Director's Corner Fall 2014

Ted Hodapp, APS Director of Education and Diversity

For many years the APS has repeatedly received requests such as: Why doesn’t the APS develop standards for the undergraduate physics major – The ACS has done this for decades! There are, of course, a number of issues this touches, but especially for programs at smaller universities and colleges, it is has the potential to provide a rational basis for creating and building excellent programs. To investigate this issue further, the APS has formed a small group to look into issues related to professional standards, certification, or program “approval.” Various groups already have related programs: the IOP accredits all physics programs in the UK, Canada has a “Professional Certification” designation for individual physicists, ABET accredits Engineering Physics programs, and the American Chemical Society has “ACS approved” chemistry degrees. To understand issues that programs face, the APS circulated a survey in late August to all physics department chairs. The APS Committee on Education’s subcommittee on undergraduate education and the group assembled to investigate this issue will be considering these responses this fall to make recommendations to the APS leadership on next steps. Contact if you have thoughts on this issue.

In 2015, the APS will again assist universities as they host regional conferences for undergraduate women in physics (APS CUWiP). Even with the 2015 conferences still a few months off, plans are underway by the project’s leadership (the current chair is Kevin Pitts at UIUC) to solicit sites for 2016. If your department is interested in hosting such an event, please refer to the project’s website for details. The deadline is November 1st, but even if you are not ready for 2016, you may want to plan ahead for a future year, and attend one of the 8 regional gatherings this coming January to get a feel for the excitement generated by these events (and some of the logistical concerns too!). Better yet, encourage your female undergraduates to attend the 2015 conference – some travel assistance (thanks to the NSF and DOE) is available.

Finally, we have just put up on the APS website a set of lists of top performing physics departments. These are departments that graduate the largest number of majors, women, and underrepresented minorities, separated by the highest physics degree offered at the institution. Congratulations to these departments for their efforts, and we recommend you contact departments if you are interested to hear more about how they have been successful. Aligned with this, the APS is sponsoring a second “Building thriving undergraduate physics programs” workshop 7-8 February 2015 in conjunction with the annual PhysTEC conference (6-7 February 2015) in Seattle, WA. Several of the programs listed in our “Top Producers” lists will be featured at this workshop, and you may want to come a day early to learn more about how educating high school teachers contributes to improving your program. More details are available at

Disclaimer – The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.