Newsletter, December 2020: Letter from the Chair
Dear Physics Community Members,
My name is Jennifer Ross, and I am the new department chair of physics. I just started as chair in June of 2020, and there has been a lot of learn and work on in the department. Unprecedented is probably the word of the year for 2020. The Physics Department has faced extraordinary challenges along with everyone else. We are using this time to make progress on a number of fronts including equity and inclusion for those groups that have been previously under-represented in physics, building new research and educational initiatives, and improving communication and reconnecting with those who are far away. On the topic of communication, we have decided to re-start the department newsletter to ensure that the entire physics community is in the know about what we are doing.
First, I want to introduce you to the departmental leadership team who are working on multiple fronts to achieve our mission to create a community of physics scholars dedicated to excellent research and teaching that is welcome to all:
Mitch Soderberg (Associate Chair), Jen Schwarz (Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Chair). Duncan Brown (Director of Graduate Studies), Jay Hubisz and Jack Laiho (Directors of Undergraduate Studies)
Next, I want to thank the departmental staff members who have helped to hold the department together, despite everyone being physically separated:
Heather Ketcham (Operations Specialist), Patti Ford (Budget Manager), Sam Sampere (Laboratory Manager), Juliette Rawda (Academic Coordinator), Yudaisy Salomon Sargenton (Administrative Assistant), Barbara Dopyera Daley (Research Coordinator), Alec Thompson (Budget Administrator), and the shop crew: Phil Arnold, Charlie Brown, and David Pratt. A special thanks to Sam Sampere, who was an essential worker during the shutdown and made sure the Physics Building was properly cared for when we couldn’t be there!
On the topic of breaking down systemic barriers of racism and sexism that plague physics, we are working on several fronts. First, as a member of the Leadership Team and the Chair of the Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity committee, Prof. Jen Schwarz is leading a team of faculty, students, and staff as an American Physical Society Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance (APS-IDEA) team. They are attending workshops to determine best practices for becoming a more inclusive place for everyone.
The Physics Department has already diversified our colloquium series to purposefully include a high percentage of Black, Latinx, and women physicists to enable us to network with these outstanding researchers. Already in Fall of 2020, our colloquium series featured 50% of the speakers from traditionally under-represented groups in physics. Special thanks to the colloquium committee for their outstanding work and commitment: Eric Coughlin, Ali Patteson, and Denver Whittington!
The news presented here is only the tip of the iceberg. I hope you continue to read to learn about all the exciting research, innovative teaching, and novel community building we are doing in physics as well as catch up on what our amazing alumni are doing.