COMMENTS FROM THE CHAIR
I am pleased to announce that our first substantive project for active
member involvement is now open for registration. This first project
is built around a public-access database implemented at Christopher
Newport University, in cooperation with the FEd's Executive Council.
The present incarnation of this database has one section, which is
devoted to summer research opportunities for
undergraduate students. Other relevant topics will be added in the
future, after we get some experience with the mechanisms we have developed
for automated access and updating.
We are indebted to the faculty and staff of CNU for their cooperation
on this project, and their agreement to house the database for now
on their local computers. I would like especially to recognize two
members of the CNU Department of Physics and Computer Science, Shouben
Zhou and John Hunter, who have been instrumental in implementing the
database software on the CNU computers. I have written the mail handler
myself to do automated update of the information, which is intended
to enable us to keep the info up to date in a way that calls for minimal
The concept behind this database is not simply to make information
available on existing programs, though. Naturally, we hope it will
do that. But that is a minimum expectation. We hope it will do more.
One of the advantages of electronic technology is the way it facilitates
advertising to a highly targeted group--in this case undergraduate
science majors looking for summer jobs. At present, the bulk of such
positions reside in relatively large programs (30-100 students). We
want to register all of those programs (REU's and others). The existence
of this database should assist them in making contact with students,
reducing their publicity costs, etc.; however, it will ALSO give this
same advertising capability to the scientist who wants to hire one
or two students -- it is our hope that there might be a large number
of those. The intended effect, then, is to increase substantially the
number of such positions available. Of course, it remains to be seen
how effective that will be. In this first phase of the project, we
are collecting information on positions available for next summer (1995).
The registration procedure (see accompanying box for details) is designed
to allow anybody with Email or internet access to register via Email
to a central address at the APS computer network. The actual update
procedure is via Email, since the gopher server does not provide an
update capability. The data transfer is almost entirely automated to
minimize the administrative overhead required. This naturally requires
proper formatting of the data in the Email message, but the template
format and instructions should make this straightforward. This procedure
is an experiment, and we encourage you to participate by registering
if you would like to employ one or more students next summer. We would
like to have most of the registration completed by late September or
October, so please take the plunge if you're interested.
The second phase of this project will involve advertising to students
to make use of the service. We will again be asking our members to
help with that process, but more about that next time....
This approach will probably require some adjustments as we go forward.
We have some ideas for additional sections that might be added in the
future. For example, a means could be provided for students to register
for employers to contact them, thus establishing two-way communication.
Eventually, we want to use a similar mechanism for registering members
interested in mentoring high school students on science projects or
interacting with curriculum development projects. I am interested in
your thoughts on these possibilities, or others you might suggest.
I have no doubt that we will find eventually that proper use of technology
will enable us to organize our membership in highly effective communities--but
I'm equally sure that it will require a little searching, together
with a spirit of cooperation, to get it to work. On all these subjects,
I am open to your input and advice: just send Email to email@example.com.
Speaking of ideas: I am indebted to Natalia Meshkov, our secretary/treasurer,
for suggesting a most interesting approach to the issue of public science
education. This is an area where we have had significant concerns,
but precious few substantive ideas that sound workable. Natalia has
proposed an "APS Media Fellowship," modeled after the very successful
Congressional Fellow program the APS has run for a number of years.
The idea is that a scientist would take a year or two out of research
and concentrate on working with a particular media organization, probably
a major network, in some role similar to a science advisor. We are
exploring this idea quite actively at this time, both from the standpoint
of other support within the APS and possible interest from specific
media organizations. We also have a model on which to build in the
program the AAAS has run for graduate students for nearly two decades.
Clearly, there are a lot of details remaining to be worked out, but
this is the kind of innovative approach that I'd like to see us considering
as we search for ways the Forum can increase the effectiveness of the
APS in many facets of education through the involvement of our members.
Before I close, I want to remind our members that nominations for
fellowship and ideas for symposia need to be submitted by early September,
which really means over the summer. Please give it some thought and
send your nominations for fellowship to our past
chair (Drasko Jovanovich, firstname.lastname@example.org) and ideas for symposia
to our chair-elect (Ruth Howe, Kfellow9@labor-