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  1. In the Summer of 2020, as COVID-19 limited in-person research opportunities and created additional barriers for many students, institutions either canceled or remotely hosted their Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs. The present qualitative phenomenographic study was designed to explore some of the possible limitations, challenges, and outcomes of this remote experience. Overall, 94 interviews were conducted with paired participants; mentees (N=10) and mentors (N=8) from six different REU programs. By drawing on Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a framework, our study uncovers some of the challenges mentees faced while pursuing their research objectives and academic goals. These challenges included motivation, limited access to technology at home, limited communication among REU students, barriers in mentor-mentee relationships, and differing expectations about doing research. Despite the challenges, all mentees reported that this experience was highly beneficial. Comparisons between the outcomes of these remote REUs and published outcomes of in-person undergraduate research programs reveal many similar benefits, including student integration into STEM culture. Our study suggests that remote research programs could be considered as a means to expand access to undergraduate research experiences even after COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. 
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  2. Frank, Brian W. ; Jones, Dyan L. ; Ryan, Qing X. (Ed.)
    Learning physics in any context, including undergraduate research experiences (UREs), requires learning its concepts and the relational structure between those new concepts with what students already know. We use concept maps, a knowledge elicitation method, for assessing mentees' and mentors' knowledge structures during Research Experience for Undergraduates programs. The study looked at maps from seven mentor-mentee pairs to understand how mentors and mentees use specific knowledge and strategies during the development of their concept maps. A qualitative analysis of the maps showed mentors and mentees differed in their ways of organizing and displaying their knowledge in terms of structure, scale, language, and use of conceptual and procedural knowledge. For instance, mentees used more procedural knowledge. It is perhaps due to their perception of finishing their REU projects and the fact that they may have only limited and superficial knowledge of specific topics. However, mentors' maps were smaller but more significant in using more comprehensive conceptual knowledge and connecting their maps to the broader scientific context. 
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  3. Frank, Brian W. ; Jones, Dyan L. ; Ryan, Qing X. (Ed.)
    Students' use of support from peers and instructors is an important aspect of success in college. This preliminary phenomenographic study examines a variety of help seeking behaviors of undergraduate majors in physics and life sciences and factors that lead to those behaviors. Seven students described their experiences using semi-structured interviews during the summer of 2021. The analysis was structured around identifying characteristics of peers and instructors, as well as personal help-seeking attitudes, that either promoted help seeking or help avoidance. Peers were generally the first source of help, and were prioritized based on ability and the closeness of the relationship. Instructors fostered help seeking through availability and a non-judgemental demeanor. A feeling of vulnerability and fear of judgement was cited as the most common reason for avoiding help. The findings provide insights for faculty and departments seeking to encourage student success. 
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  4. Frank, Brian W. ; Jones, Dyan L. ; Ryan, Qing X. (Ed.)
    The ways in which physics majors make career decisions is a critical, yet understudied, aspect of the undergraduate experience. Such decisions are important to students, physics departments, and administrators. In this project, we specifically examine how students develop interests and intent to pursue specific subfields of physics by interviewing 13 physics majors from all years of study. The interviews examined factors that led students to choose their most preferred and least preferred subfields. Interviews leveraged the framework of Social Cognitive Career Theory, a model that describes how several constructs such as self-efficacy, learning experiences, and outcome expectations relate to decision-making. Findings highlight the differences in decision-making between upper-division students and beginning students. For instance, we see how popular culture and popular science provide an initial learning experience about certain subfields, such as astronomy and astrophysics, which strongly affect beginning students' perceptions of that subfield. Initial exposure to biology and chemistry in high school or early undergraduate classes often negatively affected students' interests in fields like biophysics or chemical physics. Data also suggests a splitting between students with respect to their outcome expectations of a desirable career in science. While some students prioritize using science to help people, others prioritize discovery of new knowledge though science, and some are in between. Students in both groups form perceptions about subfields that do not align with their identities and hence make decisions based on these perceptions. For instance, a student who prioritizes helping others through science may be quick to reject astrophysics as a subfield choice as they do not think that astrophysics can help people enough. 
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  5. Due to the growing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities either canceled or remotely hosted their 2020 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs. This analysis is part of a larger study examining the impact of these fully remote experiences on professional and psychosocial factors such as mentees' sense of belonging, identity, and self-efficacy and their retention in STEM degree programs. We present a single-student case study and describe the dramaturgical analysis which centers on identifying five fundamental constructs within the data: objectives, conflicts, tactics, attitudes, and emotions. These items investigate what the participant in the remote REU program experienced and how this experience changed the ways in which he thinks about his future career decision-making. Our analysis explored four different sub-narratives: lack of community in virtual REU, mentor support, perception of the "real" nature of the experience in a virtual format, and future career decision-making. The mentee reported that this experience was highly beneficial and that he developed a sense of belonging and identity, despite working remotely -- often from his own bedroom. 
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  6. Physics is a degree that supports many career paths, and students often develop preferences for particular methods, such as theoretical, computational or experimental. However, it is not well understood how those preferences develop and affect students' later career decisions. We used Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) as the basis for interpreting students' decision-making processes. SCCT provides a framework for connecting learning experiences, self-efficacy, and outcome expectations with students' interests, goals, and decisions. Semi-structured interviews with 8 physics students were conducted. This analysis focuses primarily on a single student to provide space to explore all three method specializations (theory, computation, and experiment) in more depth. We find that the availability of resources and learning opportunities had a significant impact on students' career choices. Theoretical and computational experiences were readily available through classwork, undergraduate research, and could be worked on at home and in peer study groups. Students lacked the ability to work on experimental physics outside of infrequent classroom opportunities and could not build peer networks that supported their experimental skill growth, which was linked to lower interest and self-efficacy in regards to experimental physics. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    PhysPort is a professional development website for physics faculty to develop their teaching through research-based resources. As part of PhysPort's ongoing research efforts, we conducted interviews with 23 physics faculty from diverse instructional and institutional contexts in the US. From our interviews, we sought common experiences, motivations, and pain points to develop personas--person-like constructs--of physics faculty in the US. Our research focuses on the perspectives of the key users of our site, and thus we take a user-centered perspective rather than a researcher-centered perspective. We developed personas, which are person-like constructs that are developed based on salient characteristics of actual users, that enable designers to create resources to meet actual user needs without designing for the idiosyncrasies of specific users. We present our set of six personas of physics faculty members: a faculty member who is new to improving his teaching; one who takes up his department's practices; one who wants her teaching to feel good; one who is comfortable in her teaching; one who is continuously improving; and one who solves big problems in her department. These personas of physics faculty making changes to their teaching can be used more broadly to improve the design and development of professional development resources and activities for physics faculty. 
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