APS News

In Brief

Meserve Nominated as Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

In August, President Clinton nominated Richard Meserve, a partner at the law firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, DC, and long-term APS legal counsel, to serve as a member and chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC is a bipartisan, independent regulatory commission with responsibility to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, common defense and security, and the environment with respect to the use of nuclear materials for civilian purposes in the US Meserve earned a PhD in applied physics from Stanford University and his law degree from Harvard Law School. He served as law clerk to Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the US Supreme Court in the early part of his career.

His practice over the years has focused on legal issues involving substantial technical content, including environmental and toxic tort litigation, nuclear licensing, and the counseling of scientific societies such as the APS and the American Institute of Physics. Among his many services, he guided the two organizations through the drawn-out litigation with scientific publisher Gordon & Breach, finally won in the US this year. (See APS News, March 1999.) From 1977 to 1981, he served as legal counsel to the President's Science and Technology Advisor. Past committee service has focused on such efforts as examining the cooperative threat reduction program with the former Soviet Union, and declassification of information at the DOE. He currently is a member of DOE's SEAB as well as chair a committee of the National Academy of Sciences seeking to upgrade the protection of nuclear weapons material in Russia.

US Physics Olympiad Team Places Third in World

At the International Physics Olympiad, held in July, the US team had its second-best showing since it started competing in 1986, with three gold medals and two silver medals brought home by the five high school students who participated. In informal rankings, the US placed third out of the 62 countries that competed, after Russia and Iran. Taking place this year in Padua, Italy, where Galileo discovered the four Jupiter moons named after him, the Olympiad contains two days of grueling theoretical and experimental problems amounting to what is the world's most difficult high-school physics test.

For example, the students had to compute the precise trajectory of a space probe that uses Jupiter's gravity as a slingshot-a technique used in real-life spacecraft such as Cassini. US gold medalists included Peter Onyisi (Arlington, VA), who had the tenth highest overall score out of the approximately 300 competitors at the Olympiad, Benjamin Mathews (Dallas, TX), and Andrew Lin (Wallingford, CT). Silver medalists include Jason Oh (Baltimore, MD) and Natalia Toro (Boulder, CO), who earlier this year also became the youngest person (at 14 years of age) ever to win the top prize of the Intel (formerly Westinghouse) Science Talent Search. (See APS News, August/September 1999.)

[Item contributed by Philip F. Schewe, AIP Public Information.]


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