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By Leah Poffenberger
In October 2020, APS launched a new effort to support graduate students, post docs, and early career scientists at their home institutions. The effort, APS Chapters, welcomed its first eight participating institutions in November to begin shaping the program and helping pinpoint what APS resources Chapters members are most interested in.
The eight institutions participating in the Chapters pilot are: Drexel University, Florida State University, The Ohio State University, University of Central Florida, Rochester Institute of Technology, The University of Texas at Arlington, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Since their selection, each of the Chapters has elected officers and begun organizing events for their Chapter members. APS has also organized two all-Chapters events: a workshop for Chapters officers on December 16 and a virtual networking event on February 24, featuring trivia games and a scavenger hunt.
“In many institutions, there is no community for graduate students, postdocs, and early-career scientists who are interested in career development in physics-related fields. [T]he increasing need to connect with others due to the pandemic led to this new Chapter being created at an ideal time,” said Dina Zohrabi Alaee, Treasurer and Secretary for the Chapter at RIT. “APS Chapters are a great opportunity for them to [improve] their professional and social skills, and mental health.’’
A primary mission of APS Chapters is to support individuals in building inclusive and equitable communities and to create a space of learning for all. The program also seeks to connect each Chapter to APS staff and resources for professional development or to meet other needs and interests. The December 16 workshop served to further this goal, bringing Chapters officers together alongside staff representatives from six different areas of interest to Chapter members: Careers, DEI Efforts, Women in Physics, Public Engagement, Government Affairs, and Journals. Former APS CEO Kate Kirby, Past APS President Philip H. Bucksbaum, and Director of Project Development Theodore Hodapp were also in attendance.
“The point of the workshop was for Chapter participants to get to know who does what at APS and to have informal conversations. I wanted them to understand what APS has to offer…we have so many resources and activities for graduate students and postdocs to get involved in” said Farah Dawood, Chapters Program Manager.
The Physical Review journals staff, for example, is offering training for authors and referees. "I represented the journals during the kick-off event last December and interacted with the representatives of the chapters at that event," said Warren Lin, APS Head of Editorial Development. "Currently we are in the process of planning a training session with The University of Texas at Arlington Chapter in April."
While the December event focused on getting to know APS, the February event provided an opportunity for Chapters members to get to know each other—both bonding with their own Chapter and meeting members of other Chapters. Using Gather.town, a platform that gives each person an avatar they can use to move about a virtual gathering space, attendees were able to kick back and have fun interacting and competing in trivia and scavenger hunts. In the future, the Chapters program hopes to hold similar online events for networking, as well as introducing new activities to bring members together across different Chapters to share their ideas and experiences.
In the coming months, each individual Chapter will be putting on their own events, specific to their own needs, with help from the APS staff and departments they connected with during the December workshop.
“The APS Chapters can fill an important need for some of our most valuable APS members, graduate students and postdocs just starting out their careers in physics,” said Bucksbaum, who was influential in starting the program during his presidential year. “APS Chapters provide an opportunity to meet and discuss physics, provide resources for activities like seminars and retreats, and also participate in many other activities of the Society.”
The application period to create an APS Chapter as part of the pilot re-opened in early April. Graduate students, post-docs, faculty, or staff members are welcome to apply to start a Chapter at their institution. Chapters are open to graduate students, postdocs, and early career members at their respective institution, with the only requirement being at least five members of a Chapter are also members of APS.
To learn more about the APS Chapters Program or to get information about starting an APS Chapter, visit the Chapters web page.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondents: Sophia Chen, Alaina G. Levine