Program Learning Goals

Our current programmatic goals are items A--C below. 

A. Core Physics Principals and Essential Mathematical Skills: 

Students will be able understand fundamental laws of physics and a strong mathematical foundation to apply the laws to solve standard problems in physics. Specifically, students will be able to:

  1. Use the principles of core areas of physics, including classical mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical physics, and quantum mechanics to solve standard physics problems at a level compatible with admission to graduate programs in physics.
  2. Analyze and interpret qualitative results, both in the core areas of physics and in complex problems that cross multiple discipline areas.
  3. Apply physical laws to solve new problems.

B. Modeling and Analysis skills:    

Students will be able to model a problem and evaluate it. Specifically, students will be able to:

  1. Apply theoretical and computational models to formulate and solve problems in areas outside of the physics core.
  2. Design experiments to test new ideas.
  3. Obtain and analyze data from theoretical models and experiments.
  4. Evaluate the theoretical and experimental results to make sure that they are consistent with existing physical principles.

C. Communication Skills:  Students will be able to convey their knowledge and findings effectively and efficiently either individually or in groups to wide varieties of audiences. Specifically, students will be able to:

  1. Write solution of problems systematically with appropriate mathematical details so that their peers can follow through the steps. 
  2. Write appropriate scientific reports on their research and findings.
  3. Design and prepare posters and slides appropriate for academics as well as to layperson audiences.


We are in our process of evaluating the following J-TUPP goals (items A--D below) as we revise our programmatic learning outcomes.

Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st-Century Careers, A 2016 report by the Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs (J-TUPP) recommends that upon completing an undergraduate physics program, ideally a graduate should be able to [Note: The CU Denver Physics Department is engaged in a process of evaluating these learning goals to identify goals that support our program and values].

A. Physics-Specific Knowledge

A.1. Demonstrate the ability to apply fundamental, crosscutting themes in physics, including conservation laws, symmetry, systems, models and their limitations, the particulate nature of matter, waves, interactions, and fields.

A.2. Demonstrate competency in applying basic laws of physics in classical and quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics and special relativity, and the applications of these laws in areas such as optics, condensed matter physics, and properties of materials.

A.3. Represent basic physics concepts in multiple ways, including mathematically (including through estimations), conceptually, verbally, pictorially, computationally, by simulation, and experimentally.

A.4. Solve problems that involve multiple areas of physics.

A.5. Solve multidisciplinary problems that link physics with other disciplines.

A.6. Demonstrate knowledge of how basic physics concepts are applied in modern technology and apply this knowledge to the solution of applied problems.

B. Scientific and Technical Skills

B.1. Solve complex, ambiguous problems in real-world contexts.

B.1.a. Define and formulate the question or problem, i.e., ask the right question.
B.1.b. Perform literature studies (print and online) to determine what is known about the problem and its context by locating, reading, analyzing, evaluating, interpreting, and citing technical articles; manage scientific and engineering information so that it is actionable.
B.1.c. Perform trade studies to identify the optimum technical solutions among a set of proposed viable solutions, based on applied experience.
B.1.d. Identify appropriate approaches to the question or problem, such as performing an experiment, performing a simulation, developing an analytical model, and making rough estimates based on specific strategies.
B.1.e. Develop one or more strategies to solve the problem and iteratively refine the approach.
B.1.f. Design an appropriate experiment or simulation to address the problem, taking into account precision, repeatability, and signal-to-noise ratio.
B.1.g. Engage in appropriate statistical analysis of results.
B.1.h. Identify resource needs for solving the problem and make decisions or recommendations for beginning or continuing a project based on the balance between opportunity cost and progress made.

B.2. Show how results obtained relate to the original problem, determine follow-on investigations, and place the results in a larger perspective.

B.3. Demonstrate instrumentation competency: competency in basic experimental technologies, including vacuum, electronics, optics, sensors, and data acquisition equipment. This includes basic experimental instrumentation abilities, such as knowing equipment limitations; understanding and using manuals and specifications; building, assembling, integrating, operating, troubleshooting, and repairing equipment; establishing interfaces between apparatus and computers; and calibrating laboratory instrumentation and equipment.

B.3.a. Use basic hand tools.
B.3.b. Interface apparatus to computers using tools such as LabVIEW, MatLab interface modules, and GBIP.
B.3.c. Use laboratory tools such as oscilloscopes, sensors, electronics, optics, vacuum systems, materials fabrication tools, signal digitizers, and signal analyzers.
B.3.d Make effective use of advanced analytical or process tools.

B.4. Demonstrate software competency: competency in learning and using industry-standard computational, design, analysis, and simulation software, and documenting the results obtained for a computation or design. Examples include:

B.4.a. General-purpose computational tools: Excel, MatLab, Mathematica, Maple
B.4.b. Optical computational tools: OpticStudio, CODE V, OSLO, TFCalc

B.4.c. Electrical computational tools: SPICE, PSPICE
B.4.d. Mechanical computational tools: SOLIDWORKS, Pro/ENGINEER B.4.e. Physics computational tools: COMSOL Multiphysics
B.4.f. Educational simulation tools: Physlets, PhET Simulations

B.5. Demonstrate coding competency: competency in writing and executing software programs using a current software language to explore, simulate, or model physical phenomena.

B.6. Demonstrate data analytics competency: competency in analyzing data, including with statistical and uncertainty analysis; distin- guishing between models; and presenting those results with appropriate tables and charts.

C. Communication Skills

C.1.  Communicate with many different audiences from many different cultures and scientific backgrounds, understand each audience and its needs, and make the communication relevant and maximally impactful for that audience.

C.2.  Obtain information and evaluate its accuracy and relevance through reading (print and online), listening, and discussing.

C.3.  Articulate one’s own state of understanding and be persuasive in communicating the worth of one’s own ideas and those of others.

C.4.  Communicate in writing about scientific and technical concepts concisely and completely, and revise writing to achieve grammatically-correct and logically-constructed arguments.

C.5.  Organize and communicate ideas using words, mathematical equations, tables, graphs, pictures, animations, diagrams, and other visualization tools.

C.6.  Teach a complex idea or method to others, use feedback to evaluate the learning achieved, and develop revised strategies for improved learning.

D. Professional/Workplace Skills

D.1. Work collegially and collaboratively in diverse, interdisciplinary teams both as a leader and as a member in pursuing a common goal.

D.2. Identify independently what must be understood, and learn it.

D.3. Generate new ideas.

D.4. Obtain knowledge about existing technology resources relevant for the task at hand. For example: How is the technology made? How does it work? What does it cost? Who tests it? What industries are affected by it? Where are the centers of these industries located? Where can the computational resources needed for the task be found? Which companies make the instrument needed for the experiment, and how do their products differ?

D.5. Demonstrate familiarity with basic workplace concepts. Examples include:

D.5.a. Program and project management, including planning, scheduling, tracking progress, adapting, and working within con- straints

D.5.b. Budgeting and financial management
D.5.c. Quality assessment and assurance
D.5.d. Legal, regulatory, and ethical issues; compliance, intellectual property, and employment law, including issues of workplace behavior with regard to gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, etc.
D.5.e. Effective management of difficult situations, including poor team performers, K-12 classrooms, irate customers, etc. D.5.f. Safety; working with and enhancing the safety culture in the workplace

D.6. Display awareness of regional and national career opportunities and pathways for physics graduates.

D.7. Demonstrate awareness of standard practices for effective résumés and job interviews, as well as professional appearance and behavior. Examples include:

D.7.a. Assessment of one’s skill set and its relevance to the job
D.7.b. Assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses
D.7.c. Interview preparation
D.7.d. Appropriate and effective interview behavior, including appropriate attire and personal grooming D.7.e. Maintaining an informative professional online presence through LinkedIn, etc.

D.8. Demonstrate critical professional and life skills, including completing work on time, optimism, realism, time management, responsibility, respect, commitment, perseverance, independence, resourcefulness, integrity, ethical behavior, and cultural and so- cial competence.

*J-TUPP is a joint task force of: the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers With support from the National Science Foundation