July 2019

GIREP 2019 Congress in Budapest

I am very fortunate to be invited to participate in a Symposium at the GIREP 2019 Congress in Budapest. I was invited by my esteemed Hungarian colleagues from Eotvos Lorand University , whom I met in 2017. I met Prof. Tamas Tel and his colleagues two years ago, when I visited Budapest for the first time with Valery and we were in touch since then.

I initially decided to visit Budapest somewhat coincidentally – I watched a movie (Der traurige Sonntag – The Gloomy Sunday), as it was recommended to me by my uncle. And after that, I somehow was drawn to the city and couldn’t stop but kept thinking about it. I was imagining these people who lived there during WWII and I wanted to visit. The movie is very powerful and it touched me. Then I have a Hungarian friend – Dr. Zoltan Berkes – who is now a physics professor in Alberta at Concordia University in Edmonton but who was born, studied, and lived in Budapest. I met Zoltan during one of the AAPT meeting we attended. I have a lot of respect for Zoltan and he always encouraged me to visit Budapest. Then it happened that my husband (Valery) was invited to give a talk at a physics conference in Budapest and I decided to join him. The visit itself was very memorable. Visiting Budapest – this beautiful old city located on the Danube river in the centre of Europe – was a very special experience for me. This historic city resonated with me in many different ways – from the tremendous scientific achievements of Hungarian scientists in the natural sciences and technology, to the dark times of the holocaust that are reflected in many memorials spread all over the city, such as The shoes on the Danube memorial and an unforgettable Holocaust Memorial Centre, and of the 1956 failed Revolution that was brutally squashed by the Soviet Union (the revolution started at the university that we visited!), to the amazingly friendly people, the university that so much remind me of our own in Kharkov, Ukraine, and to the beauty of this river that cuts this beautiful city in half – Buda and Pest (“s” in Hungarian is read as “sh”).

This time in addition to the conference, I was also very fortunate to visit the Wigner Research Centre for PhysicsEugene Wigner was a very famous Hungarian physicist. Growing up in a physics family and having a grandpa who was working on the Accelerator at the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology made it a very interesting opportunity for me. I actually grew up at the institute as we used to live on its territory. While growing up I didn’t appreciate how special it was to be surrounded by physics history being made. Many famous physicists were my neighbours (Academics Lifschits, Landau, Akhiezer, Feinberg, etc.)  and to me they were parents and grandparents of my friends. So going to see the place where György (George) Marx – a famous Hungarian physicist and physics educator lived resonated with me as well. This very much reminded me of home as we also had commemorative plaques to remember famous scientists who lived there.

Dr. Csaba Sukosd led us to a place, where Prof. György Marx lived (by the University).

And Hungary had so many scientists, composers, writers (the Budapest airport is named after a Hungarian Composer Ferenc Liszt (Franz Liszt). It is a country of about 10 million people with a huge cultural, scientific, and economic potential that I hope will be realized here. The geographic and architectural beauty of Budapest is stunning. And most importantly, it is a European country that I can relate to, except for the language that I wasn’t able to learn even to be able to be polite or to ask how to get somewhere. Duolingo wasn’t sufficient for me in it or maybe I wasn’t motivated enough.

Prof. Igal Galili, I, and Prof. David Sokoloff at GIREP 2019 Congress in Budapest. Both of these people have made a big impact on me as a science (physics) educator and I am very grateful for that. Their work has influenced many people worldwide.

It is my first participation in this conference (International Group on Physics Education Research) and I am very grateful I could go. The Congress was attended by many European colleagues who would rarely attend AAPT, while at the same big PER stars like Igal Galili, David Sokoloff, Dean Zollman, Manjula Sharma, etc. were also there. It was a very different conference from the AAPT (which I have been attending for the last almost 20 years) and it was great to be a part of this GIREP event. Most interestingly, it was important for me to see that what my graduate students and I are currently discussing in our graduate course on research in science education is something that attracted a lot of attention at the conference. Our discussions on misconceptions, alternative conceptions, and different views on the theories of knowledge, as well as on the nature of science (NOS) were widely discussed at the conference. There are also interesting presentations on the use of technology, including smartphones, AR and VR, etc. The keynote address by Prof. Igal Galili was something that I wish my students could see. His ideas about the Cultural Content Knowledge (CCK) and the view on the NOS are widely discussed now in our online course. I am very proud of my students who think deeply about these concepts.

I am also very glad I was able to present our collaborative work on the use of slow-motion videos in physics teaching (see below). Most importantly, meeting colleagues all around the world (47 countries were represented) is very inspirational about 318 participants). I am sure that this conference will have an impact on me and my students.

Ref.: Milner-Bolotin, M., Milner, V., Aminov, O., & Wasserman, W. (2019, July 1- 5, 2019). Seeing fast and slow: Engaging students in science through slow motion video experiments. Paper presented at the GIREP-ICPE-EPEC-MPTL 2019 CONFERENCE: Celebration of Eötvös Year 2019 “Teaching-learning contemporary physics, from research to practice”, Budapest, Hungary.

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