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Robin L. B. Selinger is a Professor of Chemical Physics at Kent State University’s Liquid Crystal Institute. She completed both undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard University (A.B. ’84, A.M. ’86, Ph.D. ’89,) then did postdoctoral work at UCLA, University of Maryland, and NIST. She joined the Physics faculty at the Catholic University of America in 1995, spent a sabbatical at the Naval Research Laboratory in 2002-3, then moved to Kent State University as a full professor in 2005.
Selinger was named a Fellow of the APS in 2016. She is a computational theorist whose research focuses on fundamental pattern formation mechanisms that control microstructure and morphology in soft matter. Recently she has modeled dynamic shape transformations of liquid crystal elastomers, a class of stimuli-responsive programmable materials; studied the interaction of topological defects with curvature in lipid membranes; and modeled the formation of skyrmion defect arrays in liquid crystals in confined geometries. Earlier in her career she investigated the statistical physics of fracture, dislocation dynamics in crystalline solids, and chiral symmetry breaking in random copolymers. She works closely with experimenters at her own institution, across the US, and in Europe and Asia. She is also a frequent participant in workshops at the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara.
Selinger served as Secretary/Treasurer of the APS Topical Group on Statistical and Nonlinear Physics (GSNP) from 2013 to 2016, as a member of the GSNP Fellowship committee in 2017, and as a member of the APS Soft Matter Physics Working Group in 2013. She also frequently lends her singing talents to perform comic tunes at the annual March Meeting Rock-n-Roll Physics Sing-Along. She served as Founding President of The Northeast Ohio STEM Alliance, a nonprofit that organizes extracurricular science activities for K-12 students; and serves as a consultant to the Educational Testing Service for the Physics GRE and Praxis General Science Examination programs. She was named an “Outstanding Referee” by the Physical Review in 2014 and received the Kent State President’s Faculty Excellence Award in 2017.
Selinger has been an innovator in developing outreach and mentoring programs to attract students to science majors and promote diversity in the STEM workforce. She started a high school STEM internship program at Kent State that has provided hands-on research opportunities to over 170 students since 2011. She also started Kent State’s science fair and hosts it annually, serving 200+ students in grades 4-12 each year. She helped Kent State students create new Scientista chapters for undergraduate/graduate women in science, and serves as faculty advisor to both groups. Together with colleagues, she brought over $1 million of scholarship funds to Kent State undergraduate STEM majors through the NSF S-STEM program, and has helped organize monthly mentoring programs for scholarship recipients for the last twelve years.
Selinger chaired Kent State’s 2017 Research Seed funding competition, serves on the University Research Council, and works one-on-one to coach junior faculty writing their first research proposals.
I am honored to have been nominated for APS General Councilor. If elected, I pledge to serve as a strong advocate on key issues that affect the future of the physics community.
First, I will support new initiatives to promote participation of women, under-represented minorities, and the LGBT community in physics careers, especially programs that serve students and early-career members. I will also support efforts to ensure that a diverse pool of candidates is considered for APS Fellowship. I recognize that in efforts to promote diversity, special programs for special populations are not sufficient; to achieve real change requires work that all of us must undertake.
Next, I will support APS’ mission as a major advocate for federal funding of basic research, and for the role of science in governmental policy-making. In a political environment where it is often hard to tell fact from falsehood, APS must re-emphasize its role as a source of reliable scientific information. We must also speak out about proposed US immigration policies that threaten our ability to recruit scientists worldwide and retain talented graduates. Likewise we must serve as vocal advocates on behalf of physicists unjustly oppressed or imprisoned anywhere in the world.
Education/outreach initiatives are of great importance to APS, but our resources are modest relative to the immense scope of the challenge. To leverage our efforts, I support seeking partnerships with nonprofit organizations that provide extracurricular STEM enrichment activities to K-12 students nationwide. Through such partnerships APS could reach students in far greater numbers. I am delighted that APS is already a partner in a grant-funded project that will involve thousands of high school physics teachers. Additional grant funding and private fundraising are sorely needed to expand our education/outreach efforts.
Professional development for graduate students and postdocs must also be a priority for APS, as over 30% of our current members are grad students or early career scientists. One of my favorite books is Peter Feibelman’s “A Ph.D. is NOT Enough!” which outlines the array of skills that a young scientist must cultivate, beyond technical expertise, to achieve professional success. In addition to tutorials, APS units could consider hosting pre-meeting mini-conferences for grad students and postdocs, perhaps following the highly successful model of Gordon Research Seminars.
The shifting landscape in academic publishing represents a significant challenge to APS and its financial model. Both the emergence of open-access journals and increasing competition in academic publishing may threaten APS’ leading role in research dissemination, and potentially shrink our primary source of revenue. These issues will be addressed in the APS Strategic Plan currently in preparation. If elected, I look forward to working with the Council to implement the strategic plan and shape our response to changes in this rapidly evolving industry.
Lastly, if elected, I will be open to hear directly from members about issues that matter most to you. It would be a genuine privilege to serve as your representative on the Council and I welcome your support.