PRECIS Program Performance Review Department of Physics, BS, MS College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dr. Murtadha A. Khakoo, Chairman September 16, 2008 Background 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. PHYS/CHEM 102. 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 university. 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 can: Demonstrate understanding of force, energy and momentum and apply this understanding to predict and describe motion. Demonstrate understanding of thermodynamics and thermodynamic properties of materials. 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 methods. 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. Outlook 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.