The Physics Education Group is made up of a diverse team of faculty, lecturers, and graduate students. Below are short biographies of the current members of the group, contact information, and web page links. The Physics Department pages will give more information about the courses that out faculty and lecturers have taught, and you can search the Research pages to find publications by our group members.


Lillian C. McDermott | C208A | Physics Department Web Page

Lillian C. McDermott is a Professor of Physics and Director of the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington. She received her B.A. from Vassar College and a Ph.D. in experimental nuclear physics from Columbia University (1959). She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. Among her most significant awards are the 2002 Medal of the International Commission of Physics Education (International Union of Pure and Applied Physics), 2001 Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers (the highest award of the AAPT), the 2000 Education Research Award of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, and the 1990 Millikan Lecture Award of the AAPT. The American Physical Society selected the Physics Education Group as the recipient of the 2008 Excellence in Education Award. The group conducts a coordinated program of research, curriculum development, and instruction and has worked to establish research on the learning and teaching of physics as a field for scholarly inquiry by physicists.

Peter Shaffer | C218 | Physics Department Web Page

Peter S. Shaffer is a Professor in the Physics Department. He joined the UW Physics Education Group in 1985 and has been deeply involved in the development of both Tutorials in Introductory Physics and Physics by Inquiry. Some of his current work includes examining student understanding of electric circuits, kinematics, dynamics, spectroscopy, and introductory quantum mechanics. He is also involved in research to probe student scientific reasoning ability.

Paula Heron | C208B | Physics Department Web Page
B.Sc., Physics, University of Ottawa, 1990M.Sc., Physics, University of Ottawa, 1991Ph.D., Theoretical Physics, University of Western Ontario, 1995

Paula R.L. Heron is a Professor of Physics at the University of Washington. Dr. Heron’s research focuses on the development of conceptual understanding in topics including mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and thermal physics and on the development of formal reasoning skills. She is the co-Founder and co-Chair of the biannual “Foundations and Frontiers in Physics Education Research” conference series, the premier venue for physics education researchers in North America. She has served on the Executive Committee of the Forum on Education and the Topical Group on Physics Education Research of the American Physical Society (APS), the Committee on Research in Physics Education of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and on the ad hoc National Research Council committee on the status and outlook for undergraduate physics education. Dr. Heron co-chaired a joint task force of the APS and AAPT that produced the report Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st Century Careers. She also serves as Associate Editor of Physical Review – PER. She was elected Fellow of the APS In 2007, and in 2008 she shared the APS Education award with colleagues Peter Shaffer and Lillian McDermott.

Suzanne White Brahmia

Suzanne White Brahmia is a Professor of Physics at the University of Washington. Her primary research area is mathematization in physics: Novice-to-expert transition, Quantification, Proportional Reasoning, Negativity, Symbolizing, Covariational reasoning, Inventing with Contrasting Cases. She is also currently exploring the impacts of Assessable Learning Objectives (ALOs) on teaching and learning: Standardizing ALOs across the introductory curriculum, Impact of ALOs on student learning and on faculty practices. See her professional page for more detail on these and other areas in which she is, or has been, active.​


Donna Messina

Donna, a former high school teacher, has been working with PEG since 1999. She received her undergraduate degree from Loyola University (New Orleans) and a masters degree in education from Seattle University. In 2008 she received a PhD in Education from the University of Washington, focusing her research on the effects of professional development on K-12 teacher practice. Since joining the PEG, she has been an instructor in physics courses for preservice physics and math teachers and an instructor in the Summer Institute in Physics and Physical Science for Inservice Teachers, the NSF-funded professional development program conducted by the PEG.


Alexis Olsho | C241


Graduate Students

Anne Alesandrini

Anne is a former high school teacher and current graduate student with the Physics Education Group with research interests that include metacognition, dual process theory, and student explanation. She also spends a lot of time thinking about equity in education and physics.

Jared Canright | C221

Jared is a second-year graduate student exploring the applications of virtual and augmented reality technologies (VR and AR) to physics education, particularly in electromagnetism and relativity. His current projects are a VR lab teaching Gauss's Law using Oculus Quest headsets and a VR special relativity simulator using MIT Game Lab's OpenRelativity package. Check his Twitter to see what he's been working on recently!

Sheh Lit Chang| C221

Graduate student since 2014, working on student understanding of motions

Lisa Goodhew | C221

Lisa is a graduate student studying students conceptual resources--pieces of knowledge that are activated in the moment to form explanations or concepts--for wave phenomena. She is especially intrigued by the ways that the resources students use may be consistent with scientific thinking, and is interested in how these ideas might be leveraged in physics instruction.

Bert Xue | C221

Joining the group in Summer of 2014, Bert has been involved with the development of tutorials in the upper-division electromagnetism course sequence. His research interests are seeing how students apply superposition in integration, use symmetry arguments, and interpret vector derivatives.

Charlotte Zimmerman

Charlotte is a first-year graduate student and a new member of PEG. She is currently working with Suzanne Brahmia on proportional reasoning, negativity, and covariational reasoning, as well as attempting to pass her qualifying exams!