Conference on Introductory Physics for the Life Sciences

  • Hilborn, Robert R.C. (PI)
  • Meredith, Dawn D.C. (CoPI)
  • Reeves, Mark M.E. (CoPI)
  • Burciaga, Juan J.R. (CoPI)
  • Soto, Patricia (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project provides partial support for a conference on Introductory Physics for the Life Sciences (IPLS) to be held in late 2013 or early in 2014. The conference lasts two days and engages about 200 faculty members, most in physics, including physics education research, along with biologists, biology education researchers, basic science medical school faculty, and other health-related faculty. The conference is expected to result in a report to the undergraduate STEM community about how physics is responding to the calls for innovation in undergraduate life science education as articulated in the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science report on Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education, the report on the Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians produced by a joint Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Association of American Medical Colleges committee, and the Preview Guide to MCAT2015, the revised Medical College Admission Test. In addition the report provides guidelines for IPLS courses that serve a wide spectrum of life science students including those aiming for health-related careers, for basic biological sciences research careers (as articulated in the BIO2010 report from the National Research Council), for future K-12 life science teachers, and for those in fields such as ecology and environmental science.

The Intellectual Merit of the project lies in its comprehensive discussion of what physics should be taught to undergraduate life science students and how it should be taught based on what is known from physics education research and biology education research. The project is led by a team with considerable experience in physics education for the life sciences. That team is aided by a conference planning group that includes physicists, biologists representing the breadth of contemporary biology, and disciplinary education researchers.

The Broader Impacts of the project include a set of guidelines that lead to the enhancement of the introductory physics courses for the life sciences taken by about 200,000 students per year and the materials, both text and online, and laboratory experiments used by those students. Special efforts are being made to involve all types of higher education institutions and to ensure the participation of faculty from minority-serving institutions by using personal recruitment and by providing some travel subsidies.

Effective start/end date9/1/138/31/15


  • National Science Foundation: $97,513.00


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