Doctoral student in Physics Education Research: Medical applications of particle physics and science identities (PER-MAPPSI)


Many high-school students decide to discontinue taking advanced level physics courses, because they think that physics is „not for them“. They perceive physics as being difficult, “brainy”, masculine, and dominated by stereotypic geeky “Einstein like” scientists. Therefore, many students do not identify themselves with physics (Archer et al, 2010). In addition, female high-school students report significantly lower physics related self-beliefs and different interests compared to their male classmates.

However, previous studies were able to narrow this gender gap by adapting the context in which physics concepts are taught (Häussler & Hoffmann, 2002). Especially medical applications of physics such as Positron-Emission-Tomography might have great potential in fostering students’ interest in physics. Recently, Denmark, for example, included medical applications of physics into their physics curriculum. Furthermore, well-designed collaborative hands-on experiments can be useful tools to foster students’ physics related self-beliefs, and potentially also to help students develop a more positive physics identity.

Yet, more research is needed to find out if and how teaching medical applications changes students’ physics identity. Can teaching medical applications even narrow the gender gap with regard to physics identity? Moreover, do inquiry based workshops have a higher impact compared to a theoretical teaching unit? These are some of the questions the successful candidate will investigate.

As a starting point, the candidate will develop inquiry based particle physics workshops for high-school students in the context of medical applications in an iterative design process (design based research). The candidate will test and evaluate the workshops in S’Cool LAB, CERN’s hands-on learning laboratory for high-school students ( and in a similar student lab in Copenhagen, Denmark. The candidate will develop, adapt, and test suitable questionnaires and interview guidelines to empirically study changes in students’ physics identity as result of the interventions, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Results of these investigations and developments shall be published in open access journals.

Häussler, P., & Hoffmann, L. (2002). An intervention study to enhance girls' interest, self‐concept, and achievement in physics classes. Journal of research in science teaching, 39(9), 870-888.

Archer, L., DeWitt, J., Osborne, J., Dillon, J., Willis, B., & Wong, B. (2010). “Doing” science versus “being” a scientist: Examining 10/11‐year‐old schoolchildren's constructions of science through the lens of identity. Science Education, 94(4), 617-639.

Training Value

The successful candidate will develop experimental particle physics workshops for high-school students while improving their skills in physics education research, international curricula, particle physics, and inquiry based learning.

Duration & Application

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