Up from COVID: a 2020/21 vision for teaching and research at Columbia Physics Department

Up from COVID: a 2020/21 vision for teaching and research at Columbia Physics Department

The Columbia Physics Department firmly stands in the vanguard of providing top quality education to all our students and performing groundbreaking research.

The health, safety and well-being of our students, postdocs, staff and faculty is our highest priority in how we practice teaching and research. We recognize the challenges faced by the entire Columbia community and diligently work to find solutions that minimize the impact of COVID.

Teaching modalities. Undergraduate and graduate courses in AY 2020-21 will feature on-line only classes, in-person instruction and hybrid classes fusing both on-line and in-person modalities. Physics faculty and instructors are eager to resume in-person teaching as soon as it is safe and practical. The department is committed to adapting our teaching approaches as the situation evolves, guided by the public health data and respecting the individual choices of our instructors and the needs of our students.

Individual choice. We embrace the principle of individual choice of all instructors when selecting the teaching modalities. Decisions by our colleagues will be data-driven and conscientious of health and safety of the entire Columbia community.

Technology in classrooms. We recognize the irreplaceable intellectual value of in-person teaching. We also recognize innate virtues of on-line instructional elements including, for example, on-demand pre-recorded lectures and simulations modules. The pandemic has created a unique opportunity to reimagine how to modernize instruction to meet the various needs of our students. Columbia physics is making the first strides along this path.

Undergraduate research experience during the academic year is an invaluable component of education at Columbia. Physics (and SEAS) majors have unique access to world-class research in Pupin Hall, North West Corner and Nevis Laboratories. Many Columbia physics majors have carried out remote research over the summer supported by fellowships from Columbia and individual faculty. For students on campus in AY 2020-21, research experience can proceed either remotely or nearly “as usual” despite much attenuated version of campus life. For those remaining off campus, there are opportunities for remote participation.  To our physics majors: if you are not engaged in research yet, do it now by communicating with potential faculty advisors!

Graduate and postdoctoral research was resumed in June and is on the path to restoring normal operations. We continue to experience generous Federal and philanthropic support of research across all essential subdisciplines of modern physics. Undeterred by lockdown from March through May, many of our research groups maintained their output.

Input and feedback from all our students, postdocs and staff is most welcomed.

D.N. Basov

for the Faculty of the Department of Physics