Carnegie Mellon University

High school physics teachers from around the Pittsburgh region virtually attending the Physics Teacher Professional Development Program

July 19, 2021

Physics Partners with Local Teachers to Inspire Next Generation

By Theresa Gabrielli

On June 28 and 29, high school physics teachers from around the Pittsburgh region virtually attended the inaugural Physics Teacher Professional Development Program, a new outreach program designed to provide participants with resources and guidance to inspire more students to pursue physics.

“High school physics teachers have an enormous impact on getting students excited about physics,” said Assistant Professor of Physics John Alison, who organized the program with the department outreach committee. “We want to develop a program to attract the best young minds into physics, and we think working with high school teachers is one of the most effective ways.”

Over the course of two days, teachers received information on educational and career possibilities for physics students, heard presentations about research happening at Carnegie Mellon University, and were taken on virtual tours of lab facilities. The program was also an opportunity for high school teachers to connect with Carnegie Mellon physics faculty who could visit their classrooms to give seminars, or who have research opportunities available for advanced high school students.

“The department is committed to the idea that ‘Everyone Counts,’ that all people can be inspired by the beauty of physics, and that all of us physicists have a responsibility to convey our excitement to others,” said Scott Dodelson, department head.

Alison believes a program like this could make a difference, since he himself decided to pursue physics after taking it in high school.

“Often students have largely made up their minds about what they want to study by the time they reach us. We hope this program will allow us to motivate students to pursue physics at the critical time when they are deciding what to study in university,” he said.

COVID-19 restrictions required the program to be virtual this year, but Alison and the other organizers plan to make it an annual, in-person event moving forward, setting the foundation for an ongoing relationship between Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh area schools.