H. Frederick Dylla Director's Matters

SPS internships—an experience in learning
With July drawing to a close, many of us are wondering where the summer has gone. It certainly doesn't seem like a full eight weeks since we welcomed the Society of Physics Students (SPS) summer interns. But they are already in the midst of preparing their formal presentations on their summer's work, which they will deliver on Wednesday morning, July 30, at ACP. The SPS program is not about finding cheap labor to help the office play catch-up with administrative activities. It's about contributing to the formative education of bright undergraduate students majoring in physics or related fields. SPS believes that internships in scientific research and outreach/policy help the students achieve a well-rounded, solid understanding of the basics of a scientific discipline and gain insights on how to apply this knowledge in one's life or career. Both are essential components of a good undergraduate experience.

2008 SPS Summer Interns. Seated from the left: Meagan Saldua, Barbara Dunlap, and Mary Mills. Standing from the left: Kunal Bhatnagar, Justin Reeder, Jenna Smith, Daniel McNeel, Logan Hancock, and Paul Abbazia. The interns are selected competitively and come from colleges and universities throughout the U.S. They are placed in organizations and agencies in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, American Physical Society (APS), American Association of Physics Teachers, American Astronomical Society, American Geophysical Union, Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University of Maryland, and, of course, SPS. The students gain professional experience through assignments that are relevant to the institutions' programs and that advance physics or allied sciences.

Gary White began the program eight years ago as he accepted the position as director of SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma, and brought with him his own former student from Northwestern State University, Mark Lentz. Since then, 55 students have gone through the program. They've worked on a range of research projects, including organic semiconductors, cyclodextrins and computational chemistry at NIST, lunar neutron detection research and solar dust at NASA, and various policy and outreach projects, including designing extension activities for APS Physics Quest, developing various collections for ComPADRE (the national science digital library), leading science summer camps for middle schoolers at MRSEC, and designing the annual SPS Outreach Catalyst Kits (SOCKs)—recall the Mentos and Diet Coke experiments from last year that they used to demonstrate propulsion and kinematics? This year they are using Slinkies, Boomwhackers, and other materials to examine the properties of waves.

The interns are serious about work and serious about play. They take full advantage of the arts, history, and other attractions the Washington, DC area has to offer. You can read about their summer experiences in their weekly journals posted on the SPS website.

If you would like to attend the interns' closing presentations on Wednesday morning, please contact SPS today (Monday) to see if there is space available. If your business unit would like to explore the opportunity of mentoring an SPS intern next summer, contact Liz Caron.



If it's Tuesday, this must be Paris
Eight consecutive weeks of eventful travel by Customer Service Accounts manager Tom Thrash recently concluded with a trip to France to visit customers in two different cities. First, there was Paris, the site of the 155th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, held as part of the Acoustics'08 Conference. The other city—Strasbourg—which lies about 250 miles east of Paris, is home to the editorial office of one of AIP's newer customers, the Human Frontier Science Program. Site visits, like these, have proven to be a vital part of understanding the needs of our publishing customers, so that we can better assist them in serving the needs of their constituents.

2008 U. S. Physics Team Physics Olympiad nears conclusion
The U.S. physics team is currently competing in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the International Physics Olympiad (July 20-29). For a firsthand account of the team's experience, visit their blog. We'll have more information next week on the outcome of the competition.

The state of high-school physics
In 1986, the Statistical Research Center (SRC) began its first in-depth study of high-school physics. Last week, SRC published a report titled Reaching the Critical Mass, the sixth study in this series. Mike Neuschatz, who recently retired, directed all six of the studies. During the mid-1980s, fewer than 20% of high-school graduates took physics. Twenty years later that figure has surged to one-third of all high-school graduates. It is especially encouraging to note that enrollments increased across all levels of physics courses with AP enrollments increasing fivefold and conceptual course enrollments increasing sixfold over the last two decades. You can find the latest report about high-school physics on the SRC website.

Protect against identity theft
Identity theft is not always as obvious as a stolen wallet; it can happen without your knowledge. There are preventive measures you can take to ensure that your identity does not end up in the wrong hands: shred financial documents, do not carry your social security card on your person, and do not respond to unsolicited e-mails. Monitor your credit report and check your monthly credit card and bank statements for unusual activity. Follow up on bills that do not arrive as expected; be suspicious of unexpected statements. If your identity has been stolen there are three steps you will need to take immediately:

  1. Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus;
  2. Close the accounts you believe have been tampered with; and
  3. File a police report with your local police or the police in the community where the theft took place.

You can find these steps, outlined in detail, along with other important information on the U.S. Department of Education identity theft website.

50 years AAPM logo The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) celebrates its 50th year of serving patients, physicians, and physicists: This week more than 3,500 scientists and health professionals from the field of medical physics will convene at the 50th meeting of the AAPM in Houston, TX.

Whether x rays for CT scans, sound waves for ultrasound, magnetic fields for MRI, or antimatter for PET scans, the "stuff" of physics has revolutionized the practice of medicine, and modern medical physics helps to alleviate suffering and ensure the safety of millions of people in the United States each year. Almost all the hospitals in the U.S. today benefit from the work of medical physicists. They help diagnose illness by designing and implementing new and better ways of imaging the human body. They create treatment strategies to fight cancer and other diseases. They take measures for reducing the risk to people undergoing these treatments.

The AAPM meeting covers some of the most interesting topics in medicine, the latest in imaging technologies, and ethical and regulatory issues. The talks vary significantly. Some look at new ways of imaging the human body or focus on treating cancerous tumors and other conditions with x rays, particles from accelerators, and other emissions. Other talks describe how to tailor therapy to the specific needs of people undergoing treatment—how to shape emissions to conform to the shape of a tumor, how to treat children as opposed to adults, or how to adjust treatment as tumors shrink and move as the treatment proceeds.

AAPM is the largest association of medical physicists in the world. It is composed of both scientists who develop cutting-edge technologies in the physics laboratory and board-certified health professionals who use these technologies in the clinic.

We wish them a successful meeting. AIP will participate on many fronts; stay tuned for a report in a future issue of AIP Matters.


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