Physics Blitzes the Hill

By Kristopher Larsen

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By Kristopher Larsen/APS

From left to right: Rep. Cliff Stearns (FL-6th), Alan Dorsey and Pierre Ramond, both professors at the University of Florida

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Photo by Beebe Kelzie/congressional staffer

From left to right: Pupa Gilbert (University of Wisconsin), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI-2nd)

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Photo by Kristopher Larsen/APS

From left to right: Megan Comins, Andrew Rappe and Rep. Jim Gerlach (PA-6th)

Nearly 40 APS members joined a group of about 300 scientists, engineers and educators who informed Congress about the importance of basic research as part of the 15th annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD) on April 28 and 29.

CVD is organized by SETWG (Science, Engineering and Technology Working Group) that comprises more than 40 companies and organizations presenting a broad cross section of science and technology institutions in academia, the government and private industry.

Physicists from APS visited a total of 85 House and Senate offices and stressed the critical need to fund the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The scientific agencies are responsible for carrying out transformational research that has led to innovations such as the MRI, Global Positioning Satellites and the Internet. The APS members also promoted the House passage of America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, the bill that would keep the scientific agencies’ budgets on a doubling path and boost funding for math and science programs. The legislation is now awaiting Senate approval.

APS members Pierre Ramond and Alan Dorsey, both professors at the University of Florida, conversed with their congressional Rep. Cliff Stearns (FL-6th) about the impact of NSF funding on the university and his district. Specifically, the physicists pointed out that professors at the university have used the funding to develop instrumentation for the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator located in Switzerland. On a lighter note, Rep. Stearns asked about string theory (which postulates that subatomic particles are one-dimensional strings), and Ramond and Dorsey recommended Brian Greene’s book, The Elegant Universe.  

In conjunction with CVD, SETWG annually awards the George E. Brown Jr. Science, Engineering and Technology Leadership Award to congressional members for their leadership in ensuring that the United States meets global competitiveness challenges of the 21st century.

This year, Reps. David Wu (OR-1st) and Ralph Hall (TX-4th) were honored with the award. Other festivities highlighting the CVD included displays by APS and the Optical Society of America commemorating the 50th anniversary of the development of the laser. 

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