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Dr. Vivian F. Incera is a Professor of Physics and the Dean of Science and Technology at the City University of New York/College of Staten Island. She received her B.S. in Physics at the University of Havana, Cuba, and her Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics at the P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow, Russia. She was then a postdoctoral fellow at the same institute for two years before immigrating to the U.S. in 1991, where she started as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Florida International University. In 1993, she joined the Department of Physics at SUNY-Fredonia, where she spent 12 years and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1997 and to Full Professor in 2001. In 2005, she was recruited as the Chair of the Physics Department at Western Illinois University, and in 2009 she moved to the University of Texas at El Paso, to become the Chair of the Physics Department, serving on this role during a five-year term. In the summer of 2016, she moved to the City University of New York to serve as the new Dean of Science and Technology at the College of Staten Island. She has been a visiting scholar at many international institutions. In 1999, she received a Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education grant from NSF to work for a year at the University of Barcelona, Spain.
Incera is a high-energy theorist although her research interests frequently cross the formal boundaries of other areas. She has worked on the interface of high energy and nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and condensed matter; often on the effects of electric and magnetic fields at very large scales like neutron stars; or very small scales like string theories and condensed matter. Over her academic career, she has made important contributions to the understanding of the properties of strongly interacting matter under extreme conditions. She is best known for elucidating the effects of strong magnetic fields on the color superconducting phases that develop at high baryon densities. More recently, she has studied the topological inhomogeneous phases that are generated in quark matter at intermediate densities in the presence of a magnetic field. In this topic, she has uncovered remarkable similarities between the properties of this matter and those of novel materials like topological insulators.
Incera is an accomplished academic leader, whose leadership style contributed to significantly increase the research performance, diversity, and national reputation of the departments she led. By empowering women, the representation of women in physics at UTEP increased to over 30%, well above the national average. At Western Illinois University, Incera's revitalization of the department attracted excellent new faculty and ultimately contributed to the physics graduate program being ranked among the 25th most productive master programs in the nation for several years in a row. As the new Dean of Science at CSI, she has already spearheaded several initiatives to increase student success, foster faculty research, and promote the representation and success of women in the STEM fields.
Incera has served on several advisory boards, on the Committee on Minorities of the APS, and as the Elected Chair of the Texas Section of the APS. She was the Dr. C. Sharp Cook Chair in Physics at UTEP and received a national award for Leadership in College-level Promotion of Education.
I am honored by the nomination for General Councilor. I accepted to run for this position for two main reasons. One is to join the voices in the APS that are actively advocating for the need to increase federal funding for physics research in general, but in particular, for fundamental research, which has been badly underfunded and has often come under attack even within the government agencies for many years in a row. The other is because I would like to be part of the APS leadership that is developing initiatives to increase the representation of minorities and women in our discipline. I think that I have the experience and expertise to effectively contribute to these two efforts. From my point of view, these two areas are needed for the progress of our society. Without the first, we will lose our capacity to develop the technologies of the future, because they would necessarily be based on new discoveries of fundamental character, but those will be hindered by the lack of funding. Without the second, we would be missing a huge pool of diverse talent that can contribute to enhance our ability to innovate, as well as to look at problems and finding solutions from many different perspectives.
How do we change the culture in our discipline to make it more inclusive for women and minorities? Why despite all the efforts done so far, we still have notable lack of representation of these groups? The APS has done a lot to address these issues in our community, but we still have a long way to go.
I also believe that we have to brainstorm on how to do a better job in conveying the message to the government and the general public about the relevance of fundamental science for our progress and global competitiveness. We cannot just blame as "ignorant" those who dismiss fundamental science as not practical, or not connected to the "real" problems of the society, and a waste of resources. If a significant segment of the population thinks that way, we should share part of the blame, since we are in the business of educating the new generations. My proposal is to accept humbly that we need to make our message more understandable to anybody, and come up with creative ways to deliver it effectively.
I also think that the time is ripe for the APS to join forces with other professional societies to form a common front and together advocate for the science in general and, in particular, for the contributions of fundamental science to society.
If I am elected, I will work hard for this agenda. It would be a true honor if you decide to endorse it and I receive your vote of confidence to carry it out.