Benjamin H. Brown Professor of Physics Mark Beck has earned an accolade reserved for the top echelon of experts in his field: the Richtmyer Memorial Lecture Award. His address to the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), titled "Preparing our Students for Quantum 2.0," takes place next Tuesday, January 9, in San Diego, California.
"Since the talk will be given to an audience of physics teachers, I will discuss how the traditional way of teaching quantum mechanics does not really recognize the changes that have taken place over the last 20 years," Beck said. "I'll make some suggestions for how I think we can do a better job of preparing our students for this new reality."
Named for Floyd K. Richtmyer, distinguished physicist, teacher and administrator and one of the founders of the AAPT, the award recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to physics and excel in their communication to physics educators. Past recipients have included some of the nation's most prestigious physicists.
Beck, who previously received Whitman's Garret Fellowship and Lange Distinguished Teaching Award, specializes in quantum optics and laser physics. Chair of the physics department, he joined the Whitman faculty in 1996 with a doctorate from the University of Rochester's Institute of Optics in Rochester, New York.
His endowed professorship honors former Whitman professor Benjamin Brown, who taught physics at the college from 1894 to 1934 and also received an award from the AAPT. Like Brown, Beck has made significant inroads in physics instruction, playing an important role in reforming the approach to teaching quantum mechanics.
The abstract for his upcoming remarks is reproduced below. Read the AAPT press release about Beck.
The first quantum revolution (Quantum 1.0) changed the way we think about the physical world, and allowed us to explain the behavior of atoms, molecules, solids and more. It also brought about new technologies, such as those used in the microelectronics industry. Now, however, we have unprecedented control over quantum systems. We can not only explain how things work, but we can design and manufacture, on an atomic scale, systems that have properties that we desire. We can create entangled particles that are separated by long distances, and use them to teleport information from one place to another. We are developing quantum computers that can perform certain tasks exponentially faster than any classical computer. These sorts of technologies are driving the second quantum revolution (Quantum 2.0). This presents a fantastic opportunity for physicists, not only to help drive this technological revolution, but possibly also to help us better understand the nature of quantum mechanics itself. As physics educators, we must prepare our students to be leaders in this revolution, and I will describe some ways that I believe we can go about this.