December 2014 Newsletter

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APS Northwest Section Meeting, Pullman, WA

Contributors: Jo-Anne Brown, Matt McCluskey, Brian Milbrath, and John Orrell

Plan Now for the 2015 Pullman meeting

The 16th Meeting of the Northwest Section of the American Physical Society will be held in Pullman, Washington. It starts Thursday evening, May 14, with a planetarium show open to the general public, and ends Saturday, May 16, 2014, in late afternoon. A banquet will be held on the evening of Friday, May 15. The meeting is hosted by the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Washington State University (WSU). The scientific meeting sessions will be held on Friday and Saturday; they will follow the format of previous NWAPS meetings.

The venue will be the Samuel Smith Center for Undergraduate Education (CUE), a beautiful building with modern classrooms and a spacious lobby for discussions and the poster session. It is close to the Compton Union Building (CUB), which has dining and shops. In addition, the CUE has a parking garage!

Advanced registration and abstract submissions will be handled by the American Physical Society. The Program Committee of the NWAPS Section will arrange for the invited plenary and parallel session speakers and programs. The conference web site is:

The dates of the conference coincide with the University of Idaho’s graduation. Since the University of Idaho is only 8 miles away, hotel rooms will be at a premium. The local organizing committee encourages all participants to stay at WSU’s brand-new, LEED-certified Olympia dormitory. Olympia has a variety of singles, doubles, singles with shared and private bathrooms, doubles with shared and private bathrooms, and suites with semi-private bathrooms. This housing option will be cheap, close to the conference venue, and provide a sense of community (like a Gordon conference).

The Program Committee is chaired by Prof. James Imamura, University of Oregon. The meeting chair is Prof. Matt McCluskey, Washington State University. For further information, send an email to Matt,

Funding to Support Visiting Speaker

The APS Northwest Section continues to run a program to support primarily undergraduate institutions that wish to bring speakers to their institutions from around the Northwest Section. The Section’s Speaker Program is intended to facilitate connections between researchers and students across the Northwest Section by providing for the travel related expenses of the speaker to visit, present on their area of work, and have an informal discussion with students. Professional networking is encouraged. The full document description is located on the front of the APS Northwest Section unit website.

The program is seeking submissions on an on-going basis. This Speaker Program is intended to be flexible and easy. We encourage any Section member interested in taking advantage of this program to contact the Section’s Secretary/Treasurer (currently J.L. Orrell:

American Physical Society –
NW Section Meeting May 1-3, 2014

APS Northwest Section photo montage

Report from the 2014 Annual Meeting, University of Washington

NWAPS’s Fifteenth Annual Meeting was held May 1-3 in Seattle, Washington. The meeting was hosted by the University of Washington and was a smashing success! With 251 registered participants, it was the 2nd most attended annual meeting. The meeting also set several records including:

  • Highest recorded number of graduate students registered (100; which exceeded the number of regular participants [85], and undergraduates [66]).
  • Most poster presentations
  • Most Astro/Cosmology talks
  • Most Nuclear Physics talks
  • Most Applied/Multidisciplinary talks
  • Most oral & poster presentations (combined)

The meeting began with a public lecture by Anthea Coster, an atmospheric physicist at MIT Haystack Observatory. Her talk, “Lise Meitner: Her escape from Germany and the Discovery of Fission,” chronicled the life of Lise Meitner, with one special twist: Anthea’s grandfather, Dirk Coster, was instrumental in helping Lise escape from Germany! The talk was filled with personal stories, and amazing family photos.

Friday and Saturday morning hosted the 10 plenary talks, which included talks about BICEP2 and the search for axions, the ALPHA project, nanomechanical magnetometry, launching balloons from Antarctica to study the radiation belts, single molecule nanopore DNA sequencing, earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific NW, the QWEAK experiment, the physics of sustainable buildings, different career paths with a physics degree, and antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (complete with disturbing before/after photos of various infections!).

The afternoons hosted parallel invited + contributed sessions. Friday’s sessions were AMO, Condensed matter, Particle Physics, and Applied & Multidisciplinary; Saturday’s sessions were Astronomy & Cosmology, Nuclear Physics, Biophysics, Physics Education, as well as additional half-sessions on AMO and Condensed matter. As mentioned above, there was terrific participation in these sessions, with this year having the highest recorded graduate student participation (which fit marvelously with the goals of the chapter).

Friday afternoon also hosted the poster session, which was exceptionally well attended. The number of posters presented (56) was up by 60% from the previously recorded high (35 at UBC in 2009).

Friday evening we had a fantastic banquet in the Walker-Ames Room on UW campus. The banquet speaker, Julian Voss-Andreae, showed us a different perspective on the beauty of physics, with his talk, “Sculptures Inspired by Physics, Proteins and People”. Julian is a physicist-turned-sculptor, and is able to walk the line between physics and art in a unique way. More information about his work can be found on his website.

Thank you again to the local organizing committee, chaired by Oscar Vilches, who did a wonderful job with the venue, kept everything running, and kept us well fed! It was truly an enjoyable meeting.

Consider hosting a Section Meeting!

NWAPS meetings have been held all over the Section through the years:

1999: Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver
2000: Univ. of Oregon, Eugene
2001: Univ. of Washington, Seattle
2002: Univ. of Alberta, Banff
2003: Reed College, Portland
2004: Univ. of Idaho/WSU (posters & banquet in Pullman), Moscow
2005: Univ. of Victoria, Victoria
2006: Univ. of Puget Sound, Tacoma
2007: Idaho State Univ., Pocatello
2008: Lewis & Clark College, Portland
2009: Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver
2010: Whitman College, Walla Walla
2011: Oregon State Univ., Corvallis
2012: Simon Fraser Univ., Vancouver
2014: Univ. of Washington, Seattle
2015: Washington State U, Pullman

We are always interested in hearing from institutions that might be willing to host a NWAPS meeting. Typically, meetings are held on campus to the extent possible to keep registration costs down but we are flexible to the constraints of the local institution – it is clear that classroom space is getting harder to come by at many places. Hosting such a meeting can provide recognition to your department and easy access for your students and faculty to hear about exciting physics research happening across the region. NWAPS officers work through budgets with the local organizing committee so that the meeting does not result in financial cost to the institution. We have begun preliminary discussions with a host for the 2016 meeting but would like to hear from institutions interested in hosting a meeting in the future. In particular, we are interested in schools that might be interested in hosting a meeting in 2017 or after. Please contact a Section officer if interested!

About Our Section

Founded in 1998, our section represents over 1200 physicists from Canada (British Columbia and Alberta) and the United States (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska). It is the only transnational APS Section and comprises a number of world-class physics departments and research institutions, as well as many first-rate small colleges. Our meetings give us the opportunity to hear about exciting physics from many fields being performed right here in the Northwest.

Besides fostering regional collaboration, a major goal of NWAPS has always been to support student research, both undergraduate and graduate. At the Annual Meeting, students are strongly encouraged to present their work (students are given priority for oral presentation slots), learn about the major questions being studied in other fields, and network with peers and potential employers or graduate schools. The Section works hard to keep meeting expenses low and subsidizes student registration costs. In addition, travel awards are offered to help with student travel expenses to get to meetings. Further information can be found at the Student Travel Award web page.

The Section’s annual business meeting will be held as part of the 2015 NWAPS meeting in Pullman and is open to all section members. Prior to the meeting, elections will be held electronically for section officers. If you would like to get involved in the leadership of the section, please contact one of the current officers to get your name on the ballot. Please watch for the vote this spring. Terms for the newly elected officers will begin at the close of the annual business meeting. Our current NWAPS officers are listed below. Please feel free to contact them with any input you wish to provide.

Restructuring of the APS

Between October 6 and November 10, 2014, the APS membership voted in favour of the proposed changes to the APS governance and leadership structures. In order to pass according to the previous by-laws, the proposal had to receive 2/3 approval from those that voted. In this case, the changes were supported by 94.1% of the votes (which were from 16.74% of the eligible voting members).

In a brief summary, the changes to the APS are as follows:

  • The Executive Board will become the Board of Directors, with overall responsibility for matters of governance and finance. Only elected Directors have votes: the Presidential Line, Treasurer, and nine Council members including the Speaker of the Council.
  • The Council will become the Council of Representatives, chaired by a new Speaker. They will focus on matters of science and membership, including: science policy, prizes and awards, Units, membership, etc.
  • A new position of CEO, appointed by the Board of Directors, will serve as a single point of responsibility for day-to-day operations, and to create greater coherence across all operations. The proposed CEO-led model is typical of modern society leadership.
  • An Editor-in-Chief, appointed by the CEO and Board of Directors, will be responsible for scientific journals. The Editor-in-Chief will report to the CEO, but also be a nonvoting member on the Board of Directors.
  • A new position of Treasurer will be directly elected by members to serve on Board of Directors and Council of Representatives to provide overall financial oversight. The CEO will define and staff senior positions, expected to include Publisher and Chief Financial Officer.
  • Originally adopted in November 1914, the Articles of Incorporation will be amended and restated. This is essential for legal nonprofit status in District of Columbia. The Constitution and Bylaws will be modernized into a single document with operational details in Policies and Procedures manuals.

More information regarding the corporate reform may be found on the APS website.

Erich Vogt 1929-2014

Erich Vogt photoErich Vogt, while still serving as our section’s Past Chair, passed away this February (2014) at the age of 84. This was actually Erich’s second “term” as a Section officer, as he had also served while the Section was just standing up some fifteen years prior. Erich’s accomplishments were numerous but included being a co-founder and longest serving director of TRIUMF, a term as president of the Canadian Association of Physicists, and recipient of that organization’s Medal for Achievement in Physics. An excellent obituary for Erich can be found on The Vancouver Sun obituary page.

Erich had a very engaging personality and loved to converse. He had a wonderful enthusiasm for the field of physics, physics in Canada, and his beloved TRIUMF. He was equally interested in nuclear physics research or teaching first-year physics courses, which he did at UBC until just a few years ago. It is due to the influence of him and colleagues at our Section’s founding that we started out as the APS’s only cross-country Section and have remained committed to that. According to colleagues, his enthusiasm for the work of physics remained right up to passing.

On Facebook? Follow us!

Facebook page graphicThe APS-NW section hosts a Facebook (FB) page ( In addition to the main homepage through the APS website (, the FB page will provide regular updates and reminders, for things such as abstract submission and registration, as the annual meetings draw closer, as well as other relevant items to those in the NW section.

The articles in this issue represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the Section or APS.