2009 January Announcements

January 2009

Letter to the Membership from Executive Officer Warren Hein

Warren HeinAs a new year begins, I am pleased to bring you greetings and best wishes for a Happy New Year from the AAPT National Office. It has been four months since I started at AAPT as Executive Officer and I would like to provide you with an update on activities involving the National Office since September. It seems that “Change” has become a key word in our vocabulary the past year, at least politically, and the AAPT National Office has also undergone considerable change. In addition to a new Executive Officer (actually two in 2008), we have had a number of changes in staff and I am pleased to report that we have filled our critical vacancies and have a National Office team that is dedicated to serving our membership and moving the association forward on its dual mission: “Strengthening Physics Education; Supporting Physics Teachers.”

We were very pleased to learn that three grant proposals submitted to NSF were funded with the grants beginning in October 2008. The first of these is a renewal of the very successful New Physics and Astronomy Faculty Workshop for another five years. The workshop has been held every year since 1996 and two workshops were held for the first time in 2008 and were attended by more than 175 new tenure-track college and university faculty. More that 1,000 new physics and astronomy faculty have participated in these workshops over the 12 years of the project. The New Faculty Workshop is a collaborative activity with the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS). For more information on the New Faculty Workshop please visit http://aapt.org/Events/newfaculty.cfm.

The second funded grant is "Building Undergraduate Physics Programs for the 21st Century: SPIN-UP Regional Workshops.” Funds are provided to conduct regional workshops at four locations (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Marquette, North Carolina State University, and Rutgers) to disseminate the results of the SPIN-UP report prepared by the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics. Faculty teams from up to 80 colleges and university physics departments interested in revitalizing their undergraduate programs will have an opportunity to discuss the important characteristics of thriving undergraduate physics programs that emerged from the SPIN-UP project and determine what changes in their programs might result in more and better prepared undergraduate physics majors. Bob Hilborn, Chair of the National Task Force, is the principal investigator on the grant and Ruth Howes is the project coordinator.

The third funded grant, “The Physics Classroom,” is funded by the National Science Digital Library program and will provide a permanent home on ComPADRE for the materials developed by Thomas Henderson at Glenbrook South High School. Bruce Mason, ComPADRE Principal Investigator, is also Principal Investigator on this grant. The NSF-funded ComPADRE Pathway grant (www.compadre.org) is in its third year and is continuing to add peer-reviewed digital resources to the online collections. Every physics educator should be aware of and take advantage of the resources available through ComPADRE, a joint project of AAPT, APS and the American Institute of Physics/Society of Physics Students.

Plans are underway for selecting the 2009 International Physics Olympiad Team which will compete in the 40th International Physics Olympiad to be held in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, from July 12 to 19, 2009. The first step in selecting the team is the “Fnet = ma” multiple choice exam which will be offered during the period January 19-February 3, 2009. The 400 students with the best scores on this exam are considered the quarter finalists and will take a problems-based exam to narrow the field further to approximately 200 semi-finalists who will take a third and more difficult exam. From the results of these three exams 20-24 students are selected to attend a ten-day training camp at the University of Maryland where the traveling team of five students and one alternate will eventually be determined. The 2008 US IPhO Team received four gold medals and one silver medal at the 39th IPhO held in Vietnam, continuing the very successful record of performance in the IPhO by US teams. AAPT handles all the arrangements for selecting and training the team for the member societies of the American Institute of Physics and AIP assists AAPT in raising funds to support the selection, preparation and the travel of team members and coaches. To follow the preparation of the 2009 US IPhO team or to donate to support the 2009 IPhO Team, visit the website at www.aapt.org/olympiad2009/.

In addition to the collaborative projects mentioned earlier, AAPT continues to play an important role in the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) project with APS and AIP. A National Task Force on the Preparation of Physics Teachers has been assembled with Stamatis Vokos as the chair. The Task Force will be investigating why some physics departments graduate many more physics and physical science teachers than the national average which is about 0.4 teachers per physics department per year. In addition to collecting data on physics and physical science teacher preparation programs, the Task Force will be doing site visits and preparing case studies on physics teacher preparation programs that have a demonstrated record of success. More information about PhysTEC and the associated Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PTEC) can be found at www.phystec.org and www.ptec.org.

For almost a year the Membership Department has been working toward the implementation of web-based technologies that enable online membership renewal and registration. Although members could renew online in the past, these renewals required processing of payments and updating of information by staff, rather than having payment and demographic information updated automatically in the membership database. When this system went live in September, a number of errors and other glitches occurred that were not uncovered during the testing phase. I want to thank all members who were inconvenienced by errors for their patience and we are now seeing fewer errors, although they still occur. The new iWEB modules allow those registered with AAPT, members and prospective members, to update their profiles online (e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc.) so their records with AAPT will always be up-to-date. Other iWEB modules are being implemented that will provide a number of membership enhancements and will be made available to the AAPT community in the near future.

Last, but certainly not least, the staff at the National Office has been engaged in preparations for the joint AAPT/AAAS Winter Meeting in Chicago, February 12-19. Working with another organization in preparing for the meeting and resolving the issues having to do with space, exhibits, etc. has been a significant challenge for our Programs and Conferences Department, as well as for David Cook, AAPT Vice-President and Program Chair. Both organizations have their own “meeting culture” which at times proved to be hard to overcome and required compromises. Since the hotels only wanted to communicate with one organization and since AAAS had made the initial hotel arrangements, AAPT staff had to be extra diligent to be sure AAPT’s best interests were served in all negotiations with the hotels and the providers of ancillary services such as audio visual services and the speaker ready room. However, the joint meeting will offer many advantages to both AAPT and AAAS attendees that are normally not available and an outstanding program of sessions, symposia, workshops, and other activities will be available to those in attendance.

Many of the activities I have mentioned in the preceding paragraphs may be familiar to you because you have been an active participant in them. AAPT is not the National Office; AAPT is its members and prospective members who volunteer and participate in the many activities of the association and its committees, the association’s 47 sections, and other affiliated organizations. If you are currently not a member of the national organization, I would encourage you to join and take full advantage of all that AAPT has to offer as the only professional organization that serves and supports physics educators at all levels. As always, please feel free to contact me at whein@aapt.org or 301-209-3311 if you have questions or concerns about your AAPT membership or suggestions for ways that AAPT could better serve the physics education community.

Warren W. Hein
Executive Officer
January 2009