Precis - California State University, Fullerton

Program Performance Review
Department of Physics, BS, MS
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Dr. Murtadha A. Khakoo, Chairman
September 16, 2008
During the 2005-06 academic year the Department of Physics conducted a Program
Performance Review (PPR). The department’s self-study detailed the activities of the
department since the last PPR. The department’s self study succinct but with appropriate
detail was centered on the SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)
model. The self-study and seven year plan is the result of discussions, department faculty
meetings as well as a departmental retreat. An external review team reviewed the selfstudy, interviewed the Dean, Associate Dean, faculty, staff and students and issued a
report of its findings. The external review team included: Peter Siegel, Physics
Department, CSU Pomona, James Hoffman, Liberal Studies Department and William
Gearhart, Mathematics Department.
Also, available for review is the Dean’s summary of findings and recommendations.
Key Data
The Department of Physics is a relatively small department with 8.5 faculty members
(tenured/tenure track) in 2005 (last reported data) the department generated 198.2 FTES
exceeding its target of 185. A master’s program was added in 1996-97. The department
has graduated an average of 8 undergrads per year over the last six years and for the
master’s program an average of 4 per year. The master’s target enrollment was 25 in
2003 the program enrolled 23 students. Since that date there has been a decline in
graduate enrollment. According to the external report these numbers compare favorably
with similar comparable Physics programs it is pointed out that the 8 undergraduate
average is above comparable programs that usually graduate 5 yearly.
Key Issues
One of the key issues confronting the department is enrollment both undergraduate and
graduate. The department has taken some steps to increase enrollment through general
education and offering the Dan Black Physics/Business Program and participating
(offering courses) in the Streamlined Teacher Education Program (STEP) e.g.
But according to the external report and the self-study such efforts to increase enrollment
requires more faculty. And presently faculty have heavy teaching loads. It was
recommended that the number of tenure track faculty be increased to 12. The current
allocation of faculty is 12.2. The SFR for the department is just over 15 and this
approximates the CSU average for physics departments. While the graduate program is
considered to be a strength of the department as acknowledged by the external team as
well as what was noted in the self-study it is threatened by the limited number of full time
faculty, the department has as a result combined some graduate and undergraduate
classes jeopardizing academic rigor.
The department boasts a strong faculty actively engaged in research and grant
procurement. Total funding for 1999-2006 is $2.9 million. The department is also
committed to the involvement of students in research activities and has received national
recognition in this regard.
The department has identified that it needs to find ways to attract more women and
minorities to the major. This is especially important given the demographic profile of the
Outcomes Assessment
Ironically, the Physics department was one of only a few departments/programs at the
university that has not responded to any of the university’s calls for the submission of
learning goals and student learning outcomes. But, the self-study of the department sets
out clearly a set of learning goals especially for undergraduates. The self-study asserts
that the department expects that all students will have a working knowledge of classical
and modern physics sufficient to allow them to work effectively in entry-level positions
of education, industry or government. And students will have sufficient background for
entry into both M.S. and PhD programs in physics or allied fields. Though listed as
learning goals (actually student learning outcomes) Graduates in with a B.S. in Physics
Demonstrate understanding of force, energy and momentum and apply this
understanding to predict and describe motion.
Demonstrate understanding of thermodynamics and thermodynamic properties of
Demonstrate understanding waves and wave propagation.
Demonstrate understanding of electricity, magnetism, the relationship between
electric and magnetic phenomena, and electromagnetic forces and waves.
Demonstrate understanding of modern physics, including quantum theory,
relativity and elementary particles.
Use the scientific method to ask questions, formulate hypotheses, design and
conduct experiments, analyze data and ultimately communicate results by various
Use modern laboratory equipment including advanced computer hardware and
software and instances where they have worked individually with faculty in
conducting research, can contribute to the research knowledge base.
As for the M.S. program the department points out that the study of physics is “vertically
integrated” (students must continually return to the topics as they climb through the
curriculum) so the learning goals/outcomes are largely the same for the M.S. degree as
the B.S. degree only at a more advanced level. There are three options for MS students
including thesis, project, and comprehensive examination.
Next steps for the department in assessment is the articulation of assessment measures
and strategies and utilization of information for improvement.
The Physics Department’s mission is “we aspire to combine the best qualities of teaching
and research to expand knowledge of the discipline of physics to our students”. The
department has identified two goals: grow the department in terms of the number of
faculty and their specialization and the number of majors, and graduate students and
expand general education in the mix of course offerings and increase enrollments in the
lower division service courses.
The Department has a strong foundation upon which to pursue its goals. The external
reviewers state that department has outstanding faculty members and maintains very
successful B.S and M.S. programs. And the department has a small but dedicated
professionally active faculty committed to science and technology. Importantly, the
Physics department has used the program review as process to plan for the future – the
self-study and the seven year plan are its blueprint.