Thomas L. O’Kuma

Thomas L. O’Kuma, PI/Co-PD, has been a physics instructor for the past 31 years at TYCs primarily teaching introductory physics. He has had successful physics programs at three different campuses, building the introductory courses both in enrollment and content. Additionally, he has done considerable research in the effective means of presenting physics concepts through laboratory experiments and the mathematics preparation of students entering introductory physics.  He has served as co-PI on the Workshop Project since 1991 and was co-PI on the PEPTYC Project from 1991 through 2006.

Mr. O’Kuma also has been very active in the Texas Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (TSAAPT). For the last 16 years he has been instrumental in expanding the influence of high school physics teachers in the physics community in Texas, and has organized over 400 workshops designed for, and/or given by, high school physics teachers. He has sponsored and chaired 12 special sessions at TSAAPT meetings on improving the lecture and laboratory offerings of introductory physics courses primarily given by TYC and high school physics teachers. He has also delivered over six-dozen papers during this 15-year period on topics pertaining to introductory physics. He has served on the Executive Council of TSAAPT for the past 20 years including three years as the TYC representative and the four-year presidential cycle. During those four years, he was instrumental in increasing attendance at the twice-annual TSAAPT meetings from an average of 150 to 350 attendees. In 1994, he was awarded the Robert N. Little Award for outstanding contributions to physics in higher education in Texas.

For the past twenty years, Mr. O’Kuma also has been active in the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). He has served on the Committee on Physics at TYCs for three years, Nominations Committee, Committee on Women in Physics, delivered more than 50 papers at national meetings (seventeen of which were invited), chaired eight different sessions, and set up nine additional sessions. All of these activities concerned introductory physics, and the curricula offering in these courses. He worked as an advisor on the steering committee to plan the Topical Conference on Physics and Astronomy at TYCs. At this conference, he jointly delivered one of the two invited papers given by faculty members, served as a chair of one of the action groups, and was elected regional facilitator for the southwest region. He was asked to be one of five TYC representatives to attend the Introductory University Physics Project’s Denver Conference in 1989. In 1994, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Citation by AAPT. He has served as: chair of The Physics Teacher Editor Search Committee; chair of the Announcer review committees; and on the Task Force on National Meetings. He has served as Vice-President, President-Elect, President, and Past President of the national AAPT and has served on the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics since its formation in 1998. He has served for three years on the National Visiting Committee for the New Jersey Center for Advanced Technological Education; is the regional coordinator for the Lee College Rural PTRA center; and was the PI on the SPIN-UP/TYC project. In 2002, he was selected by AAPT for the Award for Excellence in Introductory College Physics Teaching.