Message from FIP 2017 Chair

Cherrill Spencer

“I am a force for science” proclaims the T-shirt I bought for the recent Marches for Science and together with the Forum on International Physics Executive Committee I am trying to make our forum a force for international physics. The USA has changed a lot since I joined the FIP chair-line over two years ago; the changes originating in the USA since January 2017 have a global impact that includes the international mobility of physicists and the amount of funding for physics projects both in the USA, and outside, where USA physicists collaborate with many physicists based in other countries. Although the Executive Orders on Immigration of 27th January and 6th March have been put on hold by actions in US courts, these orders, and the general attitude of the current administration towards science, have led to a less than welcoming tone for some foreign physicists at US embassies and borders. Part of the APS’s mission statement declares: “the APS strives to support physicists worldwide and to foster international collaboration”. So while the Society cannot intervene in individual situations, we invite colleagues who have been affected by these executive orders or suffered harsh treatment as they entered the USA, to share their stories with us. Information can be sent to (This information will only be used for statistical purposes and will be kept private.) If you are not a US citizen and are intending to visit the USA for a conference, workshop, business meeting or to work on a project, FIP recommends you read the visa information on the APS website here: and consult with your home institution’s international office many months in advance of your planned visit to the USA.

With the help of a tenacious Program Committee, which I chaired, FIP organized 4 invited speaker sessions at the so-called April meeting, which was held in late January in Washington DC and 3 invited speaker sessions at the March meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. We cajoled 27 speakers, 14 of whom flew in from other countries, to speak on a wide variety of topics in which they are experts. Short reports on these presentations can be found in this newsletter, together with links to the slides of many of the talks. A longer report on our best-attended session, “Physics Improves International Diplomacy”, headlined by the Russian Ambassador to the USA, Sergey Kislyak, is also in this newsletter.

Our ever-popular FIP Reception was held on the 42nd floor of the March conference hotel with lovely views over the Mississippi River and downtown New Orleans. About 70 conference attendees enjoyed some tasty Cajun food and heard briefly about the activities of 5 diaspora societies: Iranian American Physicists, the Organization of Chinese Physicists & Astronomers, Ethiopian Physicists in North America, the Association of Korean Physicists in America and the Turkish Physicists Network. I also presented two of our newest APS Fellows with their certificates and pins: Christine Darve of the European Spallation Source and Sandro Scandolo of the International Center for Theoretical Physics. We accepted nominations for the 2017 FIP fellows until 30 June. Please be thinking who amongst your colleagues has initiated programs to help physicists in distant lands while maintaining a high level of physics scholarship and be prepared to nominate them in May 2018 for an APS fellowship through FIP.

FIP sponsors and organizes two annual travel award programs. The International Research Travel Award Program (IRTAP) promotes international research collaborations between physicists in developed and developing countries; it has been going since 2004. Last year 80 applications were received and ten awards (the maximum number possible) of $2,000 each were granted. This popular travel award program is funded by donations from many of the APS units, but no donations had been received for some years and the IRTAP bank account was being depleted, so after I had run the 2016 reviewing process I initiated a campaign to raise more donations from the 13 units who had given in the past. So far 9 units (including FIP) have donated between $1,000 and $5,000 each, and I am hopeful we will eventually receive donations from all 13 units. Only members of any of these 13 units may apply for an IRTAP travel award. The second travel award program FIP organizes is for Distinguished Students (undergrads and grads) and we started the program in 2015 with a $20,000 seed-grant from the APS general fund. The travel awards are given to students from developing or under-developed countries that have their abstract for a poster or a contributed talk accepted to either the March or April APS meetings. One of the FIP members-at-large, Jason Gardner, has ably run this program for 2 years; we had 9 awardees presenting talks and posters at the 2017 meetings. The students were from Argentina, China, Ethiopia, India, Lithuania, Philippines and Turkey. We have almost used all the $20,000 seed-grant and will be looking to FIP members to donate a small amount each so we can continue this valuable Distinguished Students (DS) program. If each FIP member were to donate $5 annually we would raise the $20,000 needed annually. Look for an email from the APS or at your next annual APS membership renewal form for an opportunity to make a small donation to the DS program.

Lastly, here is an opportunity for you to provide input to the APS leadership on how the APS can better serve the international physics community (in general): a Task Force on Expanding International Engagement has been formed, the goal of that expanded engagement is to ensure the Society’s long-term value to the international physics community. See Amy Flatten’s article on page 5 where she seeks your input on what issues the APS should be working on, and with whom, or suggestions for new programs the APS could set up, that would benefit the international physics community. Please send your ideas by email to by September 30th 2017.

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