From the Editor: On Outreach, Education and Junior Physicists

Amber L. Stuver

The most surprising thing that graduate school taught me was how much I enjoyed being an educator. The feeling of accomplishment I had when I successfully conveyed information to another person is what kept me going through the rough spots of grad school. This led me to become involved in as many opportunities to teach as I could and to make physics education a priority in my career goals. Along the way, I have encountered many peers who feel the same and do excellent work to go out and share their love of science with the world – in and out of the classroom.

As mentioned by Peter Collins in the “From the Editor” article of this newsletter, I have been active in the Forum on Graduate Student Affairs (FGSA) and am working to connect us with other related groups; in particular the APS Forum on Education (FEd) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). When I was presented with the opportunity to edit an edition of the FEd Newsletter, I immediately volunteered with the idea of publishing an edition themed on outreach and public education with a special focus on that work done by graduate students and junior physicists. This newsletter is the result of that effort.

Of the following nine articles, graduate students or junior physicists wrote six. The first two deal with the experience of graduate students in the NSF funded GK-12 program which places STEM graduate students in kindergarten though 12th grade classrooms to gain experience in communicating science and to bring cutting edge science into classrooms. Justin Mitchell’s article is from a physics graduate student’s perspective and Kristy Longsdorf’s is from a chemistry graduate student’s perspective. Kelly Herbinson (a graduate student in creative non-fiction writing) and Maggie Renken (a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology) discuss innovative outreach being done by graduate students to being science into Wyoming classrooms. Cristina Torres discusses her experience in performing outreach to an under-represented group while a graduate student at the University of Texas at Brownsville. Stephanie Chasteen describes the lessons she’s learned about communicating science through her broad experiences. The remaining articles deal with outreach and education on larger scales and are written by more experienced physicists. Bob Eisenstein describes the Santa Fe Alliance for Science to improve math and science education in Santa Fe Schools. Marco Cavaglià discusses organizing and implementing an education and public outreach group within a large scientific collaboration. Finally, David Willey, the “Mad Scientist” of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, expounds upon his experiences performing outreach to large audiences and outlines useful lessons he’s learned.

This newsletter also features a new regular column called the “Graduate Student Corner.” This edition’s “Corner” is written by Ivelisse Cabrera, the FGSA International Affairs Officer, on the recent CAM (Canada-America-Mexico) Physics Graduate Student Conference that was held in Acapulco, Mexico on 22-24 October 2009.

I sincerely hope that you find this newsletter interesting both for the outreach it documents and for the small sampling of the outreach efforts being done by both junior and senior physicists alike. If you would like to share your outreach innovations or lessons learned, please feel free to contact me or the current editor of the FEd Newsletter about publishing it here. I also hope that this sampling of graduate student articles inspires more submissions to the FEd Newsletter, on outreach or any other education related subject.

Amber Stuver is a postdoctoral scholar for Caltech at the LIGO Livingston Observatory. She also serves as the FGSA Councilor, is an APS/AAPT Member-at-Large on the FEd Executive Committee and serves on the AAPT Committee on Graduate Education in Physics.

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 APS.