SM12 Highlights, Physics: The Experimental Core  SM12_logo_fnl

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, home of the first great American experimental physicist, Ben Franklin, was the perfect setting for the 2012 Summer Meeting, Physics: The Experimental Core. Our meeting venue was one of American’s oldest college campuses, University of Pennsylvania. Participants prepare for the 5K AAPT Walk/Run through the University of Pennsylvania's historic campus.The 5K AAPT Walk/Run, a fundraiser that supports our meetings and conferences, toured this beautiful campus! Attendees had a chance to experience the sights and hear the tales of a city that forged a nation, cheered for Rocky, invented the first soft pretzel, and is home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall

Like Philadelphia, the 2012 AAPT Summer Meeting had much to offer. Our celebration featured an opportunity to watch a live performance and learn more about the life and times of Benjamin Franklin, one of the leading figures of early American History.  Physics is an experimental science. Encouraging and empowering the next generation to embrace the art of experimentation that lies at the core of physics, will ensure that our field remains vibrant and alive. Our plenary sessions explored our field across the scales of size, from the very small to the very large, with a stop at the human scale.

Participants try to lower the Helium Stick during Our 18 area committees span interests from Apparatus, to Women in Physics planned a program full of sessions, crackerbarrels, workshops, and posters.  The meeting was exciting with every minute full! We heard talks that crossed time, from “Experience, Experiment, Entertainment: Electrostatic Apparatus in the Age of Franklin” to looking to the future of our field with the “Space-Time, Quantum Mechanics, and the Large Hadron Collider.” Speakers answered questions such as “Can computational modeling be accessible to introductory students?” and how to provide quality laboratory experiences in these days of tight budgets. We looked outward to “Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science” and inward to “Faculty Peer Mentoring.” We explored ways to innovate our laboratory instruction, and gain “International Perspectives on Laboratory Instruction.” We learned more about “Leadership Models in Science” and “Mentoring Minority Students.”  We learned from the results of the “Two-Year College New Faculty Experience.” We also relaxed and were amazed by demonstrations from Third Eye.

Exhibit Hall in Houston Hall.Attendees visited with exhibitors in historic University of Pennsylvania Houston Hall. This was a great opportunity to learn about new products and opportunities from the leading publishers and providers of physics eduction tools.  Houston Hall was also the host to AAPT's favorite summer contests, the High School Physics Photo Contest and the Apparatus Competition.

Philip Sadler receives the 2012 Millikan Medal from AAPT President David Sokoloff.We recognized significant contributions to our field, to the classroom, and to AAPT through the Association’s thriving awards program. The Robert A. Millikan Medal was presented to Philip M. Sadler for his notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics.  Sadler’s work on student conceptions led to the production of the award winning documentary series, “A Private Universe” and “Minds of Our Own,” with colleague Matthew Schneps.  He directs one of the largest research groups in science education in the United States, based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA.  Sadler’s invention, the Starlab Portable Planetarium, has enabled many schools to provide active learning experiences for thousands of students.

Mark D. Greenman recieves the 2012 Paul W. Zitzewitz Excellence in Pre-College Teaching AwardThe Paul W. Zitzewitz Excellence in Pre-College Teaching Award was presented to Mark D. Greenman in recognition of his career-long concern for and attention to quality education at the pre-college level.  During his 30-year career at Marblehead High School he served as a physics teacher, teacher mentor, computer director, mathematics director, and science director.  He recently served for 2-years as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the National Science Foundation within the Division of Undergraduate Education. His talk, “Interactive laboratory Experiences (ILE)—a Professional Development Recipe for Success” was rich with insights. Greenman is currently serving as science consultant to the Massachusetts’ “Race to the Top Developing Model Curriculum & Curriculum Embedded Performance Assessments” initiative. The Ustream link (  )

Kevin M. Lee, 2012 recipient of the David Halliday and Robert Resnick Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Physics TeachingKevin M. Lee was recognized with the 2012 David Halliday and Robert Resnick Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching.  Lee is Research Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Center for Science, Mathematics, and Computer Education and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Lee has dedicated his career to elevating the teaching and learning of astronomy and physics at the college, state, national, and international level.  He has distinguished himself as a college instructor and developer of instructional technologies for use in space-science classrooms.  His remarkable and innovative work includes the development of numerous simulations and peer instruction questions, resulting in numerous workshops.  He freely shares his materials on his website

Eugenia Etkina, 2012 Distinguished Service Citation recipient.AAPT Distinguished Service Citations were presented to Eugenia Etkina, Jose D. Garcia, and Chandralekha Singh.  Etkina, professor at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Learning and Teaching, runs one of the largest programs in physics teacher preparation in the United States.  She is a co-creator of the Investigative Science Learning Environment and Physics Union Mathematics, physics learning systems used in college and 8-12 schools.  An AAPT member since 1997, she has served on the Focus Group on the Draft Framework, as a member of the National Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics and is chair of the Physics Education Research Leadership Organizing Council (PERLOC).

JD (jose) Garcia-received the AAPT Distinguished Service Citation.Garcia is Professor of Physics Emeritus at the University of Arizona Tucson where his research interests include time-dependent quantum models for collisions, quantum electrodymanics, physics education research, and improving science teacher education. He has served as Program Officer in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation, Charter president of the National Society of Hispanic Physicists (NSHP), and a President of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanas and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).  A long time member of AAPT he has served on the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics (SPIN-UP), the Joint AAPT-APS Task Force on Graduate Education and on the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics (TTEP).

Chandralekha Singh, 2012 Distinguised Service Citation recipientSingh, a Life Member of AAPT, has served as a member of the committee on International Physics Education, Committee on Graduate Education in Physics, and the Programs committee.  Her pioneering research in the teaching and learning of quantum mechanics has played a significant role in advancing physics education research in advanced courses.  Additionally, she has conducted research on cognitive issues in learning physics and improving student problem solving and reasoning skills. She has conducted workshops on teaching quantum mechanics during New Faculty Workshops and is the co-organizer of the first conference on Graduate Education in Physics.

Benjamin Franklin, the first experimental physicist, entertained at taught at SM12.Ben Franklin entertained attendees at a special, one-man performance on Monday evening. Franklin most represents the common man; in fact, his life rather defined the basic values that Americans still hold so dear. With no more than two years of formal education, he founded a university and a hospital. His work in the field of electricity has defined the basic principles of that science. As Postmaster-General, founder of the first professional fire fighting organization, fire insurance company and public lending library in North America, his record for public service is unmatched. At no time did he ever seek to patent or limit the use of his work, wishing only that his inventions would serve to benefit his fellow man to the fullest. Attendees has a wonderful time meeting Ben,  exploring his thoughts and sharing his observations.

The APS Division of Biological Physics held a plenary session, Birds, Brains, and Physics – The Fascinating Field of Biological Physics, with speakers William Bialek from Princeton and Dezhe A. Jin from Pennsylvania State University. Schools of fish, flocks of birds, and stampeding elephants are examples of phenomena from the natural living world that can be described using the tools of physics. Biological physics is a rapidly developing field of research that lies at the boundaries of physics, chemistry, and biology, and seeks to contribute to our understanding of life.

Nima Arkani-Hamed delivered a plenary talk, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Professor, School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, NJ, was already scheduled to talk on "Space-Time, Quantum Mechanics, and the Large Hadron Collider" when he received word that he was one of 9 recipients to share the $27 million Fundamental Physics Prize, established by Yuri Milner. Attendees at the AAPT Summer Meeting were spreading the news as they gathered to meet the $3,000,000 prize winner.  They were rewarded with a very informative and entertaining explanation of the physics behind the Higgs boson, just 28 days after its existence was experimentally determined. Arkani-Hamed stayed to answer audience questions for almost two hours following his plenary. (The Ustream link,

"Sizing Up the Universe" was the title of J. Richard Gott’s plenary talk.  A professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University, Gott caught the imaginations of the audience with his perspectives of the universe from the smallest to the largest sizes and distances. His National Geographic book by the same title was available during a book signing after his standing-room only talk. Gott is in Guinness World Records 2006 for finding the largest structure in the universe. His picture has appeared Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times. He received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching in acknowledgment of his work on the National Westinghouse/Intel Science Talent Search high school student science competition. He is an active promoter of the public awareness of science at the popular level, and Princeton students have voted him the school's outstanding professor several times. (The Ustream link,

Preceding this meeting, July 25-27, ALPhA hosted the 2012 Topical Conference, "Laboratory Instruction Beyond the First Year of College."  “The New Faculty Commencement Conference,” part of AAPT's New Faculty Experience for Two-Year College Faculty took place July 27-30.  The Physics Education Research Conference (PERC),  Cultural Perspectives on Learners’ Performance and Identity in Physics, was held August 1-2, 2012.


See more photos on Flickr.  Recorded plenaries are on Ustream at