## John R. Thompson

Professor of Physics and Department Chair

Member, Maine Center for Research in STEM Education

Cooperating Professor of STEM Education

- B.S. Physics (cum laude), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1990
- Sc.M. Physics, Brown University, 1992
- Ph.D. Physics, Brown University, 1998

**Office:** 117 Bennett Hall

**Phone #:** (207) 581-1015

thompsonj <at> maine <dot> edu

Recent Abridged CV (January 2017)

#### Website at the Physics Education Research Laboratory: Group Personal

**Research Interests**

**Research Interests**

Physics Education Research – research on the learning and teaching of physics – including research-based curriculum development.

- Learning and teaching of specific physics concepts at the undergraduate level, at introductory and advanced levels. Identifying specific student conceptual difficulties, and addressing difficulties through development of guided-inquiry instructional materials.
- Student understanding at “the mathematics-physics interface”: how student understanding of mathematics concepts influences understanding of physics concepts, and vice-versa; how students apply mathematics to physical situations; how students make physical meaning of mathematics. Primary mathematics area is calculus (single- and multivariable).
- The preparation and professional development of K-12 teachers to teach physics and physical science. In particular, how teachers recognize student conceptual difficulties with the content, and what they do to help students learn.

**Research**

*Current active research topics*

#### Student understanding at the interface between mathematics and physics concepts, especially of mathematics that is relevant for understanding certain physics topics

- the extent to which, and how, students evaluate problem solutions
- construction and use of multivariable coordinate system differential elements
- using conceptual blending in modeling equation construction
- integration in the context of process variables and state functions

*Prior and recurring research topics*

- understanding and application of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus based in graphical representations in mathematics and physics
- partial differentiation in the contexts of material properties and the Maxwell relations
- use of Taylor series expansions in statistical mechanics (recent article)

- probability in the context of statistical distributions

*Previous projects*

#### Student understanding of thermal physics at advanced undergraduate levels in physics

(project overview poster)

- work, heat transfer, and internal energy, especially related to the use of pressure-volume

*(P-V)*diagrams - entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics
- student models for entropy, in the context of ideal gas processes
- student application of the Second Law to heat engines and thermodynamic cyclic processes (recent article)
- comparisons of student understanding across chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and physics

#### Understanding of teaching and learning in physics by graduate students and teachers, and the interplay between *specialized content knowledge* and *pedagogical content knowledge* (knowledge of the teaching and learning of a topic).

- The relationship between teacher content knowledge, teacher pedagogical knowledge, and student learning, in middle school physical science, in force and motion
- Part of the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership

*Other topics of interest*

- Student understanding of magnetic fields and representations thereof, and in particular of the magnetic structure of flexible refrigerator magnets
- Student understanding of concepts in 9th- and 12th-grade physics courses:

investigating the*Physics First*movement - Student understanding of vectors and vector operations
- Student understanding of two-dimensional kinematics, including the context dependence of that understanding and the interpretations of different representations. Development and assessment of curriculum that emphasizes conceptual understanding and transfer to different contexts.
- Conceptual understanding of sound at both the introductory level and among preservice and inservice K-12 teachers. Development of curriculum on sound aimed at elementary teachers, and on longitudinal waves aimed at introductory physics students.

**Recent Publications**

**Peer-reviewed journal articles**

**B. P. Schermerhorn**and**J. R. Thompson**, “Physics students’ construction of differential length vectors in an unconventional spherical coordinate system,”*Physical Review Physics Education Research***15,**010111 (2019).**B. P. Schermerhorn**and**J. R. Thompson**, “Physics students’ construction and checking of differential volume elements in an unconventional spherical coordinate system,”*Physical Review Physics Education Research***15,**010112 (2019).**R.R. Bajracharya**and**J.R. Thompson**, “Analytical derivation: An epistemic game for solving mathematically based physics problems,”*Physical Review Physics Education Research***12,**010124 (2016).- T.I. Smith,
**D.B. Mountcastle**, and**J.R. Thompson**, “Student understanding of the Boltzmann factor,”*Physical Review**ST – Phys. Educ. Res.***11**, 020123 (2015). - T.I. Smith, W.M. Christensen,
**D.B. Mountcastle**, and**J.R. Thompson**, “Identifying student difficulties with heat engines, entropy, and the Carnot cycle,”*Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res.***11**, 020116 (2015). - T. I. Smith,
**J. R. Thompson**and**D. B. Mountcastle**, “Student understanding of Taylor series expansions in statistical mechanics,”*Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res.***9,**020110 (2013). - W. M. Christensen and
**J. R. Thompson**, “Investigating graphical representations of slope and derivative without a physics context,”*Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res.***8**, 023101 (2012). **J. R. Thompson**, W. M. Christensen, and**M. C. Wittmann**, “Preparing future teachers to anticipate student difficulties in physics in a graduate-level course in physics, pedagogy, and education research,”*Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res.***7**, 010108 (2011); reprinted in*Teacher Education in Physics: Research, Curriculum, and Practice**,*D.E. Meltzer and P.S. Shaffer, Eds., pp. 91-102 (American Physical Society, 2011).*This book was distributed to every physics department chair in the United States.*- M.J. O’Brien and
**J.R. Thompson**, “Effectiveness of ninth-grade physics in Maine: Conceptual understanding,”*The Physics Teacher***47**(4), 234-239 (2009). **M.C. Wittmann**and**J.R. Thompson**, “Integrated approaches in physics education: A graduate level course in physics, pedagogy, and education research,”*American Journal of Physics***76**(7), 677-683 (2008).

**Peer-reviewed conference proceedings**

**B. P. Schermerhorn**and**J. R. Thompson**, “Connecting Physics Students’ Conceptual Understanding to Symbolic Forms Using a Conceptual Blending Framework,” in (Eds.) A. Weinberg, C. Rasmussen, J. Rabin, M. Wawro, and S. Brown,*Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education,*San Diego, California, 1607-1608 (2018). http://sigmaa.maa.org/rume/RUME21.pdf**B. P. Schermerhorn**and**J. R. Thompson**, “Student determination of differential area elements in upper-division physics,” 2017 PERC Proceedings [Cincinnati, OH, July 26-27, 2017], edited by L. Ding, A. Traxler, and Y. Cao (2017), doi: 10.1119/perc.2017.pr.084.- V. L. Sealey and
**J. R. Thompson**, “Students’ interpretation and justification of ‘backward’ definite integrals,” in*Proceedings o**f the 19th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education*(Mathematical Association of America, 2016). **R. R. Bajracharya**and**J. R. Thompson**, “Student application and understanding of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus at the mathematics-physics interface,”*Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education*(Mathematical Association of America, 2014).**J. W. Clark**,**J. R. Thompson**, and**D. B. Mountcastle**, “Investigating Student Conceptual Difficulties in Thermodynamics Across Multiple Disciplines: The First Law and*P-V*Diagrams,”*Proceedings of 121st ASEE*(American Society for Engineering Education)*Annual Conference and Exposition*(2014). http://www.asee.org/public/conferences/32/papers/10903/view**J. W. Clark**,**J. R. Thompson**and**D. B. Mountcastle**, “Comparing Student Conceptual Understanding of Thermodynamics in Physics and Engineering,” in*2012 Physics Education Research Conference,*N.S. Rebello, P. Engelhardt, A.D. Churukian, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings**1513**, 102-105 (2013). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4789662.- T. I. Smith,
**D. B. Mountcastle**and**J. R. Thompson**, “Identifying Student Difficulties with Conflicting Ideas in Statistical Mechanics,” in*2012 Physics Education Research Conference,*N.S. Rebello, P. Engelhardt, A.D. Churukian, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings**1513**, 386-389 (2013). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4789733. **R. R. Bajracharya**, T. M. Wemyss,**J. R. Thompson**, “Student interpretation of the signs of definite integrals using graphical representations,” in*2011 Physics Education Research Conference,*C. Singh, N.S. Rebello, P. Engelhardt, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings**1413**, 111-114 (2012), given by the Physics Education Research Leadership and Organizing Committee. Selected as a finalist because it is noteworthy in terms of the quality of research, readability and impact on the PER Community.)*Finalist, 2011 PERC (Physics Education Research Conference) Proceedings Paper Award*

- T. M. Wemyss,
**R. R. Bajracharya**,**J. R. Thompson**, and J. F. Wagner, “Student understanding of integration in the context and notation of thermodynamics: Concepts, representations, and transfer,” in*Proceedings of the 14th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education**,*eds. S. Brown, S. Larsen, K. Marrongelle, M. Oehrtman (Mathematical Association of America, 2011). **J.M. Hawkins**,**J.R. Thompson**,**M.C. Wittmann**, E.C. Sayre, and B.W. Frank, “Students’ Responses To Different Representations Of A Vector Addition Question,” in*2010 Physics Education Research Conference,*M. Sabella, C. Singh, N.S. Rebello, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings**1289**, 165-168 (2010).- T.I. Smith,
**J.R. Thompson**and**D.B. Mountcastle**, “Addressing Student Difficulties with Statistical Mechanics: The Boltzmann Factor,” in*2010 Physics Education Research Conference,*M. Sabella, C. Singh, N.S. Rebello, eds., AIP Conference Proceedings**1289**, 305-308 (2010).*Finalist, 2010 PERC Proceedings Paper Award**Cited in***Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering,***Susan R. Singer, Natalie R. Nielsen, and Heidi A. Schweingruber, Editors; Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research; Board on Science Education; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council (2012).*

**Current Service Highlights**

- Chair (and co-founder), American Physical Society Topical Group on Physics Education Research Executive Committee (nationally elected office): Vice Chair, 2016; Chair-Elect, 2017; Chair, 2018; Past Chair, 2019.
- Participant, Congressional Visits Day, American Physical Society, Washington, DC: 25 January 2017; 1 Feb 2018; 7 June 2018.
- Co-organizer, 2017 Physics Education Research Conference, “Mathematization in Physics Education Research,” Covington, KY, 26-27 July 2017.
- Co-organizer, /2017 Transforming Research on Undergraduate STEM Education,/ The University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, 5-9 July 2017; as co-PI of NSF grant DUE-1551038.

**Awards/Honors**

- Fulbright Scholar, 2008-2009, School of Physics, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland
- Finalist, 2011 Physics Education Research Conference (PERC) Proceedings Paper Award
- Finalist, 2010 PERC Paper Award
- Dean’s Award of Excellence in Engineering Physics program, College of Engineering, 2007-2008
- Honorary Engineer, Francis Crowe Society, College of Engineering, University of Maine