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Each 21st Century Campaign program has been carefully designed to address specific and critical issues facing our nation.
The PhysTEC program is a signature program run jointly by the APS, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) to improve the preparation of future K-12 physics teachers. It provides funding to selected institutions to create teacher preparation programs that emphasize a student-centered, hands-on, inquiry-based approach to learning science.
Institutions funded by PhysTEC have doubled, or more, the number of physics teachers graduating from their programs each year, and PhysTEC sites now graduate around 8% of all new physics teachers in the U.S. The PhysTEC model of teacher preparation includes aggressive teacher recruitment; research-based pedagogy; collaboration between the physics department, education department, and school districts; a teacher-in-residence who is hired from a local school to work in the physics department; and an induction and mentoring program for the graduated teachers who are beginning their careers in the classroom.
The project also includes PTEC, a national coalition including both recognized leaders in science teacher preparation and institutions eager to enlarge and improve their programs. This growing coalition consists of more than 130 member institutions, and holds an annual national conference at which members share innovative best practices in teacher preparation
Teachers Days are held in connection with the two annual meetings of the American Physical Society. In 2008, Teachers’ Days were held in New Orleans, LA and St. Louis, MO. In 2009, they are being held in Pittsburgh, PA and Denver, CO. At these recent events, high school teachers participated in hands-on activities in workshops conducted by master physics teachers and saw presentations on cutting-edge research. They also networked with physicists and fellow teachers at breakout sessions and “lunch with a physicist.” Teachers come away with new ideas for experiments, sample activity materials, and a renewed enthusiasm for teaching science. Some APS units, such as the Division of Plasma Physics (DPP) and the Division of Physics of Beams (DPB) hold similar events in connection with their separate meetings during the year.
The Minority Scholarship Program for Undergraduate Physics Majors supports talented undergraduate physics students who come from minority groups that are currently under-represented among PhD physicists. This highly successful program has now awarded scholarships to 405 recipients (includes new and one year renewals) since its inception in 1980. Sixty-five percent of the scholarship recipients receive their undergraduate degrees in physics or a related field and twenty percent go on to pursue their PhD in physics.
Since 80-100 qualified students apply annually, and only one quarter of those were funded due to budget restraints, additional funding is helping provide more scholarships to talented minorities applying to the program. In addition to financial support, students are paired with two physicist mentors; one from the APS Committee on Minorities in physics (COM), and one from their home institution. The mentors serve as role models who provide support and career guidance to the scholarship winners. The students cite this mentoring component as a key source of support and encouragement in helping them complete their physics degree.
Student Travel Grants For Physics Meetings provide physics students with an opportunity to attend APS meetings and gain a sense of the physics community as they are beginning to pursue their scientific careers. They hear about exciting research, participate in special events, network with physicists and fellow students, and obtain career counseling at a critical time in their education. Through this program’s grants, students who would ordinarily not be able to handle the financial burden of travel, lodging and registration to experience APS meetings are able to do so.
The Women's Speaker Program and the Minorities Speakers Program reaches out to the untapped resource of women and under represented minorities at a time when the need for a scientifcally literate and technical workforce is growing so as to enroll and retain more of these students in scientifc programs. In this most recent year, the APS online listing of prominent physicists who have agreed to give talks and serve as role models at high schools, colleges and universities included 400 women speakers and 110 minority speakers.
The program allows for grants to cover the costs incurred by departments that host the colloquiums and seminars featuring the speakers. Several years ago, external funding made possible at brochure promoting physics to middle and high school young women. A similar brochure has now been developed to expose middle and high school minorities to the opportunities in physics.
The PhysicsCentral Website brings the excitement and importance of physics to the public at large. Visitors to the PhysicsCentral website learn about fundamental physics, delve into contemporary research, and explore links to the best physics sites on the web. The site includes in-depth stories, profles of physicists, artistic visuals, and educational materials. Launched in November 2000, it has won several awards and has consistently ranked among the top Google and Yahoo! physics sites. The site was recently redesigned to include blogs, podcasts and vodcasts.
© Eric J. Heller, 2000