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Jason Cleveland is currently CEO of Asylum Research, an atomic force microscope company he co-founded 12 years ago. In 1990, he obtained a B.A. in Math and Physics from the University of Minnesota where he was a Goldwater scholar. At Minnesota, he worked in the lab of Dan Dahlberg in low temperature physics and magnetism. Cleveland received his Ph.D. in Experimental Physics from UCSB in 1995. There, in the lab of Paul Hansma, he studied interaction forces on the atomic scale as well as building a new generation of AFMs enabling the use of ultra-small cantilevers. From 1996 through 1999 he was a research scientist at Digital Instruments. His research there included understanding the physics of AFM phase imaging. He co-founded Asylum Research in 1999 and has served as Chairman and CEO. He is an author on more than 40 scientific publications and a co-inventor on over 20 patents.
As a physicist who has left the academic fold, one of the most striking things to me about graduate physics education is that it is largely aimed at the subset of Ph.D.’s who remain in academia while the majority of graduates, in fact, leave academia. Since the education occurs in academia, graduate students are naturally exposed to academic career paths, but often not to the alternatives. One of my major goals as a member-at-large of the FIAP committee would be to broaden exposure to alternative physics career paths including industrial research, “non-traditional” technical roles (e.g. patent attorneys), and especially, entrepreneurship. The best way to do this is to simply put successful people who have chosen these other paths in front of students. We can do this through FIAP session choices and also working with physics educators to broaden their curricula to include forums where students get a chance to meet these “alternative” physicists. Given most of these physicists don’t publish into a common literature like academic physicists do, finding them can also be difficult, so an additional goal of mine would be to improve tools to both locate members of this community, and to keep them better connected.