APS News

Career Task Force Makes Recommendations to APS Council

The APS Task Force on Careers and Professional Development presented its final report and recommendations to the APS Council in April. Chaired by Diandra Leslie-Pelecky (University of Nebraska, Lincoln), the task force was created last year in response to concerns over the changing situation for employment of physicists. "The Task Force was asked to take a long-range approach and think of ways that the APS could stimulate improved preparation and broadened career options for physicists," said Barrett Ripin, APS Associate Executive Officer. "We are pleased that did just that," he said.

The charge to the task force included advising the APS on efficient and effective mechanisms for coordinating and integrating the existing Society career-oriented programs with the AIP Career Services Division; formulating a long-term strategy to address career and professional development issues, incorporating existing elements of the APS as well as new ideas and programs; and identification and assistance in the implementation of new programs to effectively serve the physics community in dealing with career issues.

First and foremost, the task force determined that the APS must be concerned with career and professional development issues at all levels, including not only PhDs, but also Master's degree recipients, bachelor-level physicists, and mid-career physicists faced with career changes, voluntary or otherwise. While acknowledging that the need to increase the exposure of faculty and students to different career options has been recognized by the APS and AIP through numerous programs, the task force found that these programs do not currently reach as many members as they could, and called for a continuation of efforts to obtain outside funding for such activities.

Developing a workshop designed to educate faculty about the changing job market, was another recommendation. Suggested contents for workshops, to be presented at APS meetings, included discussion of the skills necessary for different careers and how to provide students with opportunities to acquire them; mechanics of helping students find a non-academic job; and information on successful programs at other schools. While AIP currently presents career workshops, the task force noted that these are directed towards students and do not contain materials specific to the needs of the faculty member's role as mentor. Sessions directed toward faculty have instead generally focused mostly on statistics. Strong input from industrial scientists was also deemed critical to ensure the relevance of the workshop material.

In addition, the task force suggested that the APS offer short courses on management skills, communication skills, and other helpful skills which might be of interest to APS members. The APS might also offer a short course on pedagogy for physics faculty and graduate students who are teaching or interested in pursuing a teaching career. The task force also suggested development of two short videotapes, one for undergraduate students and another for graduate students, to be provided to physics departments across the country. Finally, the task force called for continued efforts to compile statistical information tracking postdoctoral fellows. This would hopefully help answer questions about where they eventually find jobs.

The task force also recommended that an APS committee be given the primary responsibility for career issues and implementing its recommendations, preferably one drawing its members from academia, industry and government to ensure balanced representation. The APS is currently looking into the best way to establish this committee. The task force acknowledged the involvement of several APS forums in this area and emphasized that the committee assignment is not meant to discourage forums from continuing to participate; rather, it will help centralize information for members and provide coordination among interested parties. Over the next year, the Task Force will continue its work, but shift emphasis towards implementing its recommendations.

The members of the task force are: Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, Chair (University of Nebraska), Tony Nero (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), Robert Kwasnick (General Electric), Steven J. Smith (NCAR), Glen Crawford (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center), Robert Bartolo (University of Maryland), Peter Abbamonte (University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory), and Peter Wolff (MIT). The senior APS advisor to the task force is Barrett Ripin and Arlene Modeste is staff liason. Also contributing to the discussions were Ed Goldin of AIP's Career Services, Roman Czujko of AIP's Employment and Statistics Division, APS Executive Officer Judy Franz, APS Treasurer Tom McIlrath, AAPT Executive Officer Bernard Khoury, Kevin Aylesworth of the APS Education Division and Sherrie Preische of APS Special Projects.

A full copy of the task force report may be viewed through the APS home page or a hard copy may be obtained by contacting Arlene Modeste, APS, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740; phone: (301) 209-3232; email: modeste@aps.org.


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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin