“BFY” Conference on Laboratory Instruction a Success

Logo for the Beyond-the-first-year conference

Philadelphia, PA – The Conference on Laboratory Instruction Beyond the First Year of College (the “BFY” Conference) was held on the campuses of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University from July 25-27, 2012. The conference drew together approximately 150 physics laboratory instructors for invited talks, panel discussions, poster sessions, workshops, and breakout discussions. Organized by the Advanced Laboratory Physics Association (ALPhA) as a follow-up to the 2009 Topical Conference on Advanced Laboratories held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, this conference offered participants the opportunity to learn from one another how to set up environments that promote learning and skill development in the laboratory, and to share new experiments in hands-on workshops. A first-time participant, Ben Stottrup of Augsburg College, said of the conference, “The conference was fantastic! It was great to meet a community of educators who have a passion about experimental physics. I will use ideas I learned in the workshops in my courses this fall.”

Photo of two men examining Tom Colton's Optical Trapping apparatus

Allen Price traps a silica microsphere with optical tweezers in Tom Colton’s “Optical Trapping in Biophysics” workshop while David McIntyre waits his turn.

ALPhA has taken a leadership role in the professional development of upper-level laboratory instructors through its Laboratory Immersions program, organized by Lowell McCann of the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. “The BFY Conference really illustrated the breadth of hands-on experiments that are being developed for undergraduate physics students. A number of the workshops demonstrated experiments that are well-suited to be offered as in-depth Immersion experiences so that faculty and instructional staff can teach the experiments confidently to their own students.” said McCann.

“This conference is an `act of community’ and the most efficient way for laboratory instructors to spend the time they devote to revitalizing their courses”, said Conference Chair Gabe Spalding, of Illinois Wesleyan University. The conference was supported by the National Science Foundation, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the Forum on Education of the American Physical Society, and benefitted greatly from the hospitality of the Departments of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. Many equipment vendors also lent their support, including ColdQuanta, Klinger Educational Products, Modus Medical, NADA Scientific, National Instruments, NanoScience, PASCO, Spectrum Techniques, TeachSpin, TelAtomic, and ThorLabs.

The proceedings of the conference are hosted at the AAPT Advanced Labs section of the ComPADRE Digital Library.