View from the Chair

John W. Clark*

Welcome to the FIP Newsletter.  We are proud to say that this periodical is more than just a newsletter, thanks to the efforts and dedication of the editor, Laszlo Baksay, as well as energetic solicitation of articles by members of the FIP executive committee.  In it you will find not only announcements and reports of FIP activities, but also substantive and authoritative articles on salient issues in international scientific affairs.  We urge you to print out this and other issues of the Newsletter and share them with your colleagues around the coffee table in your department or institute!

The Forum on International Physics is a volunteer organization of APS members whose mission is to advance the knowledge of physics and its diffusion by fostering cooperation and communication among physicists of all countries.  In pursuing this mission, we have become increasingly active in recent years under the leadership of successive chairs Irving Lerch, Herman Winick, and Satoshi Ozaki, promoting new programs that enhance scientific interchange and raising our visibility at March and April APS meetings.

The FIP election cycle of 2008 and ascent along the chair line brought changes in our units Executive Committee.   As the 2009 unit chair, I would like to express my gratitude and admiration for the exemplary leadership of last year’s chair, Satoshi Ozaki. In particular, he showed uncommon dignity and skill in the way he dealt with a highly sensitive issue that arose when a noted Chinese dissident was honored with the Sakharov Prize.   During 2008 we also benefited greatly from the continued guidance provided by Herman Winick.  With undiminished energy, Herman remains a fountainhead of new ways to facilitate international scientific cooperation and advance physics research and education in the developing world.   We welcome three new members of the Executive Committee: Susana Hernandez of the University of Buenos Aires and Marie-Louise Saboungi of  the University of  Orleans, for three-year terms as Members-at-Large, and Harvey Newman of Caltech for a four-year, chair-line term beginning as Vice Chair.   We are grateful for another dedicated year from our Secretary/Treasurer Noemi Mirkin, who has played vital roles in maintaining continuity of our procedures and in managing the finances of our unit.

FIP Invited Sessions at 2009 APS Meetings:

Every year, a major investment of effort is involved in organizing FIP sessions at the March and April APS meetings, held this year in Pittsburgh and Denver,  respectively, with  the April meeting moved into May.    For the 2009 season we offered a record number of sessions (7), either wholly sponsored by FIP or co-sponsored with another APS unit.  The program and abstracts can be viewed at the URL and its MAR->APR counterpart,  or at  The presentations of most speakers will also be posted on the FIP web site.

Two sessions were organized to examine the status of physics development in two regions of the globe facing both challenge and opportunity; thus, “Physics in Africa” at the March meeting and “Physics in Latin America” at the April meeting.  The former was organized by Abebe Kebede of North Carolina A&T and FIP Member-at-Large Paul Gueye of Hampton University and J-Lab, in consultation with David Ernst, FIP Member of the APS Council.  Kebede chaired the session, which featured prominent speakers from African physics and/or scientific development and management:  Alexander Animalu from the University of Nigeria, Ndeye Arame Boye-Faye from the University Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegal, and Bernard M’Passi-Mabiala of Marien NGouabi University in Congo-Brazzaville.  The talk of Boye-Faye was particularly noteworthy in providing an authoritative view of the prevailing system for funding research in Senegal.  Boye-Faye also paid  important and constructive visits to U.S. institutions, in the course of her travel to the APS meeting. The “Physics in Africa” session was organized as part of a sustained effort toward integration of African physics into the world physics community, especially through the promotion of research exchanges between African physicists and their counterparts in the US.  Missing from the session  (due to a late change of plans of the scheduled speaker) was representation from South Africa, which can play an important role in facilitation this integration.  Follow-up APS sessions are planned for future years, generally in cooperation of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP).

In the “Physics in Latin America” session at the April meeting, three speakers represented three contrasting aspects of the diverse fabric of scientific development in a region rich in the complexity of its social and political crosscurrents.   We were privileged to have the recipient of the 2009 John Wheatley Award, Carlos Ordonez (University of Houston) as the lead-off speaker. Ordonez focused on the task of building bridges between Latin America and the US through fostering scientific exchanges and collaborations.  On this aspect he can speak with authority, having personally established highly successful programs at the graduate and postdoctoral levels, through the World Laboratory and beyond.   Ronald Cintra Shellard (Centro Brasiliero de Pesquisas Fisicas), representing a rapidly emerging developed country in the region, chronicled in detail the founding of a school of high-energy physics in Brazil and its rise, since the late 70’s, to international stature and major involvement in leading experimental collaborations.  Success was achieved, but not overnight.  The third talk, by Pedro Prieto, expressed a different, less optimistic view of physics development in Latin America, specific to the Andean region but not unique.  Prieto, Director of the Center of Excellence on Novel Materials in Cali, Colombia, described the current state of R&D in condensed matter, novel materials, and nanotechnology in this region.  Progress suffers from the lack of a consolidated regional network facilitating effective and lasting cooperation in R&D among Andean nations, and the lower priority given to physics in state policy, relative to the environment and medicine.  The session was organized and chaired by Galileo Violini (University of Calabria), an earlier Wheatley recipient and FIP Member-at-Large), who himself has made important contributions to Andean physics, notably through the founding of Centro International de Fisica in Bogota.

A highly successful session at the March meeting was organized as a follow-up to the twin sessions on gender equality in physics offered by FIP at the 2008 March and April meetings.    Entitled “Around the World in 180 Minutes: Differences and Similarities among Women Physicists,’’ co-sponsored by FIP and the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics (CSWP), and co-organized and co-chaired by Cherrill Spencer (Member-at-Large, FIP) and Elaine Lessner (CSWP), the session recruited prominent speakers and panelists from participants in the Third IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics (ICWIP2000), which was held last October in Korea.  The speakers and panelists, representing different regions of the world and different career stages, analyzed the progress being made toward promoting women in physics, based both on personal experience and on what they learned from participation in ICWIP2000.   Elaine Lessner introduced the session, and Cherrill Spencer moderated the culminating panel discussion, which elicited spirited questioning from the large audience.   Judy Franz, APS Executive Officer, spoke eloquently of how the ICWIP conferences came about, and her own experience as a woman in male-dominated physics and the first female officer of IUPAP.  Karimat El Sayed of Ain-shams University, a major figure in Egyptian physics and this year’s recipient of the Marshak Lectureship Award, spoke from the perspective of a revered role model.  Other speakers, Young-Kee Kim (University of Chicago) and Yevgeniya Zastavker (Olin College of Engineering) provided mid-career perspectives from different national orientations, while Kandice Tanner (UC-Berkeley), the youngest of the invited speakers, described -- special flair and personal anecdotes -- the post-secondary educational pathways available to potential physicists in Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, and Barbados. She observed that young women participate and compete favorably in the system, in numbers similar to males.  A comprehensive report on this session and its conclusions is being prepared by Lessner and Spencer and will appear in a future issue of the FIP Newsletter.

Two sessions at the April meeting were co-sponsored with the Forum on Physics and Society (FPS), namely “Global Physics Projects,” organized by FPS with a panel-discussion format, and “Managing Nuclear Fuels: An International Perspective,” organized and chaired by FIP Chair-Elect Noemie Koller.  The first of these, co-chaired by Pushpa Bhat (Fermilab) and Lawrence Kraus (Arizona State), was both highlighted and overshadowed by Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith’s consummate analysis of the lessons learned for large collaborative projects from SSC, ALMA, LHC, and ITER.  An emergent message from this session is that successful international scientific collaborations can also yield very significant political and economic benefits.  In our session on the management of nuclear fuels, three invited speakers from Canada, Japan, and Romania addressed rather different aspects of this problem, which evidently requires global attention. We were fortunate in recruiting a keynote speaker of extraordinary distinction: Elizabeth Dowdeswell, who has had an far-ranging career in government, education, and international affairs, having served in particular as the Executive Director of the UN Environmental Program and as President of Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). She explained in compelling terms the complex process through which NWMO, under her leadership, forged a contract between science and society that will govern the management of nuclear waste in her country. There followed excellent talks on the more technical aspects of this issue. Kazuaki Matsui of the Institute for Applied Energy gave an authoritative account of the strategies for reprocessing and disposal being implemented in Japan, while N. V. Zamfir of the National Institute of Physics & Engineering in Bucharest traced the steps involved in decommissioning the RR-VVR-S reactor and repatriation of residual fuel to Russia.  A unique feature of the latter presentation was that Zamfir’s talk (with coordinated display of slides) was given from Romania via skype – a “first” for APS meetings achieved by the heroic effort of the session chair Noemie Koller.

The remaining two sessions were products of a promising new phase of cooperation between the FIP Executive Committee and our counterparts on the Forum on Graduate Student Affairs.  Amy Flatten, APS Director of International Affairs, suggested that we join with FGSA in organizing a 2009 session on “Preparation of Graduate Students for Careers in a Globalized World.”   This proposal received the encouragement of Arthur Bienenstock, APS President for 2008.  In following up on the idea, the 2009 Program Chairs for FIP (myself) and FGSA (Kendall Mahn) chose to organize twin sessions around this theme, designing the March and April sessions to fit the rather different needs and concerns of graduate students attending the two meetings.  In particular, April-meeting students, typically, are already involved in large international physics projects, while March-meeting students are more likely to be interested in establishing industrial connections.  Each session was designed to feature a panel discussion, following a 36’ keynote talk and briefer presentations by other speakers/panelists.  We chose the keynote speakers from among the prominent participants at the EU/US Research and Education Workshop held in Atlanta in November 2008, which addressed the broad range of challenges and opportunities created by the reality that in an increasingly globalized economy, science and technology careers necessarily extend beyond national boundaries.  In the March session, keynote speaker Sabine O’Hara, Executive Director of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, gave a masterly presentation, articulating these issues based in part on her experience administrating the Fulbright programs. In turn, Amy Flatten, representing APS, discussed the international career opportunities available to graduate students, as well as the attendant challenges; T. Venkatesan (University of Maryland & National University of Singapore; FIAP Chair-Elect) spoke on career opportunities internationally from the industrial perspective and emphasized global entrepreneurship programs; Daniel Cox (UC-Davis and Co-Director, Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter – ICAM/I2CAM) described the opportunities provided by ICAM/I2CAM as a global, multi-institutional research network; and Fatiha Benmokhtar (Research Associate, Carnegie Mellon) exemplified, through a personal account, the early career experiences of current graduate and postdoctoral students engaged in international collaborations.

The joint FGSA/FIP session at the April meeting (held in May) followed a similar pattern, with emphasis on different aspects. The keynote speaker was Linda Katehi, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at UIUC.  In the spirit of the Atlanta workshop, she gave a comprehensive analysis of the requirements for effective multi-national scientific collaborations and the corresponding needs for additional institutional programs, increased integration, and improved infrastructures that can encourage and support mobility of scientists. The shorter presentations focused on the structure and dynamics of large international collaborations, as well as personal experiences working and living in them. Michael Tuts, US ATLAS Operations Program Manager for the ATLAS detector project at the LHC, highlighted the unique challenges of such large scientific ventures, as well as the logistics involved in their undertaking. Morgan Wascko, a Fellow at Imperial College working on neutrino experiments in the US and Japan, gave a lively and informative tutorial, from a personal perspective, on how to survive and thrive in a large international collaboration. Last but certainly not least, Claudia Fracchiolla described the difficulties and rewards she has experienced as a graduate student working on several international collaborations, currently the Pierre Auger project sited in Argentina. FIP and FGSA plan to cooperate in organizing further March/April sessions in coming years on topics of mutual international interest.

FIP Outreach:

At this year’s March APS meeting in Denver, we continued the tradition established by previous FIP chair Irving Lerch of hosting a joint reception at March meetings with expatriate physics associations. These currently include the Overseas Chinese Physics Association (OCPA), the American Chapter of the Indian Physics Association (ACIPA), the Iranian-American Physicists (IrAP) Network Group, and the Association of Korean Physicists in America (AKPA). This year’s reception was especially successful, with a large and enthusiastic participation of the expatriate physicists groups, as well as many individuals strongly interested in promoting international scientific relationships. We were especially pleased with the participation of several representatives from the African continent, with whom we hope to establish lasting ties. We are also gratified that several APS officers visited the reception to show their support. The reception is an occasion for enjoying good food and good company, but it also provides a venue for awarding prizes by the participating associations and honoring newly elected FIP-sponsored APS Fellows.

As mentioned above, another important component of our outreach activities lies in our growing connection with the APS Forum on Graduate Student Affairs (FGSA).

APS Fellows:

This year, nomination of APS Fellows through FIP resulted in the election of eight new Fellows, all with distinguished records of achievement both in their research field and in their contributions to international scientific cooperation and/or the advancement of physics in developing countries. The Fellowship Certificate citing the grounds for election and the Fellowship pin were presented in person to almost all the new Fellows, either during the FIP reception at the March APS or at our Executive Committee meeting in Denver in May.

Additional Activities in 2009:

  • Planning is under way for the FIP-sponsored sessions at the 2010 March and April meetings (with the April meeting in February).  Our offerings promise to be even more ambitious (and provocative) than in 2009 and may include sessions on the ascendancy of China as a world power in science and the physics of global catastrophes (environmental, biological, economic, political).  Our current Chair-Elect, Noemie Koller, will serve as FIP Program Chair for 2010.
  • The International Travel Grant Award Program (ITGAP), launched several years ago based on the idea of former FIP Member-at-Large James Vary, continues to be highly successful and is now in its 10th cycle of awards.  The program supports travel exchange between an APS member and a collaborator in a developing country, providing $2000 per award. Funding for ITGAP has been significantly increased through the efforts of Amy Flatten in recruiting several additional APS units as sponsors.  As Vice Chair for 2008, Noemie Koller served as Chair of the ITGAP Selection Committee for the 8th and 9th cycles. For the 10th and 11th cycles the committee will be chaired by Harvey Newman.
  • The deadline for submission of APS Fellowship nominations through FIP is May 15, 2009.  As already mentioned, the qualification criteria are outstanding accomplishments in the nominee’s scientific field, plus recognized contributions within the scope of FIP’s mission.
  • It is time to prepare the slate of candidates for competitive election of FIP officers.  This year, there are openings for Vice Chair and two Members-at-Large, and for the position of Secretary/Treasurer.  The Nomination Committee is chaired by Satoshi Ozaki (FIP Past Chair).  You are encouraged to submit nominations for these posts, before the deadline of July 15, 2009.
  • Membership Drive: Increasing FIP membership is of high priority for a number of reasons: (i) It enables us to raise the consciousness of international affairs among APS members and thus helps us to achieve one of our primary goals, (ii) it allows us to maintain direct representation for FIP on the APS Council, and (iii) it increases the income to FIP from APS that permits us to support an expanding range of activities.  We appeal to all FIP members to convince your friends and colleagues to join FIP, which is inexpensive and easily done on line at the APS web site.
  • Communication with the FIP membership is vital to our mission. While direct email announcements and the FIP web pages are invaluable mechanisms, we are aware that the Newsletter is highly valued by our members, and we shall endeavor to publish two full issues per year.

*John Clark is Chair, Executive Committee, Forum on International Physics and is also Wayman Crow Professor, Washington University in St. Louis