From the Chair

Ernest Malamud

The Forum on Education (FEd) is doing well. We just passed a milestone.  Somewhat over 10% of the total APS membership belongs to the Forum on Education and that percentage is increasing. We now have over 4,600 members.  I believe this represents increasing interest and involvement in efforts to improve physics education by APS members.

Larry Woolf, Editor of this issue, is breaking new ground.  Recognizing that only a fraction of our large membership is able to attend FEd sessions at the APS spring meetings, Larry is giving these excellent and interesting talks a wider distribution.  Brief session descriptions in this newsletter are linked to the talks themselves. We would welcome your feedback on whether you feel this should become a regular feature of our summer newsletter.

Where do our members come from?

Of 4,688 FEd members, 604 (13%) are foreign members and 4,084 (87%) are domestic members.  We have members from 69 different countries and there are FEd members in all 50 states (plus Puerto Rico and Washington DC). This resource could be mustered in a campaign addressing a particular physics education issue.

Let’s look in more detail at the 84% of our members who indicate affiliation (the other 16% are labeled in the APS database as "no company provided").  We have members from 1,241 different institutions.  I was surprised at how many different institutions are represented. Many institutions have only one FEd member.  Here is an opportunity for you to help increase our membership by talking to your colleagues and suggesting that they join the FEd.

The table shows a further breakdown and a comparison with the APS as a whole.

Type of Institution

APS Members


FEd Members




8.6 %





2.1 %





13.7 %





75.6 %








It is not surprising that the academia percent is higher than for APS as a whole.  More FEd membership from companies (primarily industry) would be welcome.  Industry has a vital interest in the development of a technically trained and scientifically literate work force and many industries run excellent outreach programs.  Should we have a member drive aimed specifically at APS members who work in industry?

Perhaps we should also strive to increase our membership in the national labs who run a wealth of public outreach programs.  There are even smaller numbers from Science Centers, reflecting, of course, the small number of APS members in these institutions.  Nevertheless, a great deal of informal science education and outreach takes place in science centers especially aimed at middle school children and the general public, so it would be useful to have more members from that segment of the education community.

Sessions at Meetings

The FEd has developed a strong presence at the APS spring meetings.  At the March 2008 meeting in New Orleans we had three invited paper sessions, one focus session and one contributed paper session. At the April Meeting in St. Louis the totals were three invited sessions and four additional invited sessions co-sponsored with other units, two focus sessions, and two contributed paper sessions.  In addition at both meetings there were interesting posters.  With the convenience of short session summaries and links in this newsletter, I hope you take the time to browse through these talks.  You may find items of interest and of use to you.

In 2009 FEd members will gather at two APS spring meetings:  March 16-20, 2009 in Pittsburgh and May 2-5, 2009 in Denver.  We are looking forward to a great set of sessions that will attract involved and participating audiences.  The sessions will cover the wide range of topics that comprise physics education.  Peter Collings, our Program Committee Chair for the 2009 spring meetings, will welcome your suggestions.

Areas of interest to FEd members

Members of the APS Forum on Education (FEd) are physicists with interests in all aspects of Physics Education.  These include improving instruction at the K-12, undergraduate and graduate levels, teacher preparation programs, physics education research, physics on the road programs that bring physics to local communities, education outreach and informal science education.  Members of the Forum are active in the joint APS/AAPT initiative to double the number of undergraduate physics degrees.  My own background is in informal science education; I am the founding director of a successful hands-on science center, SciTech, in Aurora, Illinois.  During the next year I personally will emphasize sharing of ideas and approaches between the important sectors of our physics education community that do outreach programs.

Working with AAPT

We will continue to work closely with AAPT.  I am pleased at the effort begun by Wolfgang Christian when he was FEd Chair to have an invited or plenary session once a year at an AAPT meeting, jointly sponsored by an APS Division and the FEd.  This began in 2004 with a DPB/FEd session at the summer AAPT meeting in Sacramento, which I put together, and then continued in 2005 in Salt Lake City by DAMOP, in 2006 in Syracuse by DNP and most recently with DPF presenting talks at the AAPT winter meeting in Baltimore.  We look forward to continuing this tradition with a session at the July 2009 AAPT meeting in Ann Arbor sponsored jointly by DPP and the FEd.

Become involved

There are many ways to join in FEd activities.  Newsletters would benefit from more discussion and controversy.  There are divergent views on many topics.  Write a Letter to the Editor.

Mini-grants of up to $500 are available and the turnaround is fast.  Examples of past mini-grants are providing a prize for an essay competition among high school students at a Section meeting and partial support for a community physics day for high school students and teachers with a guest speaker.

As in any volunteer organization we welcome new blood to participate in FEd activities.  Right now a particular need is for newsletter editors.  If you think this is something you would enjoy doing, let me know.


  • Congratulations to Paula Heron, Lillian McDermott, and Peter Shaffer for winning this year’s Excellence in Physics Education Award and to our two new APS Fellows: Paula Heron and Luz Martinez-Miranda.
  • Thanks to David Haase for his leadership of the Forum the past year. 
  • Special thanks to our hard-working Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Mason, who has been elected to a second three-year term. The Secretary-Treasurer is the key to a well-run APS unit.
  • And thanks to outgoing members of the Executive Committee for their important contributions.

I look forward to working with all of you to strengthen physics education in our country.

Ernest Malamud, retired from Fermilab, is currently a member of the Adjunct Faculty at the University of Nevada in Reno. He can be reached at: