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Physics teachers meeting set for March 29-30 at UNG

Sarah Formica
Dr. Sarah Formica, professor of physics and Fuller E. Callaway Professorial Chair at UNG, is hosting the Southern Atlantic Coastal Section (SACS) of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) from March 29-30 on UNG's Dahlonega Campus.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) will host the spring meeting of the Southern Atlantic Coastal Section (SACS) of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) from March 29-30.

Set on UNG's Dahlonega Campus, the event is expected to draw between 50 and 70 high school, college and university physics teachers from Georgia and South Carolina.

Emily Smith, a postdoctoral associate from Cornell University, is the keynote speaker for the event. She will speak at 7 p.m. March 29, after the 6 p.m. banquet.

Smith created physics lab experiments that focus on critical thinking, and UNG has incorporated her labs this semester. Conference host Dr. Sarah Formica, professor of physics and Fuller E. Callaway Professorial Chair at UNG, said research has shown critical thinking labs improve students' experimentation skills.

During the conference, concurrent workshops will be held at 8 a.m. March 30 and contributed talks at 9 a.m. March 30, as physics teachers make presentations to their peers.

"The physics faculty at UNG are leaders in innovative teaching and education research. Hosting the meeting at UNG provides a great opportunity for teachers from the region to experience firsthand what our faculty are doing to improve teaching and learning," Formica said. "Hopefully the participants will take away new ideas and methods to try when they get back to their own institutions."

Dr. JB Sharma, associate department chair of physics and Eminent Scholar at UNG, has been involved with SACS-AAPT for about 30 years. He will present about environmental physics work he and two students have done. Sharma said the organization has a crucial mission.

"Excellence in physics teaching and learning is a very essential part of workforce development in the 21st century," Sharma said.

Dr. David Osmond, assistant professor of teacher education, will present a poster on his laboratory activity about the point in the changing states of matter when an item like a glass or metal changes from being considered a solid to being considered a liquid.

Osmond, who has attended previous SACS-AAPT meetings, said these events help connect UNG faculty to high school teachers and other groups that seek to advance physics education.

A poster session at 10:30 a.m. March 30 will showcase physics research by students. Eight UNG students attended the AAPT fall conference at Clemson University, and Formica expects more to be at UNG's event.

Teachers or faculty members who wish to attend the conference may register at the SACS-AAPT meeting ticket site. Prices range from $20 for Friday only to $50 or $60 for both days. A price list may be found on the SACS-AAPT website.

Amanda Ash, a sophomore pursuing a degree in physics, and Jessica Hamilton, a junior pursuing a degree in physics, will present their research on starspots. Ash, who is from Woodstock, Georgia, said presenting at conferences has helped her skills grow.

"There's so much we've learned that we never would have learned in a classroom," Ash said. "Presenting gives us a good opportunity to get feedback and take our research in directions we wouldn't have thought of. It also gives us a chance to network for grad school."

Hamilton, who lives in Dahlonega, Georgia, said the AAPT event at Clemson in the fall was one of the best she has attended because of the networking opportunities.

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