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Lila AdairThanks for the Memories, Greensboro
Lila Adair, AAPT President-Elect and Program Chair
August 21, 2007

The spectacular summer meeting of AAPT has come to an end. The booths are dismantled, boxes of supplies are packed and shipped, the exhibit hall is quiet and the 1,285 participants have left for the airport. Standing here in the lobby, I finally have a moment to relax and look over the past few days and to remember AAPT at its best, providing a national meeting for those who love physics and physics education. From July 21 to August 1, 2007, Greensboro was the center of the “Accelerating Universe of Physics Education.” The Koury Center, the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and Davidson College were alive with physicists and educators enjoying 52 workshops, 560 papers and posters, 18 crackerbarrels, committee meetings, apparatus and photo competitions, plenaries and award sessions, breakfasts, luncheons, a picnic and demonstration show, the Computational Physics topical conference, PTRA, the PER Conference, and countless other private meetings and late night sessions. Attendance was at an all-time high including 192 first timers, 168 local teachers, 53 graduate students, 50 international participants and even one high school student. The news media covered all aspects of the meeting: an article in the Greensboro News and Record, an interview with Janet Guthrie on NPR, special features on local TV channels 2 and 8 with several live remote broadcasts featuring Sam Sampere, David Maiullo, and Dale Stille, assisted by AAPT Executive Officer Toufic Hakim participating in demonstrations from the awesome AAPT demo show, featuring our exciting and enthusiastic PIRA members.

As has been the custom for several years, this meeting was packed with outstanding presentations on a variety of topics ranging from methods of teaching physics to the public and to students in K-12 schools; from colleges and universities to advanced methods in cutting edge physics research. Our plenary and award lectures had standing room only crowds. I won’t ever forget the charismatic Klopsteg lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicists and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and the thought-provoking Millikan lecture by David Sokoloff of the University of Oregon. It was wonderful to see NSTA Executive Officer Gerry Wheeler “back home” as a former AAPT president giving the 2nd Max Dresden Memorial Lecture. In her Excellence in Pre-College Physics Teaching Award lecture, Jan Mader gave a heart-warming presentation on what being a physics teacher meant to her. And Steve Manley gave his Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching Award lecture on his work at the University of Rochester. Janet Guthrie, physics major, pilot, engineer and the first female Indy driver, gave an inspiring lecture on the difficulties and successes of her career in a male dominated sport and how to apply racing in the physics classroom. George Coyne, Emeritus Director of the Vatican Observatory, fascinated us with his lecture on astronomy and the current arguments between the Big Bang, evolution, and intelligent design.

The meeting provided many special features. For the second consecutive meeting we provided a speaker-ready room, where speakers would drop off their presentation and then have it delivered to the session on one main computer, saving time and reducing the risk of equipment problems. We also provided our ever popular cyber café, available during all meeting hours to check those important e-mails from back home. Monday featured a full day of special sessions and receptions for the local high school teachers and staff and students of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) from North Carolina. Local astronomy clubs, under the leadership of Joe Heafner, provided solar viewing and exciting details on their astronomy adventures. Of course no meeting would be complete without the famous Southern hospitality picnic, complete with string band and the thrilling demonstration show by our friends in the Apparatus and Labs Committees and PIRA. The smiling faces of local student guides and volunteers were everywhere in their white t-shirts to get us where we needed to be on time, so we did not miss a moment of the meeting.

The Greensboro meeting also provided many firsts, which we plan to incorporate in future meetings. The AAPT membership staff set up a member services desk for answering questions, filling out a new personal profile, recruiting new members, and displaying the program updates on a plasma screen in the registration area. The publications staff provided printed programs for each plenary and award speaker and videotaped each presentation. Some CDs were available at the new expanded AAPT booth in the exhibits. Check www.aapt.org for information on these soon. We held the first reception for our international participants. The Graduate Education Committee invited local graduate students to present their own research for review by a panel of professors in the “Cutting Edge Physics Research in Simple English” session.

Just as this was a new beginning for many of our members, it was an ending of a long relationship for three of our special friends. Bernie Khoury, Executive Officer, Emeritus, who served as Executive Officer from 1990-2006 and will retire in December, was honored with a stellar welcome reception in his honor, where the Executive Board presented him with a cake, an engraved AAPT rocking chair, and a rousing rendition of Thanks for the Memories, adapted by John Roeder. Maria Elena Khoury, Director of Programs and Conferences has been with AAPT for 22 years and will be retiring in September. Warren Hein, Chief Academic Officer and former Associate Executive Officer, has been with AAPT for 10 years and will be taking a two-year leave to work for NSF. Maria Elena and Warren were surprised with a cake and giant card of congratulations in the exhibits area. All of our lives have been enriched by our relationships with these three special people, and they will be greatly missed at AAPT. Hopefully, they will return to future meetings as regular members.

The overwhelming success of this meeting was due to the work of many individuals. Special thanks go to Steve Danford, Ed Hellen, and the physics department of UNCG for serving as our local host and to all of the officers and members of the North Carolina section of AAPT for their long hours of planning, recruiting of workers, and selling yellow t-shirts that we all wanted as a memento. Extra special thanks to John Hubisz and Bill McNairy for all of their personal work in taking over for Mary Creason, the inspiration for this meeting, and bringing her plans to fruition; and for Bill’s special tribute to Mary at the demonstration show on Tuesday. Thanks to the Shodor Education Foundation and UNCG Reynolds for their generous gift that provided registration fees and expenses for local teachers. And a great big hug goes to Maria Elena Khoury and Tiffany Hayes, all of the AAPT directors and staff, the Executive Board, President Harvey Leff, and all the volunteers who worked behind the scenes to make this meeting look so easy. I am proud of all of you and all the others whose names could not appear here. It has been my pleasure to serve as your program chair for Seattle and Greensboro. I now turn it all over to Alex Dickson to plan Baltimore and Edmonton.

A fitting closure to this meeting might be to quote Jan Mader in her award lecture, who said “Those Who Can….Teach”. Whether you are reading this as a K-12 classroom teacher, a college professor, a PhD advisor, a director of a national lab, or a cutting-edge physics researcher, every day of your life you do a little sharing and teaching of physics. You are what make AAPT great and give us the inspiration to be the leading voice in physics education. AAPT is truly the Accelerating Universe of Physics Education. Find your place in our universe. Members accelerate your involvement. Non-members join AAPT today and let your star shine brightly. I hope to see you January 19-23, 2008, in Baltimore for another great meeting.

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