For many years, Carl Wieman has been a thought leader in two fields of study—atomic and optical physics, and science education research. Along with two other scientists, he won a Nobel Prize in physics in 2001, when they achieved what was first predicted by Albert Einstein in the 1920s, a new state of matter under conditions of condensed matter physics.
Yet perhaps Wieman’s greatest achievement is his long-term pursuit of understanding how students learn about science, and helping to improve that methodology. In 2002, he founded PhET Interactive Simulations, a nonprofit open resource educational project. PhET (originally focused on Physics Education Technology) has designed, developed, and released over 125 interactive simulations in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, Earth science, and mathematics, with the goal to advance science and mathematics literacy education worldwide. PhET is now used nearly a million times a day.
At the University of British Columbia, Wieman led an $11 million initiative to improve undergraduate science education by having faculty adopt evidence-based, interactive teaching methods instead of employing traditional lectures.
Wieman worked with the National Academies of Science and Engineering to build a Board on Science Education, and served as its founding chair. He also persuaded the top physics journal in the country to create a separate journal for physics education research. Wieman was also appointed Associate Director of Science during the Obama administration in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.