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Carl Wieman

ADW-PAL Carl Wieman
Carl Wieman

Carl Wieman
Full visit: September 25-29, 2023

  • Professor, Physics, Stanford University
  • Professor, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University
  • ADW-PAL term: 2019-25
  • Subject Area: Physical Sciences
  • Faculty host: Peter LePage (Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Physics)

Carl Wieman holds a joint appointment as Professor of Physics and of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University.  He is known for his work in atomic and optical physics. In 2001, Wieman was awarded winning the Nobel Prize for Physics for the first creation of a Bose-Einstein condensate, that realized a prediction of Einstein in 1924 and launched a new field of research.  He is also a major figure nationally and internationally in science education research. For decades, Wieman had two research groups; one in atomic/optical physics, and the other working on science education research at the college level.  In recent years that has been his sole focus.

Wieman’s education research has pioneered the use of rigorous experimental techniques to develop and evaluate teaching strategies for effective college-level science teaching. His work is also notable for how it has applied the results of cognitive psychology research on learning to college-level instruction.   He has published over 100 articles in this subject, most of which contain insights that can be exploited immediately by college science and engineering teachers to improve their teaching.

His group also created PhET, a suite of almost 100 research-based computer simulations that are now accessed more than 100 million times a year by students from grade four through college.  He has also carried out the largest experiment in the institutional change of teaching through his Science Education Initiative which transformed the teaching of hundreds of science of faculty and hundreds of thousands of credit hours from traditional lectures to research-based instructional practices, at the Universities of Colorado and British Columbia.

Wieman has become highly influential in the growing movement to implement results from education research in science courses at colleges and universities across the country. He persuaded the National Academies of Science and Engineering to create a new Board on Science Education and was its (founding) chair. He was instrumental in convincing the nation’s leading physics journal, Physical Review, to create a special journal for physics education research, and was the founding chair of its editorial board.

Wieman was appointed Associate Director for Science in the Obama White House’s Office of Science and Technology, with a broad mandate to promote science education research and its implementation. These activities helped put science education research and its implementation at the top of the agenda for the national science and university organizations, including the National Academies, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and professional societies like the American Physical Society.

Wieman’s work in education has led to a long list of national and international awards from the Carnegie Foundation, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Physical Society, the Council of Scientific Societies, and the National Science Teachers Association, among others.