How has the Environment for Physics Changed?
Physics itself is changing with many new subfields that cross disciplinary boundaries (for example, materials physics, computational physics, biophysics, chemical physics, photonics), most of which are completely absent from undergraduate physics programs.
- The job market for physicists (and other scientifically trained workers) emphasizes the need for broader training within science and for enhanced skills in communication and the ability to work in teams.
- Today's undergraduate student body is more diverse both ethnically and economically than that of twenty years ago. These students bring backgrounds and motivations substantially different from those of most current physics faculty when they were undergraduates.
- Physics education research has established that there is a significant gap between what physics faculty believe they are teaching and what students actually learn. At the same time, physics education research has identified a number of teaching strategies that can help close that gap.
- The profession as a whole faces a public perception that the most exciting scientific developments are likely to occur in fields other than physics.
- Physics is increasingly disconnected from societal needs and federal priorities. The result is that potential students do not see the connection between physics and their daily lives and future careers.