Divisions – Physics and Astronomy Research Vignettes

Over the past several decades, the value of engaging undergraduates in research has been increasingly recognized by the physics and astronomy communities.   To date, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), American Astronomical Society (AAS), American Physical Society (APS), Council on Undergraduate Research’s Physics and Astronomy Division (CURPA), and Society of Physics Students (SPS) have authored and adopted statements calling for research experiences for all physics and astronomy undergraduate majors.

Making such declarations and realizing them are, of course, not one-and-the-same.  It is now incumbent upon us to make research experiences for all physics and astronomy majors, either on our campuses or through off-campus opportunities, a reality.  Sharing ideas that have worked on our individual campuses is one way in which we can increase the number of research opportunities for undergraduates across the physics and astronomy communities.  This web site, a collaborative effort of AAPT, AAS, APS Office of Education and Diversity, CURPA and SPS, is being created to enable individuals and departments to share practices, funding strategies, internship placement strategies, and course designs with embedded research opportunities, among others that, if adopted by others, would work to increase the number of undergraduate research opportunities across the community.  

Those wishing to contribute to this new physics and astronomy resource may do so by emailing their contribution to Terry Oswalt.   Articles should be submitted as a Word attachment.   Articles have no length limit, they may be as long or as short as you need them to be.   Articles will be added to this site as received.   The opinions and ideas expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of AAPT, AAS, APS, CURPA or SPS. 


  • Augustana College –  The authors of this article present the story of how off-site collaborations can enable the development of robust research programs despite somewhat limited on-campus resources.  The article illustrates why these collaborations are not one-sided and describes the advantages to the larger group and institution of developing and participating in such collaborations. 
  • California Institute of Technology – Integrating research into the curriculum has been a daunting challenge nationally for the education community.  The authors describe a “Design and Build” track that was added to the CalTech Advanced Physics Laboratory.  Projects are open-ended, team-based (2-3 students) and require the design and construct of an apparatus.   Students have worked on a variety of projects, including 1) electrodynamic ion trapping, 2) magnetic levitation and trapping, 3) weak localization phenomena, and 4) holographic interferometry, among others 
  • State University of New York – Geneseo – In this article, the author – based on his nearly 30 year career engaging undergraduates in research – provides strategies and insights on good practices one can follow that improve academic survival, enhance a career and grow a funded undergraduate research program. 
  • State University of New York – Oswego – The author describes an innovative initiative, called the SUNY Oswego Global Laboratory, that places students in research laboratories around the world.  Among others, students have conducted research at the Federal University of Paraiba and the Federal University of Alogoas in Brazil, University of Calcutta and Indian Institute for Science in India, and the National Central University of Taiwan.
  • University of Alaska – Anchorage:  In this article, faculty at six partner universities have developed and tested a “Research-Based Science Education” instructional model that gives students in an introductory-level astronomy class an opportunity to do authentic research with real data.  Students are recovering asteroids, searching for classical novae in M31, studying semi-regular variable stars, identifying active galactic nuclei in the Faint Images of the Radio Sky at Twenty centimeters survey, and measuring the photometric redshift of distant galaxies in the NOAO Deep Wide Field Survey.   Interested instructors are invited to incorporate this approach and these research projects into their teaching. 
  • University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire – In this article the author describes how undergraduate research is supported through the establishment of a “shared use” Materials Science Center and through a campus-wide, student-initiated differential tuition program.

All the statements can be viewed on the Society of Physics Students’ web site at https://www.spsnational.org/about/governance/statements/sps-statement-regarding-undergraduate-research.