Education's ever mighty pen
While 137,000 people are represented under the AIP umbrella, AIP's membership officially totals 10—the 10 Member Societies. However, AIP also includes other member organizations: the Society of Physics Students, Sigma Pi Sigma, and Corporate Associates. The first two are housed in the Education Division and have a combined membership exceeding 50,000, ranging from undergraduates to retirees. The challenge of reaching such a diverse constituency is expertly managed through three publications: Radiations magazine, the SPS Observer, and the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Physics (JURP)—all edited by Ed Neuenschwander, a physics professor at Southern Nazarene University and a former director of the Education Division at AIP. I draw these publications to your attention because of the purposes they serve: to cultivate people's love of physics, to engender an affinity with the discipline and its extended community, and to instill the responsibility to share our knowledge of physics with the public.
You've probably heard the term "hidden physicist," which can describe much of Radiations' audience. Hidden physicists are people with at least a bachelor's degree in physics but who don't hold a traditional academic physics job; hence, the term can be applied to the great majority (about 90%) of all physicists. Radiations brings these individuals—lifelong members of the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society—and their career paths to light in the Hidden Physicists column, which spotlights physicists who have become aerospace engineers, patent lawyers, actuaries, and activists, to name only a few. Often, Radiations is the only link these readers have to the physics community. As an example, consider the latest issue, which contains a fascinating account of the contributions of Ralph A. Alpher to Big Bang cosmology, told by his son Victor. Ralph Alpher's 1948 dissertation has long been acknowledged as the foundation for modern Big Bang nucleosynthesis calculations and for the prediction of cosmic microwave background radiation. It is well worth the read.
Through the SPS Observer, undergraduate members of SPS begin to see themselves as part of a national network of physicists and learn about the many professional scientific societies that can help them grow in a chosen career. One of the regular features in the Observer is student reporting from Member Society meetings. These meeting reports encourage student involvement in professional societies and promote the value of undergraduate research. Another regular feature is Spotlight on SPS Outreach, where students share their chapter's efforts to engage the community in physics-related activities such as a superhero training academy and pumpkin launches. SPS hopes that students in other chapters will duplicate those efforts.
The Journal of Undergraduate Research in Physics completes the triad of publications; it offers undergraduates their first opportunity to publish their research. Articles are peer reviewed by other students, enabling both researcher and reviewer to contribute to the body of knowledge. JURP has published students' papers on topics as diverse as photoelectron spectroscopy to dark matter modeling. AIP, through SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma, is proud of its role in cultivating the up-and-coming generation of physicists.
JRSE goes mobile!
Reaching out to researchers on the go, a mobile version of AIP's newest journal—Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy—was released in August. JRSE can now be accessed from any mobile device equipped with a modern web browser. AIP's Online Services staff created a streamlined version of the JRSE website, which loads quickly and is optimized for display on devices such as the Google Android, Blackberry, iPhone, and iPod Touch and on devices running Windows Mobile. JRSE Mobile differs from the desktop edition in that all pages are formatted for small screens, some data have been suppressed to enhance readability, and a "navigate" button opens a menu to explore the site in mobile mode. The JRSE website is programmed to detect the use of a mobile device and redirect the users to JRSE's mobile edition. With the latest-version web browser, a mobile user can take advantage of the full functionality of JRSE Mobile, including searching and article bookmarking. Try out JRSE Mobile and let us know what you think.
Data on high-school physics: A joint effort of AIP and AAPT
High-school physics plays an essential role in the education of physicists, engineers, and scientists and, more broadly, in the education of the general public. In the case of the former, high school is often the first formal exposure to physics. In the latter, it is often the last opportunity to take a formal course in physics. Thus, who takes high-school physics, what courses they complete, and who teaches them are all essential bellwethers of the vitality of the field and the state of science literacy more generally.
The Statistical Research Center (SRC) has been documenting trends in high-school physics since 1986, conducting an in-depth study once every four years. Susan White now directs this series of studies, and she and her team recently completed data collection on the state of high-school physics during academic year 2008–09. The findings of these surveys are disseminated using a variety of media, including reports, articles, data on the SRC website, and talks at society conferences.
Thanks to the efforts of John Layman, who was the chair of the SRC Advisory Committee when the high-school surveys first began, White recently had meetings with Karl Mamola, editor of The Physics Teacher (TPT), a publication of AAPT. They have agreed on another strategy to get these essential data to the people who need them. Beginning with the September issue of TPT, White will author a half-page story in each issue highlighting the most sought after data on high-school physics. The first story describes the percentage of high-school graduates who took physics from 1948 through 2005.
AIP remembers Sonja Johnson, program coordinator for the Media and Government Relations Division. Sonja, who heroically battled cancer for two years, passed away on August 23. She is survived by her husband, two children, and parents. In the words of MGR director Alicia Torres, "Sonja has been a role model to many of us—she touched our lives with her determination and positive attitude. She insisted on working and taking care of all of her responsibilities no matter what she was personally dealing with at the moment. We will miss her. Those of us who knew her will always remember Sonja and her inspirational journey." During her struggle with breast cancer, Sonja wrote "My story," which we share with you below:
My name is Sonja Smith Johnson. I am 36, a wife of 18 years (I count the dating period too), and mother of two handsome boys, ages 16 and 10.
We reside in Laurel, Maryland, 15 minutes outside of Baltimore and 20 minutes from the Washington, DC, line. I've lived in the Washington, DC, metro area, which included living in Virginia, DC, and Maryland, for 25 years.
My hobbies are writing fiction novels (which I plan to one day self-publish), doing photography, watching movies, traveling, trying new foods and new things (such as snowboarding, ice skating, and high-diving), and most importantly, spending time with my family and extended families.
I work at the American Institute of Physics as a project specialist in the TV-Broadcast division, writing and producing science news for TV. My job is updating our website, creating the graphics, and finding interesting science articles, which include stories on paintball guns, physics in basketball, and graphics in video games—yes, there is science used in creating video games.
In February 2008, I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and recently re-diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and more tumors that are in other parts of my body. I know that some of you are shocked and may be feeling sad, but don't be. I am still faithful and blessed that God has me in His graces. All I want are prayers for me and my family. It has taken me awhile to share this story, but I feel that I have to. Women, as you celebrate your birthday, also celebrate your life by getting tested early. Breast cancer is no longer an "older woman's" disease, and in some cases a hereditary disease, but a woman's disease that is plaguing our nation. So I ask you to be inspired to live by getting checked early, and taking your sister, mother, and daughters to be checked, and be empowered by hope and help women with breast cancer or other types of cancer.
Peace and Blessings!