The Challenges and Successes of an Interdisciplinary Approach to Energy in Physics and Biology

Benjamin W. Dreyfus

Department of Physics, University of Maryland - College Park

At the University of Maryland, we are piloting a new physics course for life science majors that seeks to form deep interdisciplinary connections between physics, biology, and chemistry. I will present an overview of the project, which includes significant departures from the traditional introductory physics curriculum in order to emphasize physics topics most relevant to biology. I will focus in particular on energy, a concept that is central to all three disciplines but is typically taught and learned in ways that fail to establish interdisciplinary coherence. Unusually for first-year physics, we have integrated chemical bond energy and Gibbs free energy into the curriculum. Our preliminary research results illustrate the nuances of student reasoning across disciplines.
Last modified: Thu Mar 14 15:39:44 2013