PICUP Community

PICUP Member Spotlight

Michele Montgomery
How/what inspired you to get into teaching computation?

I don't teach computation as a course. However, I do include some computation assignments in general education courses like Astronomy to see if these majors are willing to learn difficult physics concepts by this mode and, if they do choose to learn by this mode, do they learn by this mode. I find that all majors can learn by computation but the learning curve is a bit steep for those who have never coded in the past.

Why did you get involved with PICUP?

My Chair sent out the PICUP notice and asked for teams to go to the conference. I was one of a two-member team that attended last year's and this year's workshops.

What benefit has your involvement with PICUP had to you, your teaching, and/or your students?

From my studies, I have found that the students in general education astronomy who have decided to try learning difficult physics concepts by actual coding in python do learn the difficult physics concept. I presented results at the 150th Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference recently and I am working on a conference proceeding on the results of this study.

Tell us a bit about how you use computation in (or outside of) your classroom.

I have used computation in general education astronomy, online and face-to-face, in Astrophysics, and in Space Weather courses. In Astrophysics, students generated code on orbital dynamics and students in Space Weather learned radiometric decay and rate of decay using python. Students in general education astronomy learned about inverse square laws as applied to light and gravity using python. In all cases, since students do not already know python, I give them a working code that they have to first type in and get to run and then modify it using personally selected parameters so that each student has their own product, thus minimizing cheating.

What is your favorite thing about teaching computation?

My favorite thing is reading the free-response answers where students talk about their fears in trying something new, embarking into the new project, and realizing they can learn by this mode, and do learn!

Spotlight Archive


PICUP Virtual Meetings

PICUP Webinar: Why Integrate Computation?

Tuesday, March 10th at 9 PM EDT / 8 PM CDT / 7 PM MDT / 6 PM PDT

It's been almost a decade since the AAPT formally recommended "that every physics and astronomy department  provide its majors and potential majors with appropriate instruction in computational physics." In this webinar we'll explore why young physicists need computational skills and why faculty need to integrate computation deeper into their undergraduate coursework. Join the PICUP for a panel discussion focused on the question "Why integrate computation?"

Have a question you'd like addressed? You can submit it early at https://forms.gle/AFwSzZDdZdLQu9zC9

The URL for joining the webinar via zoom will appear here the day before the meeting.

Most Recent Meeting

PICUP Community Synchronous Meeting (online via zoom) - Monday, December 9 at:
5:00pm PST | 6:00pm MST | 7:00pm CST | 8:00pm EST

Recording available at https://youtu.be/nQS6KoRNwpQ

The Good, the Bad, and the Computational: A Discussion on Your Integration of Computation This Semester

How did you integrate computation into your courses this semester? What worked, what didn't, and why? Bring your experiences for a group discussion of the ups and downs of whatever you tried this semester so we can all learn from each others successes and failures.

Couldn't make a past meeting? Watch past meetings here.


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

slack_mark_web