By Calla Cofield
Photo by Calla Cofield
Richard Strombotne (far left) and other members of the Mid-Atlantic Senior Physicists Group listen to a talk by David Newell of NIST at the American Center for Physics in College Park, MD.
In 1996 Dick Strombotne retired from a long and busy career with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Like many physicists, Strombotne may have been retired, but his love of physics and his desire to learn hadn’t waned. Having been a member of APS for 40 years, Strombotne contacted APS Executive Officer Judy Franz to see if there was a local group of physicists with a similar desire to remain active in the physics community. Since there wasn’t one, Strombotne started it himself. More than 50 physicists came out for the initial planning meeting, and in the past ten years, the contact list of members from the greater Washington DC area has grown to 160.
The Mid-Atlantic Senior Physicists Group is now celebrating its ten-year anniversary. For the past decade the group has sponsored talks on physics, tours to local physics installations, and trips to more distant sites. The events are open to anyone interested in attending.
Strombotne says of the formation of the group, “For the first year or so, we had about three talks in the spring and three talks in the fall. Now we have a talk in most months…and tours of some installation in other months.” Four of the original ten planning committee members are still on board with the group.
Strombotne says they called the group “Senior Physicists” because “senior” seemed to describe the people most interested in participating. Many of the group’s members are retired, but many are still working full or part time. Some are APS members and some aren’t. Some members are senior in age, some are senior in experience, and some are both, but despite the name the activities are open to anyone.
The group’s featured talks have been about nanotechnology, global climate change, topics in astrophysics, string theory, supersymmetry, medical physics, and the evolution of standard time, to name a few. They usually take place on the third Wednesday of each month at APS headquarters in College Park, MD. Other activities have included a visit to the M.C. Escher exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington, and tours to different physics installations such as the David Taylor Model Basin at the Naval Research Laboratory, the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins, and a two-day trip to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.
For the past ten years the group has existed as an informal part of APS. They are considering trying to become an APS Forum, which would require 200 members who belong to APS. As a forum, the group would gain additional funding and exposure, potentially uniting them with other regional groups of the same nature, or motivating others to start these groups where there are none. Mainly, the group would like to make themselves known to more physicists who would be interested in joining. A website for the group is scheduled for launch later in 2008, and until then anyone interested in attending a talk or activity can contact APS Director of Membership Trish Lettieri at email@example.com