APS News

Langer Chosen as APS Vice-President in 1997 Election

Members of The American Physical Society have elected James S. Langer, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to be the Society's next vice-president. Langer's term begins on January 1, when he will succeed Jerome Friedman (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), who will become president-elect. Langer will become APS president in 2000. The 1998 president is Andrew Sessler (Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory) (see interview, page 2).

In other election results, Daniel Kleppner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was elected as chair-elect of the Nominating Committee, which will be chaired by Wick Haxton (University of Washington) in 1998. The Nominating Committee selects the slate of candidates for vice-president, general councillors, and its own chair-elect. Its choices are then voted on by the APS membership. Beverly K. Berger (Oakland University), Cynthia McIntyre (George Mason University), Roberto Peccei (University of California, Los Angeles), and Helen Quinn (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center) were elected as general councillors.


James S. Langer was born in Pittsburgh in 1934. He received his Ph.D. in mathematical physics under the supervision of R.E. Peierls at the University of Birmingham, England in 1958. He joined the Physics Department at Carnegie Mellon University in 1958. In 1982, he became professor of physics and a member of the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, serving as its director from 1989 to 1995. The 1997 recipient of the APS Oliver E. Buckley Prize, Langer's research generally has been in the theory of nonequilibrium phenomena in condensed matter. His specific areas of interest have been quantum many-body theory of transport in solids, the kinetics of first-order phase transitions including nucleation and spinodal decomposition, dendritic pattern formation in crystal growth and, most recently, the dynamics of earthquakes and fracture.

Langer's most recent national committee service includes stints as chair of the APS Division of Condensed Matter Physics; chair of the APS Nominating Committee (1995); chair of the Physics Section of the AAAS (1992); and chair of the Panel on Research Opportunities and Needs, Materials Science and Engineering Survey, National Research Council (NRC) (1986-89).

In his candidate's statement, Langer identified three outstanding responsibilities of the APS and its leadership: (1) to continue to play a leading role among U.S. scientific societies in making the case for adequate and stable national investments in research; (2) to maintain the health of the APS meetings and especially its journals, in light of the move towards electronic publications; and (3) to sustain broad-ranging outreach and educational programs to keep the public better informed about physics research, and encourage young students to consider careers in physics.

However, he also emphasized a more important and challenging underlying issue: that of maintaining the vitality of physics as an intellectual discipline, which he believes can be best accomplished by broadening the horizons of physics beyond a fixed set of research topics. In particular, he cited the plethora of physics-based instrumentation and the rapidly increasing power of computers that have given rise to a rich array of fascinating fundamental questions in the physical, biological and engineering sciences. "We must include the most vigorous of these emerging areas within our physics laboratories and academic physics departments," he said. "That means that we must make room for new topics and the young scientists who will lead us in new directions."

While acknowledging that there are no easy solutions to these challenges, Langer believes that the APS can play a key role in terms of increasing awareness of these issues by encouraging debate, by emphasizing their importance, by actively seeking out new opportunities, and by devoting a major part of the Society's energy to the task of maintaining the breadth and vitality of physics. "If we fail to take advantage of new opportunities - if we exclude them from our definition of 'physics' - then eventually, but inevitably, physics in the U.S. will contract, and our nation's scientific strength will decline accordingly," he said.

Chair-Elect, Nominating Committee

Kleppner received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1959, where he participated in the invention of the hydrogen maser with Norman F. Ramsey. He joined the faculty of M.I.T in 1966, where he is now the Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics and Associate Director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics. A past recipient of the Davisson-Germer Prize and the Lilienfeld Prize of the APS, his research interests are in experimental atomic physics, high precision measurements and quantum optics. Current research includes quantum chaos, studies of hydrogen at extremely low temperatures, and ultra precise spectroscopy. He is the co-author of two textbooks. Within the APS, Kleppner has served as chair of the Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, as a Councillor-at-Large, and on several other committees including the Physics Planning Committee, which he joined in 1988 and chaired from 1992-96.

In his candidate's statement, Kleppner praised the Society's strong tradition of leadership by outstanding members from every area of physics, and pledged to guide the APS Nominating Committee in identifying the best potential leaders and encouraging them to run for APS office. "In view of the serious problems currently confronting physics, and indeed all of science, it is vital that we maintain this tradition and continue to draw our leadership from the very best talent in our community," he said.

General Councillors

Berger has been a faculty member at Oakland University since 1977. She received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland in 1972 and held postdoctoral positions at the University of Colorado (JILA) and Yale University. Berger's research is in the area of theoretical gravitational physics. Recent work includes Monte Carlo simulations for quantum cosmology, chaotic dynamics of Mixmaster universes, and the application of symplectic PDE solvers to the numerical study of cosmological singularities. She is a member of the APS Divisions of Astrophysics, Computational Physics, and Particles and Fields. During the past two years, she founded and served as the first chair of the APS Topical Group in Gravitation. She has also served on organizing committees for international conferences and on an NSF panel on future directions in gravitational physics.

"I believe that society would benefit immensely if everyone had a good grasp of the fundamentals of physics, its quest for objectivity, and the methods it has adopted in its research," Berger said in her candidate's statement. "Regrettably, the infrastructure for scientific discovery that has served us so well in the 20th century may be at risk in the 21st." She believes that the APS can play a pivotal role in re-energizing positive public attitudes towards physics through its lobbying activities for resources, and should continue to provide a forum for connections among physicists - both technical interactions and international collaborations which could prove essential to the future of physics.

McIntyre is a theoretical physicist and a Commonwealth Assistant Professor of physics at George Mason University. Her research focus is on the electronic and optical properties of semiconductor heterostructures. Most recently she has investigated electron-phonon scattering in structurally modified semiconductor heterostructures. She received her Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990, and was awarded the Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship to study at the University of California, San Diego, and the National Research Council's Research Associateship Award for postdoctoral study at the Naval Research Laboratory. She has served on the Research Associateship Programs Advisory Committee for the National Research Council, the APS Committee on the Status of Women In Physics, and the American Institute of Physics Advisory Committee on Physics In Two Year Colleges.

McIntyre identified two fundamental issues currently affecting physics research and education in the U.S.: the amount of federal funding for research and development, and the production of physics PhDs at universities. In addition to increasing efforts to further facilitate the employment prospects for young physics, "We must continue to develop new and creative methods to effectively communicate with our nation's executive branch and congressional leaders on the contributions of physics research to society," she said. She specifically suggests that members of Congress or their staff be invited to attend special technical presentations at annual APS meetings for a day, targeted to their interests.

Peccei is Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences of the College of Letters and Science at UCLA, a position he has held since November 1993. He is a particle theorist whose principal interests lie in the area of electroweak interactions and in the interface between particle physics and cosmology. Born in Italy, he completed his secondary school in Argentina, and came to the U.S. in 1958 to pursue his university studies in physics. He obtained a Ph.D. from MIT in 1969. After a brief period of postdoctoral work at the University of Washington, he joined the faculty of Stanford University in 1971. In 1978 he returned to Europe as a staff member of the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany. He joined the Deutsches Elektron Synchrotron (DESY) laboratory in Hamburg, Germany, as the Head of the Theoretical Group in 1984 before returning to the U.S. in 1989, joining the faculty of the Department of Physics at UCLA. Within the APS, Peccei served for three years on the Division of Particles and Fields Executive Committee, chairing the unit in 1993.

In his candidate's statement, Peccei noted the changing realities of federal funding for research and the impact on the job market for physicists. To help address the latter, he hopes to foster the organization of more career workshops, as well as other APS activities designed to help raise awareness of physicists about employment issues. Like Langer, he also believes that the physics community will benefit by broadening its borders to incorporate new fields at the edges of exploration, as well as fostering the existing subdisciplines. "In a tight fiscal climate, where choices need to be made, the difficulty is how to maintain the breadth without diminishing the strengths of the individual subfields," he acknowledged, adding that the APS can play a useful role by publicly emphasizing the unity of physics to dampen any partisan squabbles.

Quinn is a theoretical particle physicist at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, where she also leads the laboratory's education and outreach efforts. She received her PhD from Stanford University in 1967 and held positions at DESY and Harvard University before returning to SLAC in 1977. Her research is focused on understanding the nature of the breaking of CP symmetry in weak interaction processes, as well as the mechanisms that ensure its maintenance in strong interaction processes. She is currently an active participant in the development of the experimental program for the SLAC B factory, designed particularly to study CP violation in the decays of B mesons, where it is expected to manifest itself in a variety of decays and thus provide tests of Standard Model predictions and probes for beyond Standard Model effects. She has served in the APS Division of Particles and Fields Executive Committee and as a member of the Panel on Public Affairs, and is currently on the Executive Committee of the Forum on Education.

According to her candidate's statement, Quinn's interest in serving as an APS Councillor stems from her belief that while the APS is a strong organization, it needs to evolve significantly in the face of current realities. In particular, she is concerned about the impact of electronic publishing on the Society's journals, and a growing desire for smaller, more focused meetings by many APS members. "For many of my colleagues, APS meetings are no longer a prime professional activity, and even divisional meetings are larger and more general than the meetings young scientists prefer to attend," she said. She is also interested in seeking ways to expand the APS role in outreach and education, working in tandem with other professional societies.

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin