USTC has made new breakthroughs in the field of quantum physics education

Physics education and research is an emerging field of physics, especially in quantum physics, which is still in its infancy.

A team composed of Associate Professor Tu Tao and Professors Li Chuanfeng, Xu Jinshi, Guo Guangcan, etc. of the School of Physics of University of Science and Technology of China paid attention to and entered this emerging frontier field in a timely manner.

There is an important research direction in the field of physics education: it is analyzed from the perspective of complexity science. Figuratively speaking, if a complex circuit network has many nodes, there are either or no connections between the different nodes. Only when these nodes can be connected in series with a single connection does the so-called seepage threshold be reached and the entire circuit network is turned on.

Similarly, a student’s mental neural network contains different nodes that represent different pieces of knowledge in a particular field of physics. Only when all knowledge nodes are connected to each other in an appropriate way through a correct relationship will the student’s thinking process reach a threshold of infiltration, and then the student can correctly grasp the relevant physics knowledge and correctly deal with the relevant physical problems.


The left figure is the Yu seepage model of the circuit conduction, and the right figure is the Yu seep model of the student’s thinking neural network. They are all a complex network. Photo courtesy of China University of Science and Technology

The USTC research team comprehensively used the above research models and methods to study the students’ thinking process of the Dirac function in quantum physics through statistical analysis of the sample data of 466 undergraduates in the 6-year time period of the School of Physics. An interesting picture of the thought flow was discovered: students would have ways of thinking such as activating relevant concepts, building equations, performing analytical calculations, examining individual steps, etc., and had difficulty reasoning at three key nodes: difficulty in establishing the correct concept of the eigenstate of position; It is difficult to establish the correct meaning of the continuous spectral eigenfunction; It is difficult to handle special boundary conditions and images.

These discoveries not only provide students with a deep understanding of the thinking mechanism of these quantum physics problems, but also provide rich resources for the teaching of these quantum physics contents. Because if you help students solve difficulties at these critical nodes, then their knowledge will change from some small pieces of disrelevant to global connectivity, which is the right way for students to learn.

This result was recently published in the journal Physical Review-Research in Physics Education. All three reviewers spoke highly of the paper: “The research presented here has obvious value to the physics education research community; I very much welcome a careful evaluation of the teaching and instruction of quantum physics, especially if it does well as this one.”

In order to shorten the gap between China and international advanced countries in the field of physics education and research, the Chinese Physical Society has been committed to promoting the development of China in this research field. The team of USTC has taken the lead in making a series of breakthroughs in China, publishing a number of achievements in international authoritative journals in the field of quantum physics education research, such as Schrödinger equation, eigenstate problem and Dirac function, marking an important breakthrough in the field of physics education and research in China. (Source: Wang Min, China Science News)

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