. E. Harris, and S. M. Girvin, Physical Review A 82, 013818 (2010)
  6. High quality mechanical and optical properties of commercial silicon nitride membranes, B. M. Zwickl, W. E. Shanks, A. M. Jayich, C. Yang, A. C. Bleszynski Jayich, J. D. Thompson, and J. G. E. Harris, Applied Physics Letters 92, 103125 (2008)