APS News

APS Career and Professional Development Liaison Program Launched

The APS Committee on Careers and Professional Development sponsored the first workshop to kickoff a Career and Professional Development Liaison (CPDL) Program on March 15, 1998 at the APS meeting in Los Angeles. Over 50 participants attended the inaugural workshop, including representatives from 35 academic physics departments plus several industries and government laboratories. The purpose of the workshop was to initiate the CPD Liaison Program and to initiate a dialog with a small group of interested departments on how such an APS program could be most useful. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, University of Nebraska, and Barrett Ripin, Associate Executive Officer of the APS organized the Workshop.

A motivation behind the establishment of the CPDL program is to assist faculty members by providing good career/employment information, a resource of 'good practices' that have proven useful in other departments, suggestions on how to set up student internships and foster closer ties with physics related industry, and develop other ways that physics departments could help prepare students for a diversity of career options. "Despite our good intentions, we sometimes can't provide all of the information our students need," complained one department chair attending the workshop. The CPDL model varies greatly. It can range from a faculty member who makes career activities his or her passion after retirement, an active faculty member, or, in some cases, a student-driven initiative. Regardless of which model is followed, there are two essential elements - continuity and commitment.

Experts in physics career issues presented statistical information and featured innovative programs designed to assist students and faculty in planning and executing job searches at the Workshop. Barrett Ripin started the Workshop by describing the motivation and purpose of the CPD Liaison Program as recommended by the APS Task Force on Careers and Professional Development and the newly established APS Committee on Careers and Professional Development. Roman Czujko of AIP provided the current statistics on employment among physics graduates and was followed by Sherrie Preische of APS, who summarized the findings of a recent e-mail survey of APS junior members regarding their hopes and experiences with the job market (see February 1998 APS News).

A panel discussion about models for internship programs featured Peter Wolff (MIT), Len Brillson (Ohio State, formerly Xerox Corp) and Mark Holtz (Texas Tech) describing programs that provide students with an opportunity to work closely with industry as part of their graduate experience. Speakers described the programs, discussed the mechanics of establishing internships and answered questions from the audience. Peter Abbamonte (graduate student from UIUC) provided a graduate student perspective with his description of the student-initiated career programs at the University of Illinois. Although not on the formal program, Carol Livermore and Philip Fisher, physics graduate students at Harvard University, offered additional suggestions on how students can take matters into their own hands. Brian Schwartz of Brooklyn College discussed offering course work on job preparedness. Schwarz also described a NSF-funded program to develop courses that teach students about resume writing, interview preparedness and researching the job market.

The difficulty faculty encounter in advising students about career paths other than their own was highlighted by the last section of talks. Len Brillson offered his perspective on the differences between academia and industry based on his career at Xerox prior to becoming a faculty member at The Ohio State University. John Lowell of Applied Materials, Inc. provided a similar perspective as he discussed his perception of differences between industry and academia. The afternoon presentations were concluded by Robert C. Hilborn of Amherst College, who discussed the differences between applying for jobs at research universities and applying for positions at teaching-intensive universities.

The final part of the workshop, led by Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, was a discussion of future activities for the CPDL program and APS's role in providing information, communication and resources. A number of suggestions were made by participants, including:

  • Provide departments with accurate and timely career and employment information and statistics.
  • Produce career-oriented materials such as CD-ROMs, presentations, etc. for faculty to customize and use for students.
  • Put information on internships/externships on the web: where they are, and how students can participate.
  • Establishing a CPDL website to provide information to CPDL participants. The workshop presentations will be made available to Liaisons as PowerPoint files so that participants can adapt the information in the presentations to their particular circumstances.
  • Facilitate a threaded web-based discussion group to allow sharing of ideas, problems and solutions
  • Plans a larger-scale CPDL meeting.

The APS is in the process of setting up a web-site and discussion group for the exclusive use of participating department Liaisons. Departments participating in the Liaison Program will receive priority in a compilation of a resource of best practices, eligibility for possible career site visits, and other physics career related information. The Workshop and the planned future activities of the CPDL program were met with overwhelmingly positive evaluations from participants. Departments interested in participating in the Liaison Program are invited to contact Barrie Ripin (ripin@aps.org).

Career Liaison Program Workshop Attendees

  • Amherst College
  • Applied Materials, Inc.
  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • Arizona State University
  • Brooklyn College/CUNY
  • California State University, Fullerton
  • California State University, Los Angeles
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Florida State University
  • General Motors R&D Center
  • George Washington University
  • Harvard University (student reps)
  • Idaho State University
  • Kent State University
  • Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
  • Louisiana State University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • North Carolina State University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Oregon State University
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Syracuse University
  • Texas Technology University
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Alabama
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Maine
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of Nevada, Reno
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Vermont
  • Utah State University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Plus several representatives from the APS and AIP.