To the Editor,
In response to your Editor's Challenge:
Change is great. Yes, the physics community will need to continue to
diversify by pursuing non-traditional areas of research and non traditional
job opportunities. However, do we need to change our curriculum to bring
this about? I would say no.
I look around at my fellow graduate and undergraduate physics majors
and I find very successful people with diverse jobs; PRL editor, NIST researcher,
faculty member, academic dean, industrial physicist, etc. We all have one
thing in common, we majored in Physics. Why fix something that is not broke?
Yes, the world is changing and will continue to change. Isn't the physics
major well suited to deal with the changing world? Let us as Physicists
continue: to teach problem solving, to teach students to question, to teach
classes with high expectations, and to teach students to try different
Yes, let us continue to develop new curriculum for K - 12 and for the
non science majors. Let us continue to develop and change our Introductory
Physics sequence. Let us continue to reach out into the community in new
ways. Let us recruit more Physics majors. But let us be careful when we
start changing the undergraduate and graduate physics major. Physics majors
are dynamic individuals able to adapt in this ever changing world we live
Assistant Professor of Physics
Wheeling Jesuit University
Wheeling, WV 26003
To the Editor,
This is a response to point (1) of your "challenge" on p.3
of Fall 1997 issue of FORUM ON EDUCATION.
One simple formal change that could revitalize the graduate physics curriculum
by broadening its scientific horizons is to introduce a weekly reading
seminar (perhaps 2 hrs./week) focused on the journal NATURE, with brief
forays into SCIENCE, etc. The success of such a venture would depend upon
the active and enthusiastic (built up over time?) participation of most
faculty, post-docs and graduate students in a department. I believe this
exposure should be required (with credit?) for perhaps a year for each
graduate student, including a personal subscription to NATURE (currently
$85/yr. for graduate students). For that group it would serve as an introduction
into a wide range of fields that they might encounter while job-hunting
: A familiarity with terminology and current problems may look good at
I choose NATURE because I find (1) the writing style refreshing, (2)the
choice of books reviewed stimulating, (3)the political coverage more global,
(4) the coverage of physical science vs. biological science a bit more
balanced than in SCIENCE.
Such a seminar, in which many topics might find no local experts, would
be a leveling experience, in which students could find themselves able
to contribute, through youthful imagination, equally with the more senior
researchers, while also observing the ways in which members of the latter
group approach unfamiliar topics. E.g. it could be fun to dissect the weekly
brainstorming Daedalus column.
It would be desirable to cover a number of topics each week. For some
topics of wide interest, but general ignorance, outside informants could
be invited. At the time of Newton the regular meetings of the Royal Society
dealt with a wide range of topics. I believe the idea presented here is
an update of the Royal Society meetings incorporating the advantages of
modern media coverage and rapid communication.
I am interested in your opinion of this idea--when and if you would like
to voice one.
College of the City of New York.
Here is the opinion you asked for. I think this is a superb idea. I think
it is healthy for us to remember from time to time that we are scientists,
not just physicists. A passing familiarity with hot ideas in other fields
can be stimulating, broadening, and informative. Just occasionally a new
research idea will come from a session such as you propose, but even if
not, students' thinking skills will have been stretched. And as you say,
such a familiarity can only help during that job search.
To the Editor,
I'm a retired member of APS, not reading as much literature as I once
did, or as active, but I joined the Forum on Education when two Forums
were available for the price of one, about a year and a half ago.
I'm a Federal/Postal Retiree, and have been for the past 20 years, with
not great accomplishments to my name.
I now volunteer in a bi-lingual kindergarten and as we went to the English
speaking kindergarten one day, the teacher asked the students what big
people (around 6 years old) did. One said they could play ball, another
tie his shoes, another eat by himself. But one little boy stunned me by
saying "well, you perform an experiment."
I think if our elementary and secondary school children were given more
good exposure to physics they may indeed follow it as a subject in college
to major in or a career.
Michael C. Thuesen
Mr. Thuesen: I would say that what you are doing is a great accomplishment
indeed. And I too hope that more and more of our children will look forward
to being able to perform experiments.