Discipline-based Education Research (DBER) and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) improve teaching and learning through empirical research and inquiry. To cultivate the growth and development of these research communities, it is essential to support emerging education researchers. The Professional Development for Emerging Education Researchers (PEER) Program is designed to expand emerging education researchers' theoretical and methodological knowledge through field schools and workshops.

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Efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion, accessibility and justice (DEIAJ) in STEM spaces must include the faculty that teach students and supervise research, demonstrating and setting the culture. Faculty engagement with DEIAJ programming can stem from a variety of motivations, including past personal experiences with bias or prejudice or internal senses of justice. However, specific actions faculty can take to address individual needs rely on a complex intersection of cognitive (thinking) and emotional (feeling) empathy. This project studies how faculty perceive and engage with students and colleagues, exploring how faculty perceive the experiences of others and their resulting actions. Drawing on theories of empathy, the project seeks to understand when an intellectual or emotional understanding of another, results in, or fails to result in, a motivation to act.

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Departmental practices for admitting and retaining students at the graduate level fundamentally determine who is allowed to shape the future of physics research. Assuring that the path to a physics PhD is inclusive and equitable for students of all backgrounds is therefore critical. Despite the vital importance of graduate education, physics education research has traditionally focused most strongly on improving the experiences of undergraduates, leaving education at the graduate level relatively understudied. Questions surrounding the equitability of standard physics PhD admissions criteria abound, and high attrition rates represent an ongoing problem. Current data indicates that the retention rate of physics PhD students is approximately 60%, with attrition from PhD programs disproportionately affecting traditionally underrepresented students. Our group has worked to fill several gaps in the physics education literature by focusing on how physics graduate students are admitted into graduate programs, and how they navigate the PhD process once they arrive.

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A bachelor’s degree in physics opens up varied career paths in academia, industry, and education. However, the diversity of paths can make the college to career transition difficult for many students. The physics community has recognized the need for improved support for students’ career awareness and decision-making (see APS/AAPT Effective Practices for Physics Programs).

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Computation is playing an increasing role in all STEM fields, and the ability for students to use and understand various computational tools is vital to long term success. It is not a question of if students will use computation after completing their undergraduate degree, but when. Computational thinking is becoming a necessary skill in both academia and industry allowing people to solve problems through abstraction and procedural algorithms.

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One broad theme of the research group is understanding learning and problem-solving within authentic experiences. The goal is to characterize features of complex problem-solving tasks to make stronger connections between coursework and professional practice. We have examined: practices of theoretical physicists, learning in undergraduate research experiences, laboratory learning environments, and mathematical problem-solving in industry and research.

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Over the past five years, Quantum Information Science and Engineering (QISE) has emerged as a federal priority with the passage of the 2018 National Quantum Initiative Act and the 2023 CHIPS and Science Act, both of which call for significant investments in QISE research, industrial innovation, education, and workforce development. Quantum systems and their unique behaviors will lead to significant improvements in computing, communication, and sensing, but the technologies cannot advance without skilled and knowledgeable people.

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