Thursday, June 27, 2019

By Victoria Brito

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Dr. Nicolas Pereyra, UTRGV associate professor of physics, and Dr. Liang Zeng, UTRGV associate professor of physics, have been chosen as PhysTEC Fellows for the 2019-2020 cohort.

PhysTEC is an organization focused on improving and promoting the education of future physics teachers, and through this fellowship, Pereyra and Zeng will work on increasing the number of high school physics teachers in the Valley over the next two years.

Teams selected from other universities were Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, Clemson University in South Carolina, Colgate University in New York and University of Washington Bothell in Washington State.

The Physics and Astronomy department at UTRGV already has an education track for physics majors – powered by UTeach which trains and certifies students to teach physics right out of college.

Pereyra said the fellowship is intended to strengthen the physical science teaching track at UTRGV.

“We are working closely with UTeach, which is a key component to our education program,” he said, “and our physics students pursuing teaching will graduate with a certificate to teach in the state of Texas.”

Zeng and Pereyra intend to work with local physics teachers to organize a network of physics alumni and teachers in the community.

Another component of the fellowship – experiential learning, which Dr. Zeng already uses in her curriculum – involves getting physical science students out into their communities by teaching local K-12 students.

“As part of my experimental learning method, I have involved some of the physics students from our UTeach program in our department in the annual Physics Career Education Day and other outreach events, where they experienced how to teach high school students through hands-on activities,” Zeng said. “In the near future, I plan to involve them in assisting with teaching an introductory physics course, and lab teaching.”

Zeng said the method has helped her students’ learning process.

“In the past, I have taken general physics class students to a local skate park on a voluntary basis, to measure skating velocity, kinetic energy and potential energy,” she said. “I have been using physics demonstrations in all physics classes I teach.”

In-class experiments give students the opportunity to hypothesize a phenomenon – an observable event – and experience physics principles in real life, she said. 

For more information, contact the Physics and Astronomy Department at or (956) 665-2531.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.