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Physicist is not a profession most people routinely encounter. Even physics students may never have met a physicist outside of the classroom. Yet only a small fraction of Ph.D. physics graduates find careers in the academic world [1,2]. The APS Committee on Careers and Professional Development and the Forum on Industrial and Applied Physics (FIAP) endeavor to inform physicists of the many other career options open to them. One communication channel is the Distinguished Lectureship on the Applications of Physics. Each year one Distinguished Lecturer is selected to carry the message of broader opportunity to physics students and others interested in how physicists productively interact with the wider world.
Rudolf Tromp, a scientist at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY, received the Distinguished Lectureship Award in 2017, for "extensive and significant contributions to the field of surface physics." He delivered his inaugural lecture at the APS March Meeting 2017 in New Orleans, under the title "So you have a degree in physics. Now what?" In his talk, which he has now given a half-dozen times in both the U.S. and Europe, he discusses some of the challenges that today’s students experience, ranging from an extreme paucity of jobs in the academic sector (even though a majority of students expects to find employment there), to mental health issues and a lack of a compelling vision for the future.
Tromp reassures students that failing projects are a part of being a scientist, not a personal shortcoming, and that even after four decades as a scientist, his experiments can fail too. Nonetheless, prospects are good, with jobs available across a broad range of industries, small and large. The key to success is to not get stuck in the present, but to make innovation a lifelong habit, to continue to learn about things you know nothing about, and to think both deeply and broadly, he said.
The 2018-2019 Distinguished Lecturer is Robert Kleinberg, a physicist at Schlumberger-Doll Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Schlumberger is the world leader in the application of geophysical measurements to oil and natural gas exploration and production. Using his training as a physicist, Kleinberg has invented several geophysical instruments that have been deployed in oil and gas fields worldwide. In his inaugural address, to be given on Industry Day at the March Meeting 2018 in Los Angeles, he will show how these very practical measurements grew out of his thesis work on liquid helium-3, which becomes a Fermi-Dirac superfluid at temperatures below 0.003 kelvin—for which no practical application was ever envisioned.
The deadline for nominations for the 2019-2020 Lectureship is Friday, June 1, 2018. Nominations for the award must include a letter evaluating the nominee’s most significant qualifying contributions and other related accomplishments (such as invited talks on his or her research); a description of the work being cited and a suggested title for the lecture series; and the nominee’s curriculum vita and/or brief biographical sketch. In addition to these materials, the competitive nomination should also include a list of the nominee’s important publications or patents relating to the work cited or lecture series topic; at least two, but not more than four, seconding letters; up to four of the most important reprints, preprints, patents, or other written publications from the above list; and one video clip of the nominee giving a presentation, which need not be the proposed distinguished lecture, but any talk highlighting presentation skills. The recipient chosen in August 2018 will deliver his or her first talk at the FIAP Prize session at the March Meeting 2019. More information is available on the Distinguished Lectureship homepage; female and underrepresented minority nominations are especially encouraged.
Prepared with contributions from R. Kleinberg, FIAP’s 2018 Distinguished Lectureship awardee, R. Tromp, 2017 awardee, T. Brintlinger (lectureship selection committee) and C. Bailey, APS Careers Program Manager.
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