Physics Department’s Dan Liu Develops Online Simulations for Physical Therapy Students

November 30, 2021
Dan Liu
Assistant Professor of Physics Dan Liu
To help UHart physical therapy, rehabilitation, and health science students better understand physics concepts as they apply to the human body, Assistant Professor of Physics Dan Liu created a web-based simulations lab.  Developed for the Mechanics, Heat and the Body course, Liu created the virtual lab to apply to real-life situations.

Liu says the online lab not only increases student interest, but helps them improve their perceptions, attitudes, and capabilities. “The virtual simulations give students deeper insight as they better apply physics to real life problems,” says Liu. “This will lead to success in their later physics courses and in their career.”

At the start of the pandemic, the Physics Department successfully adapted online simulation labs for physics courses that relied on calculus and algebra. But it became challenging to do the same for interdisciplinary physics courses like Mechanics, Heat, and the Body because of limited resources available in biomechanics. Liu created an inquiry learning-based virtual lab for the Simulations of Back and Arms experiment. Previously, it was a two-week hands-on experiment in a PHYS101 lab course.

She explains that using physics models and geometry-heavy calculations to teach about daily life problems can sometimes become barriers for students to reach learning goals, and that the simulations will help students explore new biomechanics projects.

The interactive simulations and teaching materials are designed to enhance student understanding with an emphasis on the essential skill of applying physics knowledge.

Dan Liu, Assistant Professor of Physics
This year, Liu is applying for a Teaching and Learning grant. She is planning to present her work at physics conferences and plans to collaborate with physical therapy faculty to develop more simulations labs in the future.

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