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Abstract Title: Like dissolves like: Unpacking student reasoning about thermodynamic heuristics
Abstract: In our Physics for Biologists course at the University of Maryland, we are attempting to build interdisciplinary bridges that help students understand thermodynamics better.  One aspect of this endeavor involves having students grapple with the physical processes underlying heuristics that they bring to our course from their biology and chemistry classes.  In particular, we have implemented a series of activities and problems intended to unpack the hydrophobicity of oil, a key step in understanding the formation of cell membranes.  Student reasoning about this process illustrates the challenges and affordances of trying to bridge physics and biochemistry curricula.  Understanding the spontaneous separation of oil and water requires careful consideration of the sometimes competing effects of energy and entropy.  Reconciling disciplinary distinctions in how these ideas are described is an important step in helping our students develop more coherent thermodynamics concepts.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Benjamin Geller
University of Maryland, College Park
Physics Department
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: 7174970878
and Co-Presenter(s)
Benjamin W. Dreyfus, University of Maryland Department of Physics
Vashti Sawtelle, University of Maryland Department of Physics
Julia Svoboda Gouvea, UC Davis and University of Maryland, College Park
Chandra Turpen, University of Maryland Department of Physics
Edward F. Redish, University of Maryland Department of Physics