AIP | Matters
-- -- October 21, 2013

Bernie Khoury Director's Matters

Guest column by Bernard Khoury, Former Executive Officer of AAPT & Former Chair of the ACP Board

AIP celebrates twenty years at ACP

Twenty years ago, in October 1993, AIP headquarters was relocated from its long-time site on E. 45th Street in New York City to a brand-new office building in College Park, MD. The American Center for Physics was launched on a sunny and crisp fall day as the headquarters facility for AIP and three of its Member Societies—The American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

While some current AIP staff recall those early planning and moving events, most others have joined AIP more recently. For those curious about some of the early history of ACP, here are some of the highlights.

ACP under construction, photographed and spliced together by Bernie Khoury. Aerial views of the grounds and building of the American Center for Physics, showing the distinctive elliptical entrance roadway, were taken by Marc Brodsky from Ken Ford's airplane. The address One Physics Ellipse is a tribute to the historic importance of the ellipse in the early understanding of the solar system. These images are courtesy of the American Center for Physics.

Well prior to any plans for relocation, AIP's size and scope were expanding in tandem with the great growth of physics-based activities around the world. Since costs of building development in NYC were escalating, AIP and its Member Societies explored relocation options in cities across the nation. Eventually, AIP and APS (which were headquartered in New York), and AAPT (which already owned an office building on Berwyn Road in College Park) decided to collocate in the Washington, DC, area, since the societies were increasingly committed to active participation in public policy affecting physics and education.

This decision did not come easily, as there were many hurdles to surpass before planning could move forward. The societies, for instance, had different needs in terms of space and varying financial resources. The investment in (or ownership of) the property would not be equal, and this led to concerns about decision-making power. AIP Executive Director Ken Ford proposed during the early negotiations that, despite these disparities, the societies should have equal representation on the ACP Board, thus leveling the playing field.

The steering committee, consisting of nine members—three each from AAPT, AIP, and APS—took the lead from 1990 until the middle of 1992. Following an extended search across all of the DC area, a yet-to-be-developed property in Prince George’s County, MD, met the three criteria guiding the relocation: transit access to downtown DC, property available for future expansion, and proximity to a strong physics department at the University of Maryland.

Photo credits: Bernie Khoury

When ACP first explored the property, any development in the area was still remote. The area was heavily wooded and inaccessible by roadway. The opening of the College Park Metro station was still years away. The planners and consultants trudged through mud and debris to imagine how such a site would be developed. Because the organizations were member controlled, scores of individuals played roles in planning for the building, selecting the location and the architects, and arranging the financing.

The University of Maryland, as well as the governments of Prince George’s County and the State of Maryland, responded enthusiastically to the prospect of the location of the physics societies in the county and near the university. After extended negotiations, along with architectural, engineering, and environmental studies, ACP consummated in 1992 the purchase of 24 acres of land close to the planned College Park Metro station. (The station actually opened just months after the opening of ACP, in December 1993.)

The steering committee guided the site selection, assisted by the national real estate firm Julien Studley, and worked with Richard Giegengack of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as ACP’s principal architect. The purchase of the land and the construction of the building were financed by revenue bonds issued by the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority.

Architectural objectives included energy efficiency and environmental sensitivity. An innovative ice storage system was installed to use energy during the night and then to cool the building during the day. The architects positioned the building so as to preserve as much of the existing wooded area as possible. The planners sought and received county permission to reduce the number of automobile parking spaces, since public transit was a priority. An arborist assured that extensive landscaping was an important part of the design.

ACP groundbreaking
Left: Officials and society leadership at the groundbreaking ceremony. Right: Executive officer of AAPT and chair of the ACP Board, Bernie Khoury, speaks at the official Grand Opening celebration.

AIP offered a generous relocation package of benefits to encourage and support AIP and APS staff that relocated to Maryland, and to retain temporarily AIP staff who decided not to relocate. About 50% of the AIP New York staff made the move to Maryland in the fall of 1993. AAPM made a late decision to also move its offices from New York, joining AIP, APS, and AAPT at the new American Center for Physics as a tenant. No AAPM staff members made the move. Sal Trofi was hired as the new AAPM executive director to run the growing society.

ACP NY staff

Twenty years later, several AIP staff members are still with us! Those who made the move from New York were (faces from the left): Starr Nicholson (inset), Jeff Kobilinsky, Ray Chu, Patrick and Judith Mulvey, Margaret Wiley, Julius Dollison, Terri Braun, Ben Stein, Bonnie Feldman, Bert Schwarzschild, and Roman Czujko. Two made the move to ACP from the Washington, DC offices (the last two shown on the right): Lydia Quijada and Dick Jones. Two were hired concurrent with the opening of ACP (inset right): Karin Heineman and Eva Adams. Joe Anderson and Steve Benka (not pictured) were hired within weeks of ACP's opening.

The opening of ACP marked a change in leadership for AIP and APS as well. Ken Ford passed the reins to Marc Brodsky, hired from IBM TJ Watson Research Center. Richard Werthamer, executive secretary of APS, likewise saw the planning and construction through to conclusion, but Judy Franz, former president of AAPT, joined APS as its new executive in time for formal dedication of the building. I was executive officer of AAPT at the time and was fortunate to continue in that role until my retirement in 2007.

When the College Park City Hall was undergoing extensive renovations in the mid-1990s, many city government groups held regular meetings at ACP. Since the building footprint was partly sited in College Park (about 55%) and partly in Riverdale Park (45%), it was important that those meetings be held in the College Park section of the building! (Conference Room A is in College Park.)

ACP LIbrary

A prominent architectural and program feature of the ACP is the Niels Bohr Library and Archives, an internationally renowned resource on the history of physics, open to scholars seeking materials to enhance the study of the progress of physics across the centuries. Photo credit: Bernie Khoury

The University of Maryland eventually purchased the entire area surrounding ACP. As a close partner with the university, ACP has frequently hosted visits by private companies and government agencies considering relocation to the university’s neighboring research park, now known as M Square.

Over the past 20 years, the ACP building, which houses four prominent physics societies, has become an important part of the local community of College Park, the association community in the Washington metro area, and the entire physics community. For the local community, ACP has a history of hosting science-inspired art exhibits and special public lectures. For the physics community, ACP has become a nucleus of connectivity. The governing bodies of the four societies, physics department chairs, new physics faculty, science historians, scholarly journal editors and reviewers, committee volunteers, science policy fellows, student leaders, faculty mentors, the annual US Physics Team members, and many, many others have come to ACP as participants in hundreds of meetings, conferences, and events.

Inside AIPAIP staff members might be especially interested in an archive issue of Inside AIP that covered, “ACP’s Opening Days.” Thanks to Ben Stein for providing a copy of this Nov/Dec 1993 issue.

I will be giving a talk at noon tomorrow, Tuesday, October 22, to the staff of ACP, commemorating the 20-Year Anniversary. All staff are welcome to join me. Others wishing to attend may contact Liz Dart Caron at

Physics Resource Matters

Two all-time highs for US physics departments

GraphMore physics bachelor's and more physics PhDs were conferred in the class of 2012 than in any other year in US history. The nearly 6,800 physics bachelor's degrees conferred represent an 8% increase from the previous year and an 86% increase from a recent low in 1999. The 1,762 physics PhDs in the class of 2012 is up 4% from the previous year and 62% from a recent low in 2004. For the second year in a row, the majority of the physics PhDs were awarded to US citizens.

These are findings from the Enrollments & Degrees Survey which the Statistical Research Center (SRC) conducts each fall of all degree-granting physics and astronomy departments in the United States. There are currently 790 such departments and the survey typically achieves a 95% response rate. This annual survey provides the physics and astronomy community accurate and detailed data on enrollment and degree trends. Many of the reports that the SRC publishes are possible because of the data collected in this annual survey.

The SRC has recently published two reports: Roster of Physics Departments with Enrollments and Degree Data, 2012 and Roster of Astronomy Departments with Enrollments and Degree Data, 2012. These reports provide a detailed, department-by-department listing of Fall 2012 enrollment and 2011-12 degree data for degree-granting physics and astronomy departments in the United States.

You can access these reports through the SRC website.

SPS/ΣΠΣ remembers Worth Seagondollar

Seagondollar videoL. Worth Seagondollar, former president of the Sigma Pi Sigma national physics honor society, passed away on September 20th. Worth was president at a central time for the society and was instrumental in affecting the merger of the AIP Student Sections and Sigma Pi Sigma that created the Society of Physics Students (SPS). Worth advised a very active local chapter of SPS at the North Carolina State University, where he also served as department head. As a member of the Manhattan Project, Worth was first to measure the critical mass of plutonium and was present at the Trinity Test. He was also a fellow of the American Physical Society.

In 2004, Worth recounted his experience working on and witnessing the explosion of the first atomic bomb to a packed house at the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Congress. SPS invited him to present an encore to the ACP community in July 2007. A brief video clip of his talk can be seen on YouTube, and the entire transcript is available through the SPS website.

Sigma Pi Sigma's highest award is named after Worth and given to those who have shown an exemplary level of commitment and service to the SPS and ΣΠΣ.

Physics Resource Matters

JeopardyNiels Bohr in Jeopardy!

On Tuesday evening, October 15, one of the questions on the TV show Jeopardy! was:

“A library at the American Institute of Physics is named for this great Dane.”

Answer: Niels Bohr

Unfortunately, no one knew the answer.

~ Submitted by viewer and AIP Publishing staff member, Joanne Santangelo
Physics Resource Matters

Frontiers in Optics 2013 wraps up after week of cutting-edge research, applications, and new products in optics and photonics

Frontiers in PhysicsFrom the OSA website: Frontiers in Optics concluded in Orlando, FL, on October 10 after five days of technical sessions, special symposia, tutorials, business programming, exhibits, and special events—all highlighting the latest research and applications of optical technologies. Attendees heard presentations from leading experts on hot topics such as biomedical optics, silicon photonics, fiber optics, lasers, hybrid integrated photonics, and more. Continue reading at AIP Publishing was proud to be a corporate sponsor of the event. AIP's media relations team helped to promote the science presented at the conference in the media.

Coming Up

October 21

  • AIP Executive Committee meeting (College Park)
  • ACP Art Reception, “Intersections: Secrets of the Elements”

October 22

  • Brown bag lunch, 12 pm. “Celebrating 20 Years at The American Center for Physics,” given by Bernie Khoury, former executive director of AAPT. (College Park, MD)

October 27-November 1

  • AVS International Symposium & Exhibition (Long Beach, CA)

November 7-10

  • AAPT New Faculty Workshop (College Park)

November 11

  • AIP Executive Committee meeting (College Park)

November 12

  • AIP Governing Board meeting (College Park)
  • Lyne S. Trimble Science Heritage Lecture, “Love and Physics: Margrethe Norlund and Niels Bohr’s Scientific Creativity, 1910-1913,”by Finn Aaserud, Niels Bohr Archive, Denmark (College Park)

November 13

  • Birthday breakfasts (Melville and College Park)

November 20

  • Brown bag lunch, 12 pm, given by Charlie McMillan, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory (College Park)

November 28-29

  • AIP and AIP Publishing closed for Thanksgiving holiday