Theoretical Physicists at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (Minipgm)

Coordinators: Herbert J. Bernstein, Donald Spector

The increasing number of theoretical physicists at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs) presents both opportunities and challenges for the theoretical physics community. This workshop provides a framework for theoretical physicists based at such institutions to share their research, their professional experiences, and their professional expectations. A key focus will be exploring ways to sustain these kinds of exchange and support outside the confines of a workshop, including the possibility of creating a national organization dedicated to supporting theoretical physics --and physicists-- at primarily undergraduate institutions.

The presence of theoretical physicists at primarily undergraduate institutions remains all too often a phenomenon unfamiliar both to physicists and to undergraduate institutions themselves. New faculty do not have many models for integrating research careers into professional lives at such institutions, nor can they easily turn to others for guidance, since they are often the only theorist at their school. At the same time, given that graduate students disproportionately come from PUI's, support for theory research at undergraduate institutions (especially with the potential for student involvement) is vital to the long-term health of physics. In addition, the roles of explaining science to non-scientists and to the public -- perhaps equally vital to the future of physics -- are tasks that physicists working at four-year institutions are quite well-poised to address. It is crucial to develop ways of supporting theorists at undergraduate institutions, in part by connecting such faculty with each other, both during this workshop and beyond.

This workshop is the second devoted to PUI physics; the first was held at the KITP in 2003. This year's event will build on the success of the previous workshop and is open to both returning and new participants. We will have junior faculty discussing early career issues and senior faculty providing a longer-term perspective. The workshop will consider successful examples of supporting active research careers at undergraduate institutions, both in physics and in others. We will also talk about our research: our own work and the student research we supervise. Most importantly, the discussions, talks and meeting sessions will be structured to help create a vision of a national organization dedicated to sustaining theoretical physics at PUIs. We hope to identify the goals and mission of such an organization and to develop a concrete plan for moving towards its creation. To help place our vision in a broader context, we will seek to have a few key PUI experimentalists as well as some representatives from national organizations such as the American Physical Society and the Council on Undergraduate Research join this workshop.

Applications from theoretical physicists at PUI's are now being accepted. Some financial assistance can be provided, but due to limitations of budget and space, participation will be by invitation only. Those applying are asked to include a brief description of their interest in the workshop in the comments.

For further information, please contact one of the organizers:

Herbert Bernstein (Hampshire College),,
Donald Spector (Hobart & William Smith Colleges),