FIP Sessions at the APS April Meeting 2017

A report from the FIP Chair

By Cherrill Spencer

At the April Meeting, held in late January 2017 in Washington DC, the FIP presented four sessions focused the role of physicists in international environments and society and on the international scientific facilities. The sessions addressed the role of the Physicists in International Organizations (Session S7: The Roles of Physicists in International and Nonprofit Organizations, co-sponsored Forum on Physics and Society), in International Diplomacy (Session X7: Physics Improves International Diplomacy: Hear from an Ambassador, a Science Advisor and a NGO Expert) and in the Economy (Session U7: Physics Drives Our Economy, Connects the World, Creates the Future). Another one, presented the deep underground facilities in South America, South Africa and South Korea (Session Y7: Deep Science Around the World).

Cherrill Spencer, FIP Chair 2017, provides here a brief report on the talks in the FIP sessions at the April meeting 2017, including web links to the talks and references for more details.

Session S7: The Roles of Physicists in International and Nonprofit Organizations, co-sponsored with the Forum on Physics and Society

Physics and Its Multiple Roles in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Speaker: Charles Massey, IAEA

Dr. Massey focused his talk on nuclear security aspects and on his work on designing and building equipment to detect (illegal) nuclear materials that are moving across borders. This equipment will be developed to be used at the Radiation Portal Monitors, passive radiation detection devices currently used for the screening of vehicles, and other vectors for detection of illicit sources. There are ~10,000 Portal monitors around the world of which ~1300 are in the USA, monitoring every container coming into the USA. Dr. Massey works at The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), founded in 1958 and headquartered in Vienna, Austria. It has 168 member states and 2300 professional & support staff. It has labs in Seibersdorf, near Vienna and Monaco. The IAEA has many roles and physicists could be employed in any of these roles, as for example, as nuclear watchdog (safeguards and verification), in safety & security agency or in scientific research.

See Massey’s slides for much more detail:

Science Policy: A World of Opportunities

Speaker: Anne-Marie Mazza, National Academies

Anne-Marie Mazza described the Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship. It is a 12 week program organized by the National Academies, that takes place in Washington DC, to introduce the career of science policy to recent graduates. These fellowships have a $9,000 stipend and all details can be found in Mazza’s slides. The National Academies were started in 1863, chartered by President Lincoln. The National Research Council is the academies’ operating arm. One of the NAS’s purposes is to advise the government on science or engineering topics. They do this by organizing study committees, experts who may meet for 1.5 years and then issue a report.

Anne-Marie Mazza slides:

Science & Technology in Development: Ending Extreme Poverty

Speaker: Michelle L’Archeveque Jones, US Agency for International Development (USAID)

Michelle L’Archeveque provided in her talk an overview of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).The USAID was founded in 1961 by President J.F. Kennedy. It partners with other agencies to end extreme poverty and promote democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity. About 1 billion people are living in extreme poverty (live on < $1.90 per day) and they face many problems which cannot be deal with one problem at a time. USAID programs 1% of the US federal budget in over 80 countries around the world across numerous technical sectors, including global health, food security, water and sanitation, education, environment, and humanitarian assistance. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and end extreme poverty as we know it, USAID needs to bring together diverse partners to catalyze the next generation of breakthrough innovations. That is why USAID established the Global Development Lab in 2014. The Lab focuses on leveraging the promise of science, technology, innovation, and partnership which reflects USAID’s broad embrace of innovation to bring about positive change and solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The Lab uses physicists and engineers to find solutions and they can be sponsored through various fellowships such as the Presidential Management Fellowship ( or Engineers without Borders. USAID act as the “middleman” in taking donated lab equipment from rich countries and getting it sent to developing country scientists, called “Seeding Labs”.

Session U7: Physics Drives Our Economy, Connects the World, Creates the Future

Where do Foreign Student STEM graduates work after they graduate?

Speaker: Neil Ruiz, George Washington University

The USA receives 21% of all the students who are studying outside their home country. Between 2001 and 2012 five million F1 visas were issued by the US Government, the F1 allows a foreign person to study in the USA. After getting their degree a STEM graduate can stay an additional 36 months for “Optional Practical Training” (OPT), 500,000 OPTs were issued between 2008 and 2015. Between 2008 and 2012 F1 visa holders brought in $35 billion to the 118 metro areas where they are clustered. Dr. Ruiz presented lots of interesting statistics about where these foreign students come from, where they are studying in the USA, what the OPTs are studying (mostly graduate degrees) and which companies hire them when they have got their advanced degrees. In regard to the Executive Order on immigration that was issued 3 days before Dr. Ruiz gave his talk, these figures are pertinent: there are about 6,000 Iranian students currently in the USA under the OPT scheme, and 60% of them are studying for PhDs, mostly in STEM subjects. Also, a significant percentage of the OPTS start new companies in the USA, and so all told foreign students are contributing to the growth of the US economy.

Neil Ruiz’s slides: and for detailed reports on this topic go to:

Bridging the Divide - Adventures of an academic entrepreneur

Speaker: Thirumalai Venkatesan, National University of Singapore and Neocera

Dr. Venkatesan told us about his life story, starting at Bell Labs and described how his invention of the Pulsed Laser Deposition Process (PLD) led him to start a company and how he integrated that company into the University of Maryland, which led to him having feet in both academia and industry. As his abstract said “Managing creative people to productize, focusing on marketing/sales and managing cash flows constituted a world significantly different from what one encounters in the academia. Survival is key and a hasty decision can be the difference between success and bankruptcy.” In his talk Dr. Venkatesan discussed the various lessons learnt from the process and how one handles the challenges to eventually make an economic and societal impact.

Thirumalai Venkatesan slides:

Wheatley Award 2017 Winner: How Physics Can Help Africa Transform, from a Problem to an Opportunity

Speaker: Neil Turok, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Before his talk, Dr. Turok was recognized by the FIP’s chair Cherrill Spencer for winning the John Wheatley Award. The award is “to honor and recognize the dedication of physicists who have made contributions to the development of physics in countries of the third world.”

In his talk Dr. Turok told us about his upbringing in South Africa during the apartheid era, how his parents had worked against apartheid and been imprisoned for their efforts and how this background led him to found the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in 2003. Its website is He did this following his higher education in theoretical physics in England and holding several posts in the USA and back at the University of Cambridge. His brother helped him transform an old hotel near the ocean near Capetown into a university campus and he raised money from many sources to provide full scholarships to the 50 master’s students at the first AIMS as well as the operating costs. Since then he has helped 5 AIMS centers get started in Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, and, most recently, Rwanda, all the while continuing with his own research in cosmology. The AIMS centers have currently graduated 1225 students from 37 African countries and they have moved into a variety of careers. Dr. Turok urged us to look at marginalized communities in the USA as well as the rest of the world, and to promote access to excellence for them.

Session X7: Physics Improves International Diplomacy: Hear from an Ambassador, a Science Advisor and a NGO Expert

Science and Technology Cooperation as an Effective Bridge for Strengthening Relations Between Russia and the US

Speaker: Sergei Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the USA.

About 150 attendees were attracted by the Ambassador’s presentation. Amongst them, there were lots of members of the Russian and US press present and several articles on the Ambassador’s talk have been published in the media. From his abstract: In the conditions of spiraling tensions and curtailing of many platforms for the dialogue between Russia and the U.S. scientific cooperation could play a positive role. The history of our relations shows that joint effort by Russian and American scientists has repeatedly contributed to finding solutions in difficult situations, even during the “cold war”. See the longer article of this newsletter.

From Science, Engineering and Innovation to Sustainable Development: The Path Forward

Speaker: Vaughn Turekian, US State Department

In September 2015, world leaders committed to a new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at ending poverty, hunger and inequality, taking action on the environment and climate change, and improving access to health and education. The speaker Vaughn Turakian showed how science, technology and innovation (STI) underpin the achievement of all of the SDGs.

How Academies use science to enhance global security and well-being

Speaker: John Boright, National Academies of Science and Engineering

John Boright discussed the role of science in human welfare. He described collaborative programs of 150 academies of science, engineering, and medicine around the world, united to cooperate in contributing to human needs. He reviewed some relevant cooperative programs amongst academies of science, their goals being to produce common statements on major global issues, to provide advice on sustanibility and to cooperate to better connect science to the public and policy makers.

Session Y7: Deep Science Around the World

The ANDES Deep Underground Laboratory in South America: status and prospects

Speaker: Xavier Bertou

The speaker presented the project of the construction of the Agua Negra tunnel through the Andes between Argentina and Chile and reviewed the ANDES initiative, and in particular its scientifical and technological program for the next years. The construction of the tunnel will start in 2026 and it would represent a unique opportunity to build a world class deep underground laboratory in South America. Moreover, according to the speaker, it could provide a unique site for Dark Matter searches and Neutrino experiments and, due to the geoactive region location of the tunnel, it could host multidisciplinary experiments with a specific focus on Earth Science.

Bertou’s slides:

The Underground Laboratory in South Korea: facilities and experiments

Speaker: Yeong Duk Kim

The speaker focused his talk the underground physics programs in South Korea during the last 15 years. Some pioneering experiments for dark matter search and double beta decay experiments at the deep underground laboratory (Yangyang Laboratory, Y2L) were discussed. The speaker announced that, due to the limited space in Y2L, the construction of a new deep underground laboratory, capable of hosting larger scale experiments of next generation, has been proposed. The new research center in the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), Center for Underground Physics (CUP), has been approved by the government and currently the Y2L laboratory is managed by CUP. The CUP has two main experimental programs: The identification of dark matter and the Neutrinoless double beta decay search.

Kim’s slides:

The Case for an Underground Neutrino Facility in South Africa

Speaker: Zeblon Vilakazi

In his talk, the speaker, Zeblon Vilakasi, presented the need for deep underground facilities in South Africa. A feasibility study of measurements of radon in air, background gamma ray measurements, cosmic ray measurements using organic scintillators and radiometric analyses of representative rock samples for the establishment of such a facility in the South Africa was also presented.

Vilakasi’s slides:

Wheatley Award 2017 image

The Wheatley Award 2017 Winner Neil Turok and Cherrill Spencer