Henry C. Kapteyn - Candidate for General Councilor

University of Colorado at Boulder; and KMLabs Inc.


APS, through its membership, activities, and publications, has been instrumental in shaping the world scientific enterprise. It is essential it continue to stand as a voice for rational, evidence-based reasoning in an increasingly complex world. Central to its credibility, APS must reinvigorate its efforts in diversity and inclusion—groups with diverse backgrounds and perspectives have proven to be better decision makers, less prone to groupthink and narrow agendas. APS can credit a history of visionary leadership here. However, in the physics enterprise as a whole, progress has stalled in recent years. APS’s first task is to promote diversity in all respects—gender, ethnicity, national origin, and background of its membership, as well as acknowledging new areas of quantitative study. Everyone needs to feel comfortable as part of the physics community. This is not yet the case.

I am honored to be a candidate for general councilor. If elected, would bring unique experiences to APS. My research has been highly interdisciplinary, spanning quantum light science, AMO and materials science, and development of commercial tools for research. I have always worked as part of a diverse team, with graduates who have gone on to careers from physics, to biomedicine, to Google and Intel, to education in R100 and liberal arts institutions. Themes I am passionate about include:

The essential role of physics in our technological world. Physics played a central role in transforming the human experience and the modern world, including the transistor, quantum science, communications, nuclear energy, the proliferation of spectroscopy in industry, and the laser—among many transformative innovations. Societal largess is the result of what we contribute to the betterment of humankind - we do physics not because it is what physicists want to do, but because the basic and applied science we do makes a difference. Each of us has a responsibility to articulate our contribution to the greater good—with the help of APS.

The essential nature of, and the need for a broad perspective in, government support of S&T. APS should strive to make the case to lawmakers that investment in forward-looking R&D provides an outsize ROI in terms of world and economic leadership, and shows no sign of diminishing returns. This message has certainly been recognized outside the US—to the credit of emerging powers. We need to redouble our efforts to make sure this message is received in APS’s home base.

Integrity, ethics and standards of conduct for scientists. APS has played a central role in establishing standards of conduct in publishing, and more recently in personal conduct in the sciences. However, there are definitely still subcultures within physics that regard it as a competitive “contact sport,” where taking advantage of pre-existing biases or insider status to obtain competitive advantage is considered fair game. APS should strive to level the playing field—to stress mutual respect and evaluation based on merit.

The role of nonprofit organizations in scientific publishing. Strong nonprofit scientific publishing venues such as APS and AIP are essential for a balanced scientific enterprise.

Educational History

  • PhD, Physics, University of California at Berkeley (1989)
  • MA, Physics, Princeton University (1984)
  • BS, Physics, Harvey Mudd College (1982)

URL for Full Bio or CV

Top 5 Honors, Awards, or Recognition

  • 2020/1 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2018)
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences (2013)
  • R.W. Wood Prize, Optical Society of America (2010)
  • Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science, American Physical Society (2010)

Most Recent APS Volunteer History

  • Chair, APS Division of Laser Science (2013)
  • APS representative to National Photonics Initiative (2013)

Membership in Other Societies

  • IEEE
  • AAAS (Fellow)
  • The Optical Society (Fellow)
  • American Chemical Society

Other Relevant Experience

  • Co-founder and CTO, Kapteyn-Murnane Laboratories Inc. Manufacturer of ultrafast lasers and coherent soft x-ray sources; NAS review of Army Research Laboratory 2020
  • NAS report on Opportunities in Intense Laser Physics 2018

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Henry C. Kapteyn