CASUS PhD student Karan Shah recently was chosen to join the Data Science Education Community of Practice (DSECOP) program of the American Physical Society (APS). The world’s largest scientific community of physicists regularly funds projects that support the APS mission to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics for the benefit of humanity, promote physics, and serve the broader physics community. The DSECOP program is such a project and its goal is to teach trainees of physics useful skills in data science beyond the standard curriculum. 

Karan, congratulations for being among the chosen few! I heard there were many applicants who could not join the limited program. What is your motivation to engage in this teaching effort?

Shah: Thank you! I am excited to be a part of this program. My motivation to join this effort comes from my own experiences as an undergraduate student. When I started my physics bachelors, I noticed that many professors spent a lot of time programming and analyzing data. I wanted to get better at it but couldn’t find that content in physics courses. I started taking computer science (CS) courses and ended up with a CS degree too. Since data science techniques are frequently used in physics research and are a highly transferable skill in the industry, I feel physics students will benefit from an integrated curriculum and want to contribute towards building it.

What is it that students of physics need to know beyond quantum or particle physics?

Shah: Data science is gaining importance in physics. Most students get into this topic on their own as it is not yet part of the standard curriculum. The goal of this program is to create peer-reviewed modules in order to integrate artificial intelligence/machine learning into the undergraduate physics curriculum. Instead of a separate course for machine learning, the modules will be focused on data science applications in the context of physics problems and be taught as a part of existing standard undergraduate physics courses. These modules will be self-contained and consist of interactive tutorials, background material, lesson plans, tests, notes for instructors etc. Each fellow is expected to create material corresponding to 8 classroom hours.

What is actually happening within the program?

Shah: This program started in March 2022 and will last for 10 months until December 2022. The fellows have already submitted their proposals for module topics. Next, the fellows will start working on their chosen modules. In the summer, all the fellows will meet for a workshop with the program PIs and physics instructors to collaborate on the modules. The final modules will be ready in August 2022 – just in time for the US fall semester classes. Using feedback from the classroom, the modules will be refined in late 2022. Finally, in December 2022, there will be a workshop with all the modules developed presented together in a compact way.

Will the teaching material that is being developed also available for people outside the US?

Shah: Of course! I will test the tutorials I am working on here at CASUS. My tutorials and all other modules that are being developed will be freely accessible later this year. We plan to use the material to teach future students at CASUS, especially undergraduate/masters students in physics.