PICUP Community

PICUP Member Spotlight

Michelle Kuchera
Davidson College
Davidson, NC

As a computational scientist, I have found that computation can inform and assist in the progression of science in research and industry. It is no different in the classroom.
Computation enables students to solve problems that are impossible or intractable to solve by hand. This provides students with tools to calculate or visualize more realistic physics phenomena.

I knew that I would implement computation in my undergraduate courses from the start of my career as a professor. When I heard from fellow faculty about PICUP, I knew immediately that I would be a part of it. In fact, I signed up for the first workshop before I even started my faculty position! PICUP has been invaluable to me as a young faculty member interested in incorporating computation into my courses. The online exercise set bank is a great starting point for creating student activities. If it wasn't for the PICUP summer workshop and online resources, I would not have been able to incorporate computation in my lab section during my first semester at Davidson College.

I implement computation as interactive python activities using Jupyter notebooks and Trinkets in the laboratory or classroom for introductory-level classes. These activities are intended to enhance understanding of a topic; therefore, working code is supplied for them to edit in an environment where I am able to readily assist them. In upper level courses, I intend to expect an understanding of numerical methods so that they can be used to solve more realistic or difficult problems than we deal with analytically. These computational skills are developed in my Computational Physics course, which is often taken by physics majors in the Sophomore year.

My hope is that computation becomes an integrated tool for learning in the undergraduate curriculum. It is rewarding to see students in the introductory level courses get excited about the coding activities, and thus actively engage with the physics material. After physics majors complete Computational Physics, it is rewarding to hear that they are still using code from that course in other classes, as well as using python to solve problems in other classes or in their everyday life. Teaching students to code in the physics curriculum provides the students with a problem-solving skillset that they can use for the rest of their lives. I am incredibly happy that PICUP exists as a way to support faculty that have these same academic interests, and I look forward to being a part of the PICUP community for a long time.

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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