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Research Projects

Here's what I've been up. The projects are in reverse chronological order.

Does the physics GRE help students stand out in the admissions process? (MSU)

One common justification for keeping the physics GRE is that helps applicants who might be missed in the admissions process stand out. The goal of this project is to see if that claim is supposed by data.

In fact, we find the opposite. For many of the applicants who might be able to benefit from a high score, they didn't actually benefit. Further, some otherwise competitive applicants had lower chances of admission due to their scores.

Understanding Graduate Admissions in Physics (Michigan State University)

As physics has remained one of the least diverse STEM fields, increasing attention is directed toward the admission practices of graduate programs. There are many components to a quality graduate application and I am interested in how those components of the application influence whether the admission committee will accept or reject the student.

For this project, I used the Random Forest algorithm to determine which features of the application are most predictive of an applicant being admitted to a program. For one Midwestern school, the applicants' physics GRE score and their undergraduate GPA were able to predict with 75% accuracy whether they would be admitted.


PERbites is a site devoted to making the results of physics education accessible to those outside of the PER community. The site is one of about a dozen in the ScienceBites community, which consists of graduate students and postdocs from around the world working to present their research fields in understandable ways to those outside of the field.

Using Random Forests to determine important features for integrating computation into physics courses (Michigan State University)

Random Forests are a powerful machine learning algorithm to understand complex data sets. In this project, I used Random Forests to understand why physics faculty choose to include computation/programming in their physics courses. I found that using computation in their research with students or believing that computation allows one to bring in new physics and new problems into the classroom are the biggest predictors.

Student Understanding of Period, Frequency, and Angular Frequency (The Ohio State University)

In this project, I investigated student difficulties with determining the period, frequenc y, and angular frequency from graphical and mathematical representations. The goals of this project were to determine what these difficulties are, determine if the skills needed to answer period, frequency, and angular frequency are arranged hierarchically, and determine if any found difficulties can be overcome with limited skills practice.

Photonics Careers Project (Rochester Institute of Technology)

The goal of this project is to understand how technicians, engineers, and researchers transition from school to the workplace. I specifically focused on how math is used in the workplace.

More information about the project can be found at www.rit.edu/power

C3PO: Customizable Computer Coaches for Physics Online (University of Minnesota)

C3PO builds off of the University of Minnesota's previous problem solving work to construct online coaches to help students solve specific, context-rich problems based on their problem solving technique. My role in the project was to update one of the version 1 oscillatory motion coaches, which used a linear progression through the problem, into a version 2 coach, which use a nonlinear structure and allow the student to take alternative routes to the solution.

To learn more and try out some of the coaches, head to the C3PO coach interface