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Prepared by Ngee-Pong Chang, Haiyan Gao, Chi-Sing Lam, Cheuk-Yin Wong, Bin-Ling Young (January 2013)
The need for networking had been in the minds of many ethnic Chinese physicists working overseas since the 1960s. The number of ethnic Chinese physicists in North America and elsewhere had greatly increased in the 1980s with the arrival of many young physicists from Mainland China, in almost all physics graduate schools through the CUSPEA program or other means, and as faculty members or visiting scholars in many physics departments. Many of us in North America felt the need to establish an organization in the Chinese physics community, not only for the networking among us in North America, but also with our colleagues in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere. Starting in mid 1989, many interested colleagues, who later became founding members, held intensive discussions through emails and a number of face-to-face meetings. A not- for-profit corporation was registered in the State of New York in June of 1990 under the name “Overseas Chinese Physics Association Inc”. With half a year of preparation, to draft its Charter and Bylaws, to plan its organizational structure, and to select the initial officers, OCPA was formally established in early 1991 with Ngee-Pong Chang as the first President. Web page: http://www.ocpaweb.org/new/
The establishment of OCPA has allowed us to interact more effectively among colleagues in the States, and in Mainland China, Taiwan, and elsewhere. In this early period, an annual meeting was held for several years in conjunction with the APS Spring meetings in Washington, DC, and later in Atlanta and other places. A special topics session entitled “Physics without Borders” had been organized by OCPA and hosted by the Forum on International Physics at the APS meeting, featuring general talks by well-known physicists, including several Nobel laureates. OCPA promoted the interests of Chinese-American scientists and highlighted their contributions to science and development in forums on scientific freedom and national security at meeting of the APS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1999-2000. Many of these events received generous support and help from APS, particularly the APS officers in charge of International Affairs. To maintain the opportunity of face-to-face interactions among members, a special event has also been organized later by OCPA in the annual March meeting, and it has been continued to date.
In order to recognize outstanding achievements of young Chinese researchers in all areas of physics, the Outstanding Young Researcher Award (OYRA) prize was established in 1992 and the Asia Achievement Award (AAA) prize in 1993. These prizes have also been continued to date. These prizes have become high profile activities of OCPA for close to two decades. Winners of these awards are all now well-established scientists in North America, Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. With the generous donation from Tu-Nan Chang and his family, the AAA prize was renamed as the Asia Achievement Award (Robert T. Poe Prize) in 2004. Thanks to a generous donation from the Macronix Educational Foundation, the OYRA prize was renamed as the Outstanding Young Researcher Award (Macronix Prize) in 2012. In the earlier days, OCPA held the OYRA and the AAA award ceremony at the APS meetings. In recent years, we continued this tradition at the APS March meeting FIP receptions in years when OCPA conferences did not take place.
With the increased interactions among Chinese physicists world-wide and the rapid expansion of research activities in the Asian regions, it is felt that a conference series with the OCPA perspective should be organized. After almost two years preparation involving many OCPA members in North America, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, the first of the OCPA conference series, entitled First International Conference of Frontier of Physics: Looking to the 21th Century, was held in Shantou, Mainland China, in Aug 5-9, 1995 hosted by Shantou University. It is appropriate to quote part of the statement of the conference goal that appeared in the conference poster: “The conference encourages participation of all physicists, ... to meet and network, and to look towards new research strengths and directions for the coming century”. The subsequent OCPA conferences, the latest one OCPA7 in August 1-5, 2011 held in Kaohsiung, show that the statement still rings true today. It should be noted that over the years, the number of participants of the OCPA conference has been increasing with over 800 participating in OCPA7. And all the conferences are highly successful owning to the dedicated OCPA organizers and the enthusiastic local host institutions and their capable local organizing teams. The OCPA8 conference will take place June 23-27, 2014 in Singapore. We are particularly proud of OCPA conference series where frontier physics research and physics education meet, and where more and young researchers are participating, and we also reach out to high school students and their teachers.
The establishment of an organization has its historical background, and OCPA is of no exception. It is a product of the needs of the time and the interactions among the relevant people. We clearly remember the energy and enthusiasm of all colleagues involved leading to its gestation and formation. We have received encouragement from several senior colleagues. There are too many colleagues who have contributed to the creation of OCPA to be named here. But we feel we should make some exceptions. We have received strong support from Prof. T.D. Lee and Prof. C.N. Yang, to whom we have also sought counsel many times, and some of the meetings mentioned above were held in Prof. Lee’s Columbia physics office. Another senior colleague who had been involved very closely during all stages of the formation of OCPA, and to whom we had also consulted frequently, but he declined to be named as a key officer is Prof. Leroy Chang. Professors Lee and Yang, and Leroy had given their full-hearted support to OCPA after its formation, of course. Unfortunately, Leroy passed away several years ago.
After 20 years, OCPA is under a new generation of leadership and is in the process of adopting a new name ‘International Organization of Chinese Physicists and Astronomer (OCPA)’ to reflect more appropriately its international outlook. OCPA is expected to enter a new phase by responding to the reality of the world today.