Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Some reflections on peer review

Peer review is a fundamental pillar of the dissemination and validation of scientific knowledge. A considerable portion of this process operates on a voluntary basis, involving contributions from paper referees to journal editors. While there are commercial journals that employ professional editors, the core reviewing process still relies on unpaid researchers who offer their time and expertise. 

It is my belief that peer review plays an indispensable role in the training and professional development of every scientist. It fosters the ability to understand and critically evaluate the research contributions of fellow scholars within the scientific community. Some of the younger readers may wonder how to engage in peer review, so let me offer one piece of advice. Many journals actively (and sometimes desperately) seek qualified reviewers, often advertising opportunities through their websites, social media channels, etc. In addition to that, graduate students can assist their advisors with peer review activities. Some journals even encourage such involvement and offer credit.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

The physics degree of the future

Traditionally, physics education has always focused on theory and academic research. However, as we look to the future, it is important to consider the evolving needs of students and how physics can help society. In the following, I will provide a list of ideas that focus on making physics education better by including new topics, practical skills, and teaching methods. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Applications of magnetism -- magnetic recording and spintronics as an example

Fridge magnets and compasses. These are two of the most well-known applications of magnetism. Some people may also be familiar with magnetic stripe cards and cassette tapes. However, many other exciting applications of magnetism exist that are often overlooked in high-school physics classes. Today, I will consider the example of magnetic recording and spintronics to create more awareness about the fascinating applications of magnetism. This discussion aims to motivate educators and students to place more focus on this topic and, more generally, the field of materials physics.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Physics education research in 2024

Happy New Year! I hope that 2024 has started on a positive note for everyone. In my first blog post of the year, I aim to discuss the physics education research (PER) topics that are likely to be of greatest importance in the next months. Subsequently, I will give a brief outlook to PER-related events and conferences. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Exploring hot topics in condensed matter physics and materials science

Lately, I have been contemplating hot topics in condensed matter physics and materials science that could be interesting for students seeking a suitable research group to carry out their PhD or B.Sc./M.Sc. research projects. I want to share my personal list with the readers of this blog. Disclaimer: Certainly, this list is incomplete and possibly highly subjective. Nevertheless, I do believe that it may serve as an inspiration for interested readers. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Navigating nonlinear career paths -- a personal perspective

Today, I would like to share my personal motivation for studying physics and eventually pursuing a PhD. You will realize that my motivation has changed quite a bit over time, but I firmly believe that I always followed my heart and trusted my instincts. Perhaps the main takeaway from this blog post is this: Always follow your passion, stay open to new opportunities, and do not view shifting gears as a negative thing. I hope that my personal story will inspire some of the readers and encourage folks to chase their dreams. While many steps in my CV may seem logical and straightforward, I would state that, in some regards, my career has taken a nonlinear path.
My initial passion was astrophysics. As a kid, I was captivated by documentaries on German cable TV that dealt with black holes, supernovae, comets and the Big Bang. I also loved watching the science-fiction series "Stargate" and admired the role of the astrophysicist Dr. Samantha Carter, who could eloquently explain everything that is going on in the universe. In high school, physics was not necessarily my best subject, but I certainly did enjoy it. Other contendors for my future college major were computer science and electrical engineering, but ultimately I decided to pick physics. My decision was primarily driven by the hope to find answers to the big questions about the universe while still being able to secure a decent job in the future, since physicists appeared to be in reasonably great demand in the job market.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Post-lecture emails to students

A few days ago, I came across the following blog post by Dr. Brokk Toggerson, a physics lecturer from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst: 

"Reflections on Physics 132 Spring ’22 Part II – Something that has been evolving for a few semesters: After-class broadcasts"

This post really resonated with me, and I am glad to share it on my own Physics Education blog along with a few comments of mine. I started following a similar approach back when I was a teaching assistant for various physics, mathematics and computer science courses during my undergraduate and graduate studies, and to this day I am strongly convinced that this is a great way to enhance the students' learning experience. Personally, I think that this approach is applicable both for large enrollment courses (such as Dr. Toggerson's 600-student lecture) and smaller classes.      

Monday, November 13, 2023

"Any questions? No? Great, let's move on." -- Wait time and awkward silence in the classroom

I have no doubt that every educator is familiar with the following situation:

 "Are there any questions?"

"What is a harmonic oscillator?"

 "What is the difference between a metal and an insulator?"


We ask an (open-ended) question to engage our students and start looking around at their faces in the lecture hall or classroom. Most students seem to look down at their desk or simply stare into space. After what feels like eternity, we decide to break the awkward silence and answer the question ourselves -- or, in the case of the "Are there any questions?"-question, we would say something along the line of "No? Great, let's move on to the next chapter." 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The rise of artificial intelligence -- transforming education, industry, and daily life

This is a slightly modified version of an article that has appeared in the most recent Newsletter (September 2023 issue) of the IEEE Magnetics Society. I have tried to provide a very basic overview of artificial intelligence and its impact on our society. As this also includes physics education, I have decided to share a draft of this article as a blogpost. Certainly, I am aware that this is a highly controversial topic. As you may realize during reading, the main theme of the Newsletter issue was superheroes. Please feel free to share your own opinion down in the comments section or reach out to me directly via email: lonskymartin@gmail.com. Also, please take a look the the IEEE Magnetics Society Newsletter if you are interested.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a game-changer in various fields, revolutionizing the way we live, learn, and work. In the context of science and technology education, AI has opened up new frontiers, empowering both educators and learners to explore complex problems, develop innovative solutions, and shape the future. In this article, we will analyze the current and future impact of AI on education, with a particular focus on the role of ChatGPT. Additionally, we will touch on the influence of AI on the industry, engineering practices, and daily life. In doing so, we will also discuss potential dangers and controversial topics associated with AI.

Some reflections on peer review

Peer review is a fundamental pillar of the dissemination and validation of scientific knowledge. A considerable portion of this process oper...