Jose Mestre

Jose Mestre
Jose Mestre

Primary Research Area

  • Physics Education
Professor Emeritus
(217) 333-0098
309 Loomis Laboratory

For More Information


  • Ph.D., Physics, Univ. Massachusetts, 1979


Professor Mestre received bachelor's and PhD degrees in physics from the University of Massachusetts in 1974 and 1979, respectively, and spent his entire career until 2005, at the University of Massachusetts, rising rapidly through the ranks from research associate to full professor.

He came to Urbana in August 2005, as a full professor of physics and of educational psychology. Although trained as a nuclear physicist, his academic interests evolved more than 30 years ago to the questions of how students learn physics. He is a distinguished scholar of physics learning and arguably among the most highly regarded researchers in the field of physics education in the United States. He has adapted tools from cognitive and educational psychology to investigate forefront issues in problem solving and the development of scientific knowledge, and how those are conveyed in instruction.

Research Statement

My research focuses on the organization and deployment of physics knowledge by experts and novices. In my research, I address questions such as: What is the mechanism by which a beginner develops expertise in a complex domain such as physics? Why is it that the problem solving skills for traditional textbook physics problems often develop faster than conceptual understanding? Why is appropriate transfer of knowledge, even across the same domain and across remarkably similar contexts, so difficult to achieve?

In the future, I plan to continue applying experimental techniques common in cognitive science to learn more fine-grained information about the nature of expertise, learning, and problem solving in the sciences.

Chapters in Books

  • Mestre, J.P. & Morphew, J.W. (2017). New wine in old bottles: "Repurposed" methodologies for studying expertise in physics. In B.H. Ross (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Volume 67 (pp. 1-34). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Selected Articles in Journals

Research Honors

  • Selected Fellow of the American Physical Society, 2010

Public Service Honors

  • National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, 2008-2013.
  • Chancellor's Medal recipient, for exemplary & extraordinary service to the Univ. of Massachusetts, 2001

Recent Courses Taught

  • PHYS 101 - College Physics: Mech & Heat
  • PHYS 211 - University Physics: Mechanics

Semesters Ranked Excellent Teacher by Students

Fall 2015PHYS 211
Fall 2012PHYS 211
Fall 2011PHYS 211
Spring 2009PHYS 212