APS News

Industrial Physicists Call on APS to Ramp Up Support

By Michael Lucibella

The Forum on Industrial and Applied Physics (FIAP) of the APS recently released a report calling for more support of industrial physics and physicists by both the Society and the science community as a whole. The report highlights the important role that industrial physics has played in driving the economy, and discusses issues of concern to the industrial physics community.

At its core, the report calls for APS to take a leadership role and increase its focus on meeting the needs of industrial physicists. It highlights recent studies showing that 70 percent of physics graduates work in non-academic careers, including jobs in industry, business, and government. However, the report states that teamwork, skill building, career guidance, and networking options are lacking in the field.

“The face of physics in the U.S. is very academic, but the reality is that the majority of physicists work in industry or national labs,” said Steven Lambert, who began working at APS in 2013 as its first Industrial Physics Fellow, and who is the co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. “I would like physicists working in industry to read the report and feel like they’re part of a community that is talented, capable, and has a lot to offer.”

The report calls for APS to make more services available to early and mid-career industrial physicists and increase its focus on industrial physics at its meetings. The report also highlights the need for the establishment of a mentoring clearinghouse for students and early career industrial physicists to meet potential mentors to help guide their careers.

In addition, it recommends that APS recruit more members from industry into leadership and committee positions and hold meetings specifically for industrial physicists. Presently, there are no general meetings held specifically for physicists in industry. “The American Physical Society is in a premier position to act as catalyst, leader and innovator in making things happen for industrial physics,” the report reads.

According to the report, APS needs to work with the federal government and universities to help improve the landscape for industrial physicists as a whole. It included recommendations to create better advisory groups for government agencies to help them increase and streamline the number of federal investment programs, restructure ideas for how intellectual property rights are handled, and simplify visa restrictions for U.S.-trained foreign students to stay in the United States.

“It’s going to take a concerted, long term, multi-prong effort to have an impact on the bureaucracy of the government,” Lambert said.

The report builds on the October 2014 FIAP Workshop on National Issues in Industrial Physics, which identified and prioritized issues important to U.S. industrial physics. Over two days, participants met to share their experiences working as industrial physicists and to discuss what kind of support would help advance their careers.

“Our goal for the workshop was to identify specific needs and specific actions to address those needs for each group. The workshop report is structured in this way,” said John Rumble, of R&R Data Services, chair of FIAP and co-chair of the report and workshop committee with Lambert. “We anticipate that FIAP and APS working together will take action on as many recommendations as possible.”

Lambert added that the committee wanted to hear firsthand from the industrial scientists who would benefit from the additional support. “The intent of this workshop was to get input from physicists engaged in industry,” Lambert said. He added that the workshop brought together researchers from a variety of backgrounds, disciplines, and stages in their careers. “We really tried to have a broad cross section.”

Ultimately, the organizers hope to create a more cohesive and visible community for physicists working in industry. “The industrial physics community needs to organize itself as such,” Rumble said. “Only by working together collectively will they be able to address the issues as outlined in this report. The challenge is for APS and FIAP working together to create this community.”

The full report can be read at the FIAP website.

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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Michael Lucibella
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