APS News

National Society of Hispanic Physicists Founded

The National Society of Hispanic Physicists (NSHP) was founded in May at a meeting held at the University of Texas, Austin (UTA). The founding meeting was attended by Richard Saenz, Chair of the APS Committee on Minorites, as well as representatives from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Foundation, Exxon, IBM, and numerous universities. The new society's mission is to foster and support the participation of Hispanics in careers in physics.

According to co-founder David J. Ernst, associate dean of Vanderbilt University's College of Arts and Science, director of the Pan-American Association for Physics (PAAP) and Fellow of the APS, the Hispanic minority in the U.S. is extremely under-represented in the sciences and engineering. An Hispanic in the U.S. is only one-sixth as likely to receive a B.S. in science or engineering as a white non-Hispanic person; the ratio drops to one-twelfth if the Hispanic person is Mexican-American. Female Hispanics are even more under-represented than males.

"With the globalization of the economy, and especially the signing of NAFTA and other pending agreements with Latin America, the U.S. Hispanic community offers a unique opportunity to build a mutually beneficial economic alliance with Latin America," said Ernst. "However, an increased participation of the Hispanic community in business, and particularly high-tech business, is needed."

Even before its founding, the NSHP enrolled over 80 members through the efforts of the PAAP, and the membership is now about 100. Members need not be Hispanic, according to co-founder Carlos Ordonez, an APS member, UTA assistant professor and PAAP associate director. "There's no restriction except professional," he said. "Anyone who shares our goals will be welcome. We want to promote Hispanics, but we want to get them into mainstream society. We don't want to form a separate group. In science and technology we have to deal with all kinds of people."

PAAP will continue to provide basic support for the new society until it establishes its own operations. The project also received support from the Sloan Foundation, as well as the SBC Foundation, Clark Atlanta University's Center for Theoretical Studies of Physical Systems, Vanderbilt University, and HEB Grocery Company.

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin