BYU Physics & Astronomy During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Brian Anderson

As you probably have heard, BYU cancelled all in person classes in mid-March and went to classes being fully online to finish out the Winter 2020 semester. Spring and Summer terms were also fully online. Fall semester, some classes will be in person, others will be hybrid (students take turns attending class in person and online), and some will be fully online. The Eyring Science Center (ESC) has been closed, from mid-March to August, with access approval required to enter the ESC. We reached out to members of the department to ask how things have been going during the pandemic. Below is a summary of their responses.

What’sbeen the hardest COVID-19 adjustment?

  • Teaching without seeing students in person has been hard. Teaching online often requires much more preparation time. 
  • Many good student workers are now not available to work as they returned home. 
  • There has been added stress and uncertainty about future plans.

Have you found any benefits during the pandemic?

  • Faculty have learned to appreciate how things were before the pandemic. 
  • This time has allowed many to concentrate more effectively and focus on things that matter most. 
  • They have reevaluated teaching methods to adapt to online instruction and will thus be more flexible moving forward.

How has your teaching strategy changed?

  • Many professors have changed their exams to be all open-book. 
  • They have tried to make themselves and their class materials more accessible than previously. 
  • For lab classes being done online, the lab class strategies have changed entirely.

How have your research efforts changed?

  • Mentoring students on research has intensified. 
  • Projects have been modified, particularly those with heavy experimental emphases, with many turning towards theoretical or computational efforts. 
  • Some students have focused more on research, and some have slowed down to deal with disruptions.

What is one thing you will do differently in your job once the pandemic ends?

  • Faculty no longer feel pressure to come to work sick since now they can teach and mentor through video conferencing from home. 
  • They have found benefits to being able to focus more on the most important things and will try harder to ensure this can continue moving forward.

by Brian Anderson, 27 August 2020

News and Events

Image for Mystery of Haumea's Formation Solved
BYU Physics and Astronomy student Benjamin Proudfoot recently published research in the prestigious journal Nature Communications that solves the mystery of the icy dwarf planet Haumea's formation.
Image for Dr. John Colton: Table Tennis Champion
Dr. John Colton won the 2022 BYU intramural table tennis tournament
Image for Debunking acoustics myths around the Saturn V
When the Saturn V rocket propelled man to the moon in July 1969, the blast from the rocket’s engines was tremendous. Marked by a dazzling display of flames and deafening noise, the monumental event gave rise to widespread claims that the acoustic force of the rocket melted concrete and ignited grass fires miles away. New research from BYU debunks this common myth.
Image for Dr. Aleksandr Mosenkov, new Astronomy faculty
Dr. Aleksandr Mosenkov, new faculty, looks forward to receiving some of the first data from the James Webb Space Telescope to study galaxy formation
Image for Sounding out the Deep: Traci Neilsen’s Trip to the North Atlantic
A recent research adventure took Dr. Traci Neilsen and two students to the North Atlantic Ocean. Neilsen, an associate professor of physics at BYU, and her team apply artificial intelligence to noises in the ocean to classify the seabed.
Image for Reveling in Uncertainty
Despite the inherent time constraints of engaging undergraduate and graduate students in research, Scott Bergeson enjoys teaching this “seek and find” principle to his students, a principle that has become his philosophy for life.
Image for BYU Acoustics Records Artemis Launch
A group of BYU students and professors gathered acoustical recordings of at the world’s most powerful rocket launch.
Image for Kent Gee Recognized by AIAA
Kent Gee is selected as Associate Fellow of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in their class of 2023
Image for West Mountain Observatory contributes to understand distant galaxy
BYU’s West Mountain Observatory was one of 37 ground-based telescopes throughout the world monitoring the active galaxy that is roughly 1 billion light years away.
Image for Dr. Tim Leishman retires from BYU
Dr. Leishman's time at BYU was filled with great teaching and profound mentoring