Ruth Chabay

Professor Emerita of Physics
Department of Physics
North Carolina State University


Curriculum Development

My interests focus on integrating 20th and 21st century physics into the physics curriculum, especially in the introductory course taken by science and engineering students. This includes engaging students in computational modeling, as well as in applying fundamental principles to a wide range of physical systems. I am particularly interested in designing curricula that bridge the gap between physics and other scientific disciplines.

Matter & Interactions

I am the co-author of Matter & Interactions, a modern calculus-based introductory physics textbook published by John Wiley & Sons that integrates 20th century physics, including computational modeling, into the introductory physics curriculum. The fourth edition of Matter & Interactions, published in January 2015, includes significantly extended support for computational modeling. At http://matterandinteractions.org you can find more information about the curriculum, including journal articles and 3D lecture-demo programs. textbook cover

Research Interests

My current research interests focus on the issues involved in integrating computational modeling into introductory courses, both in physics and in interdisciplinary topics. Computational tools allow students not only to model the simple systems typically treated in introductory courses, but to extend these models to include much more complex interactions. The challenges in this enterprise include designing an environment in which students with no background in computation can learn to write simple codes to model physical systems, and in creating activities that encourage students to invoke their physics knowledge to create, understand, and extend computational models.


VPython is a free, open source 3D programming environment that enables even novice programmers to write simple programs that generate dynamic, interactive 3D animations. VPython is available on Window, MacOS, and Linux. http://vpython.org

Thinking Iteratively

A YouTube video of a talk given by me and Bruce Sherwood when we received the Halliday and Resnick Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by the American Association of Physics Teachers, July 2014.

Thinking Iteratively


In 2010 the Computer History Museum hosted a two-day conference on the PLATO computer-based learning system developed at the University of Illinois. Videos of all sessions are available on YouTube. Here's a link to the session highlighting some of the innovative courseware developed on PLATO:

PLATO@50 Innovative Courseware

Recent Ph.D. Dissertations:

Jon D. H. Gaffney: Possibilities: A Framework for Modeling Students' Deductive Reasoning in Physics
Evan Richards: Selecting the Correct Solution to a Physics Problem When Given Several Possibilities
Shawn Weatherford: Student Use of Physics to Make Sense of Incomplete but Functional VPython Programs in a Lab Setting
Brandon Lunk: A Framework for Understanding Physics Students' Computational Modeling Practices