Below are the news items of that ran on the AAPT.org homepage and in AAPT NEWS before 2006.
President's Report on Winter Meeting
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AAPT Winter Meeting: Exaggerated Rumors of Death
By Richard Peterson
Announcer, Vol. 35, Iss. 4
A note in the Announcer earlier this year proclaimed that an AAPT Board taskforce was recommending significant changes in winter meetings, and discussions at the Salt Lake Summer Meeting on this issue gave rise to the rare display of raw emotions, even from stoic teachers of physics who normally only raise their voice about exciting things like free-body diagrams, Brewster’s angle or Kirchoff’s rules.
Despite the Announcer article, as Mark Twain observed following reports of his own demise, rumors of the death of winter meetings have been highly exaggerated. However this issue has forced us to reconsider the goals of national meetings and has triggered discussions as to how to best accomplish these goals within the limited resources of the association and its members.
Attendance at National Meetings
Only about 15-20% of our 10,000 members attend national meetings, and many of those show up only every few years, and maybe 1,000 members regularly attend either a summer or winter meeting. Attendees tell us these meetings provide a welcome opportunity to present their own work and to closely interact with fellow teachers of physics. The word "fellowship" is even used, and this somewhat warm, collegial perspective may be particularly an attribute of a nurturing AAPT. It is no wonder this can be a touchy subject. Of course our meetings provide many other things that are critical to our professional careers, some being: practical workshops and tutorials, tandem conferences (like PTRA and PERC), exhibits of books and apparatus, grant contacts and reports, AAPT governance at all levels, recognitions of exceptional achievement and service, plus refreshing updates on forefront physics.
Neither summer nor winter meetings have shown a precipitous change in average attendance in recent years, but it fluctuates mightily with location or the special attractions of a particular meeting. Summer meetings of late have on average been larger than winter (about 1,200 in total attendance vs. 700–1,000) and most would anticipate the current Anchorage meeting will be smaller in registration. On the other hand, the forthcoming Seattle (2007), with AAS, and the Baltimore (2008) winter meetings are expected to have strong attendance.
New Faces, Broader Impact
So what’s the main motivation to shake up the happenings at AAPT winter meetings? My allusion to close AAPT "fellowship" surely has both positive and negative aspects. Our meetings do not often thrive at spreading the physics-teaching umbrella of AAPT to new folks who may hardly know we exist. Exhibitors have noted with discouragement that largely the same faces are seen at both summer and winter meetings. So it seems our meetings do not market well our cause among the rest of physics or the other sciences, and we may seem a bit isolated—even cliquish in our ways. Since current winter meetings are to some extent smaller clones of summer meetings, perhaps we can better lay out a winter entree to make more visible our feast of ideas and perspectives. Smaller is not bad; winter meetings should continue, while they may be able to feature a broader menu that simply cannot be ignored by a currently underserved external clientele.
What are some possible examples of fresh features for winter meetings? We have had such success with special conferences on crucial topics in physics education that universities have struggled to get their representatives registered. Perhaps a carefully chosen "sub-conference theme" could precede or overlap a winter meeting by one or two days and thus encourage new participants to seriously consider the attractions of the main meeting. I believe our invited and plenary sessions, Oersted and Richtmyer winter lectures, and other features can hold such a mix, even if the main meeting may be somewhat more constrained in length or features.
Almost everyone agrees we need to work harder on jointly sponsored meetings, like the AAS joint meeting held in January 2001 (and scheduled for 2007). A few other societies meet in January and February and may make such ventures possible. Another option might include a one-day tutorial and interactive session sponsored by another physics society (such as OSA, ASA, AGU or an APS Division) that would highlight review talks on current or past research, while providing pedagogical perspectives of special joint interest. The wonderful plenary session organized by APS FEd and APS DAMOP at Salt Lake was expanded in visibility to achieve just such a goal—but largely for the AAPT regulars at that meeting.
Expanding AAPT’s Reach
These efforts to broaden the perspectives of national meetings must be considered as part of the Board’s efforts to make AAPT more visible to the entire science teaching community, college and university physics leaders, and members of other physics organizations. To that end, the Board has recently engaged Charlie Holbrow as Senior Staff Physicist (AAPT President, 2003) to work directly toward extending our service and visibility in the four-year college/university physics community, and this will almost certainly include laying out plans for more varied physics offerings at our winter meetings.
In summary, I believe we need to look closely at our national meetings in the context of our AAPT goal of supporting physics teachers at all levels—many of whom hardly know we exist. Within the U.S. physics community, there is simply no other organization with the scope and energy to take on this challenge, and the responsibility is ours. We must be prepared to evaluate our success in terms of the quality of our exposure to this broader audience and not only in terms of meeting attendance or costs. The AAPT Board and Council anticipate discussion of post-2008 national meeting options in Anchorage, and we encourage your input to representatives within these bodies.
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In Memoriam: Melba Newell Phillips, 1907-2004
November 15, 2004
Melba Newell Phillips, the first female president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, died on Nov. 8, 2004.
Phillips was born in Hazleton, Indiana, on Feb. 1, 1907. She received a B.A. from Oakland City College in 1926 and her M.A. from Battle Creek College in 1928. She was a Whiting fellow at the University of California, Berkeley from 1932-1933 when she received a Ph.D. in physics.
Phillips was the first graduate student of J. Robert Oppenheimer to receive a degree in theoretical physics. The two physicists in 1935 offered an explanation of the mechanism of the nuclear reaction between a proton and a deuteron, which has come to be known as the Oppenheimer-Phillips Process.
During World War II, she did research on radar countermeasures at Harvard Radio Research Lab, and following the war she was appointed to the Columbia University Radiation Laboratory. At this time she also was an assistant professor in the Physics Department at Brooklyn College.
In 1952, during the infamous McCarthy era, Brooklyn College and the Columbia Radiation Laboratory dismissed Phillips for refusing to cooperate with a congressional committee that was investigating friends and colleagues. In 1987, Brooklyn College publicly apologized.
Phillips history of service to AAPT and to physics education is long and varied. In 1966, during her term as President, the Executive Secretary and TPT Editor, J.W. Buchta passed away. Phillips, with the other Board officers, assumed his duties until a replacement could be found. In addition to her years on the Executive Board, Phillips served as Acting Executive Officer during 1975-1977.
In 1981, to recognize her creative leadership and dedicated service, AAPT created the Melba Newell Phillips Award. Phillips became the first recipient in 1982. The award is given only occasionally to those who show similar achievements and exceptional contributions to the Association. Phillips also received AAPT’s Distinguished Service Citation and the Oersted Medal. In 2003, the American Physical Society granted her the Joseph A. Burton Forum Award. She was the co-author of two textbooks in science: "Electricity and Magnetism" with Wolfgang Panofsky, and "Principles of Physical Science" with F. Bonner.
Phillips came by her love of teaching early on, as her maternal grandmother, her father, and his siblings were all teachers at one point in their lives. When she was 16, she applied for her teaching certificate and passed. However, Indiana law required all teachers to be at least 18 years old, so Phillips decided to go to college. She had acquired a love of physics in high school, and pursued physics and math classes in college even though there was no physics major. She later wrote that her math professor, William Jordan, "was a source of strength and inspiration well beyond the mathematics he taught."
Phillips later created the "William Jordan Endowment Scholarship" at Oakland City University, Oakland City, IN, in memory and honor of Jordan. The family requests that any memorials be directed to the Scholarship.