Chandra Turpen – Hugo Rossi Lecture (Oct 5)

<<Hugo Rossi Lecture Series

Supporting students in building interdisciplinary connections across physics and biology

Chandra Turpen, University of Maryland
October 5, 2017 

This presentation is co-hosted by CSME and the Department of Physics & Astronomy

(A video of this presentation is NOT available online)



Our research team [1] has been engaged in the iterative redesign of an Introductory Physics course for Life Science (IPLS) majors to explicitly bridge biology and physics in ways that are authentic to the disciplines.  Our course invites students to examine how modeling decisions depend on canonical disciplinary aims and interests. Our focus on developing students’ interdisciplinary reasoning skills requires 1) shifting course topics to focus on core ideas that span the disciplines, 2) shifting epistemological expectations, and 3) foregrounding typically tacit disciplinary assumptions. In working to build an authentic interdisciplinary course that bridges physics and biology, we pay careful attention to supporting students in constructing these bridges. This talk will illustrate the design-based research approach that was foundational to the development of our course.  This approach supports critical reflection at multiple time-scales through collecting systematic data, listening to and valuing students’ reasoning, and bringing diverse perspectives to interpreting data. I will show how our approach leads to improved curricular tasks, refined assessment objectives, new design heuristics, and key research results.


[1] with Benjamin Dreyfus, Benjamin Geller, Julia Svoboda Gouvea, Edward Redish, and Vashti Sawtelle


Chandra Turpen is a research assistant professor in physics at the University of Maryland in the Physics Education Research (PER) Group. Turpen’s work involves designing and researching contexts for learning within higher education (for both students and faculty). Her research draws from perspectives in anthropology, cultural psychology, and the learning sciences. Through in-situ studies of classroom practice and institutional practice, she focuses on the role of culture in science learning and educational change. She pursues projects that have high potential for leveraging equitable change in undergraduate STEM programs and she makes these struggles for change a direct focus of her research efforts.  She also serves on several national leadership bodies: the Physics Education Research Leadership Organizing Council (PERLOC), the Am. Assoc. of Physics Teachers’ Committee on Diversity in Physics, the National Learning Assistant Alliance, and the Access Network.