Posted by: Jamie | June 7, 2009

The APS is Awesome.

A while back it occurred to me that I should update my mailing address with the APS (the American Physical Society, a group founded in 1899 by a gathering of 36 physicists), so they wouldn’t send any more communications to my old apartment. In the process, I started actually browsing their website, and after a short time, I felt my metaphorical jaw dropping. The wealth of information available on this site is fantastic! I’d just like to put together a quick tour here, so that any readers can get an idea of the great job the APS is doing in making information available for all different types of citizens. I’m not going to make a detailed site map, or anything (they already have one) – I just want to give some of my favorite highlights.

If you click into the “Programs” section of the site, you’ll see navigation buttons leading you to pages for “Physics for All,” “Women in Physics,” and “Minorities in Physics.”

The “Physics for All” page is a stellar collection of outreach materials for students, teachers, and the public in general. They’ve got sources for physics history, resources like coloring books for children, and some amazing initiatives, such as PhysicsQuest, which is “a middle school competition that consists of four physical science experiments centered on a mystery.” Another sweet one is called “Adopt-a-Physicist.” This initiative matches up physicists with bachelors degrees or higher with classrooms and puts them together in an internet forum environment. I’m so excited to apply for this in their fall session! The goal is simply to foster discussion between students and physicists during a three-week period in the spring and the fall.

The “Minorities in Physics” and “Women in Physics” pages focus on resources for university physics departments that want to be more welcoming to said groups (this isn’t the post to address the overlap between those groups, but that’s an important issues that I hope to write about in the future). One feature to which I would especially like to draw attention is the Site Visits. A team from the APS can come to your university and review your department’s climate, working with “the physics department chair/lab director, groups of physics faculty members, minority or women faculty members in physics (or related areas), administrators responsible for faculty appointments or hiring, minority or women graduate students, and minority or women undergraduates.” I think this is an amazing idea, and hope that every college in the country someday has such a meeting. Additionally, there is also an “Assessing Graduate Programs” page for the “Women in Physics” which provides prospectives with voluntary survey information from various universities on the female-friendliness of their departments – including whether or not they’ve had a site visit. There’s tons more besides that, so check it out!

The “Policy & Advocacy” section of the site is what has got me really excited. Look look look! They have a page devoted to providing you with template letters for current physics/policy issues that you can send to your representatives! Excuse me, I think I’m going to swoon… There’s resources to support grassroots efforts; they have op-eds, editorials, and letters to the editor that have been written about science; they have presentations and “videos highlighting physics, research, and science and society”; fellowships for science and policy matters; and informational links with an overview of each policy issue which affects physicists and is related directly to physics. !! I’m so excited about the wealth of information and resources here, I’m effectively speechless (in the sense that I’ve got nothing better to say than, “Look!”).

Seriously. Check out the APS website. I haven’t even covered the tip of the great links and sources available there.

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