Robert Beichner joins university as American Council of Education Fellow and visiting professor of physics

Robert Beichner

Robert Beichner

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 21, 2010 – Robert Beichner, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Physics and director of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Initiative at North Carolina State University, will spend the fall semester as the American Council of Education (ACE) Fellow and visiting professor of physics in the College of Science at Virginia Tech.

While at Virginia Tech, Beichner will assist the university in the development of a strategic plan for undergraduate education. The ACE Fellows program is the nation’s premier higher education leadership development program for preparing senior leaders to serve American colleges and universities.

A draft plan was submitted to the Office of the Provost in July. A final version is expected by the end of this semester.

“Virginia Tech is truly fortunate to have Dr. Beichner join our faculty this fall and help us more closely examine our undergraduate curriculum,” said Daniel Wubah, vice president and dean for undergraduate education. “His expertise and leadership will help guide us through an important strategic planning process which will shape teaching and learning for both current and future students.”

In addition, Beichner will assist faculty in the College of Science and the College of Natural Resources and Environment to fully leverage new classroom facilities in Cheatham and Derring halls.

At North Carolina State, Beichner's research focuses on increasing the understanding of student learning and the improvement of physics education. He created the popular "video-based lab" approach for introductory physics laboratories. He also conducted research on how human's visual perception of motion can best be utilized in instructional animations.

In a separate project, Beichner and his students have written a series of tests aimed at diagnosing students' misconceptions about a variety of introductory physics topics. These tests are used by teachers and researchers in high schools and colleges around the world.

His current research is a study of a classroom environment supporting interactive, collaborative learning called SCALE-UP: Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs. The approach has been adopted at more than 100 schools, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Minnesota, and Clemson University, and is part of  his efforts to reform physics instruction at a national level.

He is also the founding editor of the American Physical Society journal Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research. For his education reform efforts he was named the 2009 North Carolina Professor of the Year and the 2010 National Undergraduate Science Teacher of the Year.

Beichner received two bachelor’s degrees from Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.