PICUP Community

PICUP Member Spotlight

Josh Samani
When I began teaching physics to undergraduates three years ago, it quickly became painfully clear that my department's curriculum lacked a sufficient integration of computational curriculum into our courses to adequately prepare our undergraduates for jobs in both academia and industry.

Computation has become an inescapable part of essentially every working physicist's workflow.  Even when I was a physics graduate student studying high-energy theoretical physics, a subject that doesn't typically lean heavily on numerical methods, I relied on Mathematica to perform my symbolic computational heavy lifting.  In other fields and in many STEM industry jobs, computation is even more prominent in day-to-day operations.  For this reason alone, it's worthwhile to make sure that our physics undergraduates obtain training in computation.

But when I started teaching and began to think systematically about cognitive learning outcomes for my students, it became clear that computational instruction is useful for more than just career preparation.  Solving physics problems by writing computer programs is an inherently metacognitive activity.  When you make a programming error, an error message immediately alerts you to evaluate what you've produced.  When you make a physics error in a simulation, you may find behaviors that you know don't make intuitive sense, and you are forced to re-evaluate the model you've constructed.  There are so many other ways that computation helps students build powerful cognitive skills.

Being a part of PICUP has helped me co-design and teach both a project-based computational physics course and a computational honors seminar for physics majors -- it is an incredible support network.  The PICUP summer workshop was instrumental in helping me sharpen my vision for how I wanted to approach computational curriculum design, and interacting with PICUPers at AAPT meetings has enriched my view of what's possible in computational curriculum.  The PICUP online community on slack also keeps me connected to the broader community of educators with similar goals, and it is a wonderful resource for practical advice on implementation of pedagogies.

I look forward to watching PICUP continue to grow and help physics instructors everywhere discover the joys of using computation in enriching the educational experiences of students.  Computation has helped physics come alive for my students, and it has made the teaching of physics even more fun and engaging than I already felt it was.

Spotlight Archive


PICUP Virtual Meetings

February 2018 Virtual Meeting

February 27th, 2018 - 8pm ET

Todd Zimmerman will share some of his work to integrate computation in advanced lab and lead a discussion around using computation in labs.

Most Recent Meeting

January 2018 Virtual Meeting - Michelle Kuchera presented on pair programming.

Meeting Archive


For online community interaction, PICUP uses the team communication environment at slack.com.  The slack channels range from bulletin board-type announcements of events and activities of PICUP interest to in-depth discussions on how to integrate computational activities into introductory and advanced undergraduate physics courses.

Hit the SLACK logo below to request an invitation to join the PICUP TEAM at SLACK

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