Bijaya 200

Bijaya Aryal, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, CLI
+1 507 258 8216
(507) 258-8066
Broadway Hall


Ph.D., Physics, Kansas State University, 2007
M.S., Physics, Kansas State University, 2005
M.S., Physics, Tribhuvan University, 1994
B.S.; Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, Tribhuvan University, 1992

I have experienced that students not only find physics learning exciting and meaningful but also learn better when they know that physics is relevant to their lives or careers. It requires integrating teaching activities with contexts related to everyday life or professions to pique students’ interest.


I received my B.S. and M.S. degrees from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. I came to Kansas State University for graduate study, where I completed my M.S. and Ph.D. in physics. My research area for my M.S. degree was experimental condensed matter physics and my Ph.D. dissertation work was in physics education research. After completion of my Ph.D. in 2007, I joined the faculty of Lake Superior State University where I was an Assistant Professor of physics in the department of physical sciences. In July 2010, I joined University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) as an Assistant Professor in the Center for Learning Innovation.


At UMR, I am responsible for the design and instruction of physics courses using research-based novel techniques. To make physics learning useful to both students’ everyday life and professional life, I design teaching and learning activities and modules by integrating physics with other areas through collaboration with faculties of various disciplines at UMR.  

Before joining UMR, I taught a wide range of courses. My teaching experience at the undergraduate level encompass physics courses for engineering, science and non-science majors. During my service at Lake Superior State University, I taught introductory level physics courses infusing innovative instructional strategies in a traditional lecture/laboratory format. At Kansas State University, I had the opportunity to teach calculus-based physics in the studio format as well as other introductory classes. For almost all introductory courses that I have taught, I adopted strategies such as lecture demonstrations as well as question/answer sessions in lectures in order to maintain active student participation. My prior teaching also includes upper division undergraduate level physics courses such as optics, mechanics and electromagnetism. While teaching upper division undergraduate courses, I was able to use interactive strategies such as oral presentation, poster presentation and group discussion due to the small class sizes. Students integrated current research in the field with the relevant course content in their presentations. In group discussions, students were encouraged to come up with ideas that lead them to do research projects. Throughout my teaching career I have frequently used instructional strategies informed by physics education research.


Research on Student Learning

My major research area is transfer of physics learning. I have investigated the role of physical models in facilitating transfer. The study showed that the use of the models does indeed prompt the transfer of relevant physics ideas. Particularly, classical analogies were found to be useful in helping students understand the contemporary physics concepts. My recent research on problem solving indicated that physical models facilitate problem solving transfer. I have also pursued studies on students’ preference for one type of physical model or computer visualization over another while learning and transferring abstract concepts. The research on transfer builds to explore potential misconceptions conveyed by these physical models and finds whether transfer is ubiquitous in different contexts involving abstract physics ideas. My research on transfer of learning extends to the investigation on transfer of physics to contexts in biophysics, biomedical imaging, nanoscience and engineering.

I also conduct research in the areas of cognitive theory of physics learning. I have studied students’ models of reasoning about abstract physical phenomena. My research has shown that students rely on everyday mechanical experiences to build models of abstract phenomena. I also investigate student models of reasoning on topics such as magnetic and electrical interactions and subatomic physics. This study uses a three-stage research methodology. The first stage uses surveys to establish a pattern of students’ models. In the next stage, based on the variations in survey responses, some of these students are interviewed to validate the models and investigate their origin. For the final stage, another survey is designed and administered which questions students about the concrete visible world as well as abstract physics concepts.

Physics Experimental Research

My experimental physics research focuses on the study of surface and surface interaction in nanoscale using Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). I have studied the critical Casmir effect in thin liquid films using AFM and ellipsometer. My current research interest is to study biological systems using AFM.


Bijaya Aryal, Ryan Qing, Evan Frodermann, Ken Heller and Leonardo Hsu. Designing a Useful Problem Solving Coach: Usage and Usability Studies, in 2013 Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings. Part of the PER Conference Series, Portland, OR, July 17-18, 2013, pp. 309-312.

Bijaya Aryal, Qing Xu, Leonardo Hsu and Ken Heller. Authentic assessment of students’ problem solving, in 2012 Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings, AIP Conf. Proc. 1513, pp. 434-437

Bijaya Aryal, Leon Hsu., Ken Heller and Qing Xu. Web-based Problem-solving Coaches for Physics Students, A.H. Duin, E. Nater, & F. Anklesaria (eds.). (2012). Cultivating Change in the Academy: 50+ Stories from the Digital Frontlines at the University of Minnesota in 2012. University of Minnesota. URL:

Bijaya Aryal, Marcia D. Nichols, Aminul Huq and Xavier Prat-Resina, "Conversations on Ethnicity, Adaptation and Belonging: Auto-Ethnography at the Base of the Ivory Tower", in Voices of Immigrant Professors: Historical and Contemporary Challenges & Triumphs, Editor: Charles B. Hutchison and Kwabena O. Akurang-Parry, Research in Higher Education Series, Publisher- Routledge, Accepted for publication.

“Facilitating Transfer as Students Solve Context - Based Physics Problems”, BijayaAryal, Proceedings of the 2010 National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual Meeting, March 20- 24, 2010, Philadelphia, PA.

“Peer Scaffolding and Transfer in the Context of Learning”, BijayaAryal and Dean A. Zollman, Proceedings of the 2008 National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual Meeting, March 30- April 2, 2008, Baltimore, MD.

“Investigating Dynamic Transfer in the Context of Medical Imaging” ,Bijaya Aryal and Dean A. Zollman, Proceedings of the 2008 National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual Meeting, March 30- April 2, 2008, Baltimore, MD.

“Investigating Peer Scaffolding in Learning and Transfer of Learning Using Teaching Interviews”, BijayaAryal, and Dean A. Zollman and 2007 PERC Proceedings, AIP Conf. Prec. No. 951 (AIP, Melville, NY,2007), pp 37-40.

“Facilitating Transfer Through Physical Models: A Teaching Interview on Positron Emission Tomography (PET),” BijayaAryal, Dean A. Zollman and N. Sanjay Rebello, Proceedings of the 2007 National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual Meeting, April 17-21, 2007, New Orleans.

“Use of Physical Models to Facilitate Transfer of Physics Learning to Understand Positron Emission Tomography,” BijayaAryal, Dean A. Zollman and N. Sanjay Rebello, 2006 PERC Proceedings, AIP Conf. Prec. No. 883 (AIP, Melville, NY, 2007), pp 189-192.