AIP | Matters
-- -- July 16, 2012

Thomas Olsen Director's Matters

Guest column by Thomas Olsen, Assistant Director, SPS/ΣΠΣ

Zoned into SPS

Although summer is a busy time for the Education Division, we see our highest peak in activity as the academic year draws to a close. Every spring, undergraduate members of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) join together in dynamic regional—or "zone"—meetings. Each of the 750+ chapters of SPS belongs to one of 18 zones, and many students participate in the SPS zone meetings, hosted by a chapter relatively close by—at least in most cases within a few hours' drive. Each of these meetings celebrates a great fellowship of physicists, shows off the good science research and outreach in which the chapters engage, and is filled with great fun! SPS National Office staff members (part of the AIP Education Division) attend as many of these meetings as possible to communicate SPS opportunities at the national level and to keep aware of the pulse of the organization at the local level. As assistant director of SPS, I had the privilege to attend meetings at Adelphi College in Garden City, NY (zone 2), Trinity College in Hartford, CT (zone 1), and California State University, Fresno (zone 18).

SPS zone 18 presents Nobel Laureate Douglas Osheroff with a plaque upon his induction as an Honorary Member of Sigma Pi Sigma. From the left: Doug Singleton, SPS Fresno Chapter Treasurer Jerry Martinez, Doug Osheroff, SPS Fresno Chapter President Jessica Hernon and Thomas Olsen. The SPS zone 18 is our most geographically extensive zone, and its meeting celebrated physics student achievement in California, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii (present by video link), the Philippines, and China. Zone 18 councilor and Fresno department chair Doug Singleton opened the event with a reception in the Downing Planetarium/Science Museum and welcomed honoree Nobel Laureate Douglas Osheroff of Stanford University. Osheroff was the first to demonstrate that the rare form of helium, He-3, would behave as a superfluid when cooled sufficiently. He has been active in physics research, physics education reform, and the AIP program to bring Nobel Laureates to minority-serving institutions of higher learning. During the meeting, Osheroff was received into Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society, as an Honorary Member—the society's highest distinction. Eleven students were received as new members, and the induction marked the revival of California State University, Fresno's local Sigma Pi Sigma chapter.

Osheroff recounted for the students his role on the committee that investigated the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. His research team's calculations and tests revealed that a piece of foam had broken off the fuel tank and hit the shuttle wing during takeoff, fatally wounding the wing. He also gave a talk on the patterns of discovery in science, including his own great discovery. Students were fascinated and challenged by the lessons of his life.

The meeting engaged students in many ways. There were simultaneous contests to drop eggs from the greatest heights to a safe—i.e., intact—landing, and to build the tallest tower from limited supplies, including plastic drinking straws. There were faculty and student talks that ranged from accretion disks in binary star systems to coil guns that fire iron pellets with electromagnetic forces. At the afternoon poster session, students reported on their research in fields ranging from astronomy to the properties of materials, with a prize awarded to the best presenter.

Zone 18 Associate Councilor (and 2011 SPS Intern) Courtney Lemon of Cal Poly Pomona and I informed students of opportunities that SPS provides for students at the national level: internships, scholarships, and other awards, travel stipends, and the upcoming Sigma Pi Sigma Congress, featuring tours of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Fresno faculty and students also presented their chapter's physics outreach show that they bring to local elementary, middle, and high schools on a weekly basis, pleasing the crowd with samples of liquid nitrogen ice cream.

Cal State Fresno faculty and students give physics demonstrations

There is a strong and nationally visible component of the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma, as students earn scholarships provided by alumni, present at scholarly meetings of the AIP Member Societies, and gather for the quadrennial Congress (see the April 9, 2012, issue of AIP Matters). However, all of this is built upon the work that individual student leaders and faculty chapter advisors selflessly perform on individual campuses. The chapters are the lifeblood of these student societies and the places where students begin their transition to becoming professional scientists. Supporting these chapters and their leaders is central to the work of AIP's Education Division. Zone meetings have a special place in bonding students together, preparing them to serve their fellow students, to engage in outreach, and to become the future leaders of our profession.
Publishing Matters

Xinghua Lu joins the editorial team of Review of Scientific Instruments

Xinghua Lu AIP is pleased to welcome Dr. Xinghua Lu as a new associate editor for the journal Review of Scientific Instruments (RSI). Lu handles manuscripts in all instrumental areas. Papers on scanning probes may be specifically directed to him since Lu's extensive experience with scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and scanning tunneling spectroscopy will complement the technical background of the other editors, for the benefit of both authors and readers of RSI.

Lu obtained his BS and MS degrees in physics at Tsinghua University in Beijing and his PhD in condensed matter physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is professor and deputy director of the State Key Laboratory for Surface Physics at the Institute of Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. His research focuses on molecular dynamics with ultrafast laser-assisted STM, single spin detection and control, and DNA manipulation in nanopores.
Physics Resources Matters

Modeling the "Fabric of the Cosmos"

Every summer, the Society of Physics Students employs several interns to work on science outreach. Melissa Hoffman and Meredith Woy are the 2012 SPS Science Outreach Catalyst Kit (SOCK) interns, and this summer they are working on a "Fabric of the Cosmos" themed SOCK. They have tested out the activities included in this year's SOCKs by travelling to local schools, camps, and programs.

Students at Tuckahoe Elementary School model the effects of gravity using spandex."Our recent visit to Tuckahoe Elementary was a blast! The students were very enthusiastic about the activities and were eager to learn," said Meredith. Melissa added, "One of the students in Meredith's group exclaimed 'Spacetime!' almost as soon as she placed a bowling ball in the center of a sheet of spandex. The spandex activity is awesome, because all ages for whom we have done the activity respond with curiosity and interest." Doing outreach has given the interns insight into how to present big ideas in science in an interactive and engaging manner to different age groups with varying science backgrounds. Read more about their outreach activities in their weekly journals.

New volunteer leadership in SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma

David Donnolley SPS is pleased to announce that David Donnelly, professor and physics department chair at Texas State University, is the newly elected president of the Society of Physics Students. Donnelly assumes his role as Toni Sauncy steps down as SPS president to join the AIP staff as SPS/ΣΠΣ director beginning August 1. Donnelly is engaged in physics education research and leads a dynamic department attuned to the professional needs of its graduates. He has served as the SPS chapter advisor and for six years as councilor of SPS zone 13 (Texas). Donnelly has served as editor of The Nucleus, the undergraduate student portal of ComPADRE, the National Science Digital Library's physics and astronomy component, since its inception. His leadership will be of great value to the societies through this time of transition.

William DeGraffenreid The Sigma Pi Sigma honor society also welcomed a new president: William DeGraffenreid, associate professor and chair of physics at California State University, Sacramento. DeGraffenreid begins his term with a strong history as SPS chapter advisor and zone 18 councilor (California-Nevada). He has an active research program in experimental atomic physics and led Sigma Pi Sigma's efforts to engage students in the ethical dimensions of their scientific profession. DeGraffenreid follows the tenure of Diane Jacobs, professor and longtime chapter advisor at Eastern Michigan University and councilor of zone 7 (lower Michigan-Ohio-West Virginia).

With the future of SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma in the hands of such outstanding leaders, AIP continues to serve the rising generation of physics professionals with distinction.
Off the Press

Follow-up on Liberty Mutual

AIP employees: See the notice on InSite about completing your beneficiary designations. Please attend to this at your soonest convenience.
Coming Up

July 15–18

  • Special Libraries Association Annual Conference (Chicago, IL)

Thursday, July 19

  • Ice cream social and "WOW" drawing, 2:30 pm (Melville, NY)

July 24–26

  • CESSE Annual Meeting (Louisville, KY)

July 28–August 1

  • ACA Annual Meeting (Boston, MA)
  • AAPT Summer Meeting (Philadelphia, PA)

Tuesday, July 31

  • Ice cream social and "WOW" drawing, 2:30 pm (College Park, MD)
  • Marcum Workplace Challenge, 7 pm. A 3.5 mile run/walk, accompanied by Long Island's largest office picnic (Jones Beach State Park, NY)

July 29–Aug 2

  • AAPM Annual Meeting (Charlotte, NC)