APS News

In Brief

All of us learned some of the most important aspects of our trade in graduate school when we were thrown at a problem by our thesis advisor. One of the most important development in undergraduate physics in the last decade is the realization that research should be part of any education in physics, whether or not the ultimate aim is the Ph.D. For those at any level of post-secondary physics education who would like a roadmap full of helpful hints written in an engaging style, AIP has produced an excellent booklet, How to Involve Undergraduates in Research: A Field Guide for Faculty. It is being distributed to all chapters of the Society of Physics Students and is available to interested parties by contacting the American Institute of Physics by calling or emailing. It is $5 well spent.

APS President C. Kumar N. Patel wrote to Neal Lane, director of the National Science Foundation, to express serious concern about the agency's FY1996 budget for research and related activities. Although basic research fared better than other parts of the federal budget, the NSF's FY1996 budget is about the same as that for FY1995, which Patel believes represents "a significant decrease in purchasing power." In his letter, he reaffirmed the NSF's unique role in preserving the nation's leadership in research and higher education in the physical sciences, and called for the agency's leadership to fight vigorously on behalf of its FY1997 budget to avert further erosion. "The pressures on the NSF for the support of research and education are going to grow as other sources of support are reduced or eliminated through federal downsizing, and as industry reduces its support for long-term research," Patel wrote. "These realities must be recognized in its budget if the Administration and Congress are to sustain their declared commitment to research and education."

At its September meeting, the APS Executive Board approved a proposal to change the name of the APS Visiting Minority Lectureship Award to the Bouchet-Rainwater Award, in honor of physicists Edward A. Bouchet and Leo James Rainwater. Bouchet was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. degree in the U.S. in any area, from Yale University in 1876 for his thesis work on measuring refractive indices. Upon graduation, he accepted a position teaching physics and chemistry at the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia. Rainwater was a Native American who shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in physics for work completed in the early 1950s on the structure of the distorted nucleus. He received a Ph.D. in 1946 from Columbia University, where he remained as a professor for most of his career. The Research Corporation, which provides funding for the award, also approved the change.

The Division of High Polymer Physics (DHPP) will offer a special short course entitled, An Introduction to Polymeric Materials and Their Applications, 16-17 March, in conjunction with the 1996 APS March Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. Presented by faculty from the interdisciplinary Polymer Science Program at the University of Connecticut, its objective is to introduce students and non-experts to the field of polymer science, and it will cover both the fundamentals of polymeric materials and their applications in selected technologies.

The course is designed to provide scientists with a basic understanding of the principles of synthesis, characterization, structure-property relationships and processing of polymeric materials, as well as the techniques commonly used in their analysis. Special emphasis will be placed on demonstrating how the unique properties of polymers lead to applications in areas such as polymer composites, multicomponent polymers, optical and electronic applications, surface and interface modification with polymers, and biomaterials applications. Tuition for the course is $250 ($125 for students) and the preregistration deadline is February 16, 1996. For further information, contact Jeffrey Koberstein, University of Connecticut, Institute of Materials Science, Storrs, CT 06269-3136; phone: (203) 486-4716; fax: (203) 486-4745; (email: jeff@venus.ims.uconn.edu).

A new study prepared by the National Research Council (NRC) rates graduate programs at U.S. universities according to their scholastic quality and by the quality of their Ph.D. preparation. The best physics departments, in descending order of research quality, are Harvard, Princeton, MIT and University of California, Berkeley, Caltech, Cornell, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Stanford, and University of California, Santa Barbara. Besides ranking departments, the NRC report provides a ledger full of data about the complexion of university physics. For example, the departments with the most graduate students enrolled in the fall of 1992 are MIT, 315; Illinois, 295; Berkeley, 283; and the University of Texas, 239. Those awarding the most Ph.D.s during the period from 1987/88 to 1992/92 are MIT, 196; Illinois, 174; Berkeley, 169; Texas, 156; and Cornell, 142. As for Ph.D. recipients who were U.S. citizens or permanent residents, the highest percentages were at Berkeley (86 percent), Cornell (82 percent), Illinois (79 percent), and Stanford (78 percent); the lowest percentages were at CUNY (25 percent) and Rutgers (40 percent). And among top-quarter departments, the median number of years for earning the Ph.D. ranged from a low of 6.1 at Princeton to a high of 8.8 at CUNY. [Item courtesy of Philip F. Schewe of the American Institute of Physics.]

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin