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I am pleased the FEd Newsletter editors offered me an opportunity to communicate to you as the AAPT Executive Officer. As I write this I am completing my first month in this position, having taken office on September 2nd. As some of you may know, I was AAPT Associate Executive officer from February 1997 until September 2007 when I went to NSF as a rotator to serve as Division of Undergraduate Education program officer.
There are many challenges we share in common and have been addressing for years and finally physics education, and STEM education in general, are being recognized by leaders in industry, the military, and government. Among these recognized challenges is the need to increase the number of undergraduate STEM majors and also to increase the number of these majors choosing pre-college teaching as a profession. This is especially critical for physics. Although the number of students receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics has been increasing recently, the percentage of all undergraduate students graduating with a physics major is actually decreasing. The number of physics or physics education majors entering pre-college teaching each year is about 300 (less than 0.4 physics teachers per bachelor’s degree granting physics department) however, the documented need is about 1,000. In addition to pre-college teaching, those students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physics are well-qualified for many positions in industry as documented by the work of John Rigden and Bo Hammer.
AAPT works with APS to address many physics education issues. I serve as co-principal investigator with Jack Hehn from the American Institute of Physics on the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) project for which Ted Hodapp, APS Director of Education and Diversity, is the principal investigator. Out of PhysTEC and the AAPT Committee on Teacher Preparation, a National Task Force on Physics Teacher Preparation will study why some institutions graduate significantly higher numbers of students prepared to teach pre-college physics. The study will document best practices used to prepare physics teachers. Much of the progress of the PhysTEC project and the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PTEC) has been documented in previous issues of the Teacher Preparation Section of this newsletter.
The continuing series of NSF-funded New Physics and Astronomy Faculty Workshops are organized by AAPT in partnership with APS and the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The workshops began in 1996 and were directed, for the first 10 years, by Ken Krane of Oregon State University. Bob Hilborn, University of Texas at Dallas, is now the principal investigator for the grant and Ted Hodapp, Kevin Marvel (AAS), and I are co-principal investigators. We recently received a third grant to fund workshops for five more years. Over 900 physics and astronomy faculty in the first three years of a tenure-track position have participated in the workshops. The workshops are now offered twice per year in alternating years to meet the growing demand. Approximately 180 new faculty members will attend two workshops held in June 2008 and November 2008. More information can be found at http://www.aapt.org/Events/newfaculty.cfm
A third collaborative project between AAPT and APS, which also includes AIP/SPS, is the NSF-funded National Science Digital Library project. The ComPADRE (Communities for Physics and Astronomy Digital Resources for Education) Pathway is developing collections of digital materials for a number of topical areas in physics and astronomy, as well as developing collections that target specific grade levels. For example, the Physics Front is directed at pre-college physics teachers with the materials arranged into teaching units. The Physics Source includes resources for an introductory university physics course. The Nucleus is a "gathering place" and collection of materials for undergraduate physics students. Other collections are being developed for an advanced laboratory course, quantum mechanics, and thermal physics, to name a few examples. Bruce Mason, Oklahoma University and FEd Secretary-Treasurer, is the principal investigator and Jack Hehn, Ted Hodapp and I are co-principal investigators.
In addition to these projects, AAPT is collaborating with APS on a Noyce Scholarship grant, a proposal for renewal of the PhysTEC project, PhysTEC II, the doubling initiative, and issues associated with underrepresented groups in physics. All these collaborative grants and projects involve FEd members as well as AAPT members and there is a clear synergy in our efforts.
I look forward to continuing these many collaborative efforts with APS and the Forum membership in my role as AAPT Executive Officer. I welcome any suggestions you might have on how AAPT and the Forum can cooperate on additional projects to improve physics education at all levels. If you are currently not a member of AAPT, I would invite you to join and help AAPT strengthen physics education and support physics educators.
AAPT Executive Officer