The Ethiopian Physics Society in North America (EPS-NA)

Tessema Guebre Xabiher

Dr. Mulugeta and Dr. Tessema G.X.
Dr. Mulugeta Bekele and Dr. Tessema G.X. at the Graduate Physics Library Addis Ababa University

The EPS-NA is a non-profit organization registered in the State of Connecticut. The society was established on August 2, 2008, at a general meeting attended by Ethiopian physicists from across the USA. The meeting was held at the American Physics Society (APS) headquarters, in College Park, with support and encouragement from Dr. Judy Franz, APS Executive Officer. Dr. Mulugeta Bekele, a founding member and current president of the Ethiopian Physics Society (EPS) in Ethiopia, was a keynote speaker and participated in the discussions. The meeting was also attended by other faculty from Addis Ababa University. The participants discussed and approved the bylaws of EPS-NA and elected the officials of the Executive Committee (EC) of EPS-NA. A general meeting planned for August 2013 will assess the fifth year of activity and elect new EC members.

The mission and goals of the society are to promote and support the education and training of Ethiopian physicists in Ethiopia, and in the US by:
  • Donating educational materials, equipment, computers, etc.
  • Providing scholarships, financial aid and mentoring assistance to students and educators in Ethiopia
  • Disseminating information about career and scholarship opportunities
  • Organizing conferences and workshops in Ethiopia
  • Sponsoring educational programs and coordinated research in Ethiopia
  • Providing a platform for networking for Ethiopian physics professionals
  • Acting as a liaison between members of the organization and other science organizations
  • Facilitating collaboration among universities in Ethiopia and in North America

The idea of an EPS-NA has been around since the late 1980s with a handful of dedicated individuals who met regularly at APS March Meetings. Since the late 1990s the activities grew strongly coupled to the growth of the Ethiopian physics community in Ethiopia. In 1998 Dr Mulugeta Bekele, announced the following to all physicists residing abroad: “I am sending this email to you to first inform you that the Ethiopian Physical Society (EPS) has been formed with its founding Conference held on 10 October 1998. It was a long (very!) awaited event and I am glad about it as much as you will be. I, therefore, request you to be a member of the Society." This message marked the beginning of 10 years of gestation where Ethiopian physicists explored different forms of organization while being very active in the US-African community. The community grew in number and maturity in sync with the EPS, culminating with the 2008 formation of EPS-NA.

Currently, the society has about 100 registered members. About 40% reside in the US and work in academia, industry, and government labs. The remaining 60% reside in Ethiopia; most are students or faculty at fledgling physics departments around the country. Women make up 1 to 2% of the membership, a number that needs to improve.

The limited budget comes from individual contributions and membership fees. The activities are focused on laying the foundation of the society while addressing some of the missions and goals. Accomplishments over the last 4 years include:
  1. Established the legal and non-profit status of EPS-NA.
  2. Established and sustain a website ( to:
    • Inform, educate and communicate with the community.
    • Start and sustain a “Who's Who” page featuring notable Ethiopian physicists who are role models to the younger African generation. Eight Ethiopian physicists have been featured and their stories depict the difficult working environment of African physicists, and the history of the birth and development of physics in Ethiopia. These include the fascinating autobiography of Professor Mulugeta Bekele, a co-recipient of the 2012 Andrei Sakharov prize.
    • Publicize achievements by Ethiopian physicists, research awards (NSF, Army), national or international recognitions such as Dr. Mulugeta’s Andrei Sakharov prize, and Dr. Solomon Bililign’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.
  3. Sent 400 books to support the graduate library at Addis Ababa University.
  4. Launched an EPS-NA Award and Scholarship program to recognize the best physics, junior students, senior students, and graduate students in Ethiopia, and to raise the profile of physics in Ethiopia. The ambition is to grow this in partnership with major physics societies in the US and abroad.
  5. Worked with other societies to contribute to Science Research, Education and training in Africa.

In summary, EPS-NA is in its infancy; the major accomplishment is that Ethiopian physicists are emerging as a self organized sustained group. The foundations are solid for the society to grow into adolescence. The society is poised to become a stronger partner to EPS, and to other societies committed to the dissemination of physics world-wide and to broaden participation and diversify the physics community.

Professor Tessema Guebre Xabiher is President of the Ethiopian Physics Society in North America (EPS-NA) and Program Director for the National Facilities Program in the Division for Materials Research (DMR) at the National Science Foundation. His area of specialty is experimental condensed matter and materials physics.

Disclaimer: the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the National Science Foundation.

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