Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman to Give HMC Commencement Speech

January 9, 2013

Carl Wieman, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics and advocate for science education
Carl Wieman, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics and advocate for science education

Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman, professor of physics and director of the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia, will deliver the keynote address for Harvey Mudd College’s 55th Commencement ceremony 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19, 2013.

“Harvey Mudd College is committed to transforming undergraduate education in science and engineering, and Professor Wieman’s dedication to improving science education and his contributions to physics research are particularly inspiring for our students, faculty and staff,” said HMC President Maria Klawe.

Wieman received the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for the creation of the first Bose–Einstein condensation, a new form of matter predicted in 1924 by Albert Einstein. Bose-Einstein condensation occurs at ultralow temperatures, and it has led to many advances in the understanding and control of atoms at the quantum level.

Throughout much of his career, Wieman has had research interests in both atomic physics and the quantitative study of undergraduate science education.
An outspoken advocate for improving science education, Wieman asserts a more scientifically informed population will be better prepared to deal with national and global problems. He aims to transform science education by encouraging the widespread use of effective, research-based teaching practices. Wieman’s education research focuses on the detailed analysis of how scientists think, and how to most effectively teach this scientific thinking.

Wieman founded the Science Education Initiative at the University of Colorado (CU) and the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia. The two centers work to improve teaching in large, research-intensive science departments by creating and rigorously testing innovative teaching methods and technologies.

While at CU Boulder, he also launched the Physics Education Technology Project (PhET), a group that creates, and studies the effectiveness of, online interactive simulations for teaching about natural-world phenomena and their underlying scientific concepts. Students and teachers from more than 200 countries run PhET’s simulations more than 35 million times a year.

In 2010, Wieman was appointed associate director for science in the Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, with responsibility for science research and science and engineering education. For two years, he helped drive the White House’s effort to improve science and math education.

Wieman’s education work has been recognized with the National Science Foundation’s Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award (2001), the Carnegie Foundation’s U.S. University Professor of the Year Award (2004) and the American Association of Physics Teachers’ Oersted Medal (2007). He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and was founding chair of the Academy Board on Science Education and has been involved in many other national science education efforts. He is also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Education.