Professor of Physics Catherine Crouch was recently elected a 2021 American Physical Society (APS) Fellow. APS is the premier professional society for physicists, and the fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one’s professional peers for outstanding contributions to physics. Each year, no more than one-half of 1% of the society’s membership is recognized by this honor.
Crouch was recognized specifically for “her leadership in physics education research, focused on promoting the thoughtful use of interactive engagement for all students, for making physics relevant to life science majors, and supporting others through archiving of key resources, mentoring, and commitment to equity and inclusion in STEM.”
“It’s very gratifying and encouraging to know that my physics education colleagues consider my work to be worth recognizing in this way,” says Crouch. “Being part of the physics education research community has been essential to the work I’ve done, and I’ve learned a huge amount from my colleagues there.”
At Swarthmore, Crouch co-founded the Natural Sciences & Engineering Inclusive Excellence Initiative with Professor Emerita of Biology Kathy Siwicki and Professor of Biology Liz Vallen and served as its faculty chair until becoming Physics & Astronomy Department chair in July. She also developed Physics 3L-4L, an introductory physics course geared toward life science students, which incorporates extensive life science applications; this course and several like it around the country are part of a broader initiative to improve physical science learning for future life science and medical professionals.
Crouch and Assistant Professor of Physics Benjamin Geller have been funded by the National Science Foundation to disseminate this curriculum, and to evaluate its long-term outcomes, in partnership with Professor Emerita of Mathematics and Natural Science Sara Hiebert Burch. They have also worked with Professor of Social Theory and Social Action Ann Renninger to evaluate how students’ interest in physics is shaped by the curriculum.
“The Swarthmore Physics & Astronomy Department has been a fantastic home base for the work I’ve been able to do in physics education; my departmental colleagues here are both dedicated teachers and outstanding researchers, and when they ask me about the work I’m doing in physics education, they push me in a supportive way to make it excellent,” says Crouch. “They also supported me beginning the development of Physics 3L-4L before I had tenure. My colleagues in biology and in chemistry and biochemistry also gave generously of their expertise to inform the curriculum and its evaluation.”
Crouch is currently chair of the APS Forum on Education and will become co-chair of the APS Committee on Education in 2022.