Webinar Presenter & Panelist Bios

Prof. Stephon Alexander
Brown University, Professor of Physics; NSBP, President

Stephon Alexander is a theoretical physicist, musician, and author whose work is at the interface between cosmology, particle physics, and quantum gravity. He works on the connection between the smallest and largest entities in the universe pushing Einstein’s theory of curved space-time to extremes, beyond the big bang with sub atomic phenomena.

Alexander is a Professor of Physics at Brown University, and the President of the National Society of Black Physicists. He had previous appointments at Stanford University, Imperial College, Penn State, Dartmouth College and Haverford College. Alexander is a specialist in the field of string theory and cosmology, where the physics of superstrings are applied to address longstanding questions in cosmology. In 2001, he co-invented the model of inflation based on higher dimensional hypersurfaces in string theory called D-Branes. In such models the early universe emerged from the destruction of a higher dimensional D-brane which ignites a period of rapid expansion of space often referred to as cosmic inflation.

In his critically acclaimed book, The Jazz of Physics, Alexander revisits the ancient interconnection between music and the evolution of astrophysics and the laws of motion. He explores new ways music, in particular jazz music, mirrors modern physics, such as quantum mechanics, general relativity, and the physics of the early universe. He also discusses ways that innovations in physics have been and can be inspired from "improvisational logic" exemplified in Jazz performance and practice. Alexander is also a professional touring jazz musician.


Prof. Marta Dark-McNeese
Spelman College, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Physics

Marta Dark-McNeese grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She attended the University of Virginia, where she received a BS in Physics with an Astronomy minor. Upon completing her studies at the University of Virginia, she received a PhD in Physics from MIT working in the biomedical laser research group of the late Michael Feld.  From MIT, she returned to the Washington, area as a postdoc at the Naval Research Laboratory.  Since 2000, Dr. Dark-McNeese has been a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta. Her decision to join Spelman was made from a desire to champion the field of physics as a viable career option for African American women.  Dr. Dark enjoys teaching physics at all undergraduate levels, and sharing a love of physical science with elementary school students in Atlanta.  She has served on the APS Committee on Minorities, and as co-chair for the Chemical and Biological Physics section of the National Society of Black Physicists.  Her research interests are in laser interactions with biological tissues and biomolecules.


Prof. Tabbetha Dobbins (Rowan University, Interim VP for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, Associate Professor of Physics)

Tabbetha Dobbins is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Physics & Astronomy and Interim Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at Rowan University. Her degrees are: B.S. in Physics from Lincoln University (PA); M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania; and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Penn State University. As an NRC Post-doctoral Fellow at NIST, she first began synchrotron X-ray and neutron characterization.  She has mentored students in both graduate and undergraduate research projects and engages in broadening the participation of students in synchrotron x-ray and neutron studies at national research laboratories. Her research programs are aimed at attracting top students to the sciences using societally relevant energy-related and biomedical-related topics. She continues to do cutting edge research in applying synchrotron x-ray and neutron analysis to modern engineering problems in carbon nanotubes, gold nanoparticles, the hydrogen fuel economy, and polymer self-assembly. Also, she has worked diligently to engage high school students in science through her NSF funded programs. She currently serves on the executive steering committees for the African Light Source Foundation and the LAAAMP project. She was also a member of the on the Institute of Physics - Task Force for Underrepresentation of African Americans in Physics.


Prof. S. James Gates, Jr.
Brown University, Ford Foundation Professor of Physics & Affiliate Professor of Mathematics; APS, President-Elect

S. James Gates, Jr., APS President-Elect investigates the mathematics of supersymmetry in particle, field, and string theories. In 2013, he received a National Medal of Science and became the first African-American theoretical physicist elected to the National Academy of Sciences in its one-hundred and fifty-year history. During the period of 2009 - 2017, he was a member of the U.S. President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) during the Obama administration.


Dr. Mary James
Reed College, Dean for Institutional Diversity Chair, A.A. Knowlton Professor of Physics

Dr. Mary James is the Dean for Institutional Diversity and the A.A. Knowlton Professor of Physics at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Professor James received her B.A. in physics from Hampshire College and her Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University. Her principal areas of physics research have been in accelerator physics and astrophysics. As Dean for Institutional Diversity, Professor James works across all college constituencies to design and implement practices and procedures to build a diverse faculty, staff, and student body and to create a campus climate in which community members from diverse backgrounds can work, learn, and grow in a supportive and inclusive environment.


Arlene Modeste Knowles
AIP, TEAM-UP Project Manager

As the American Institute of Physics’ (AIP) TEAM-UP Diversity Task Force Project Manager, Arlene Modeste Knowles successfully guided the TEAM-UP project to the completion of its first phase, which culminated in the first ever AIP Expert Report, The Time is Now: Systemic Changes to Increase African Americans with Bachelor’s Degrees in Physics & Astronomy. This two-year project, which involved a comprehensive research study by TEAM-UP, was aimed at understanding the reasons for the persistent underrepresentation of African Americans in physics and astronomy at the bachelor’s level. Formerly, Ms. Knowles spent more than two decades managing, coordinating, and contributing to diversity programs and projects for the American Physical Society, including the now retired Minority Scholarship Program, the National Mentoring Community, the LGBT+ Climate Report and many others. Currently, Ms. Knowles is overseeing the implementation phase of the TEAM-UP project and taking an active leadership role in several community wide DEI initiatives in the physical sciences.


Prof. Dina Myers Stroud
Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program, Executive Director

Dina Myers Stroud serves as faculty at both Fisk and Vanderbilt University. As the Executive Director of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s to PhD Bridge Program (FVBP) since 2012, Dr. Stroud strives to advocate for and mentor students from underrepresented and underserved groups into and through STEM PhD programs. In 2018, Dr. Stroud began serving as the Director of the LSAMP Regional Center of Excellence in Broadening Participation. There she directs educational research centered on the FVBP, in collaboration with the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt and the American Institutes for Research. Trained as a development biologist, Dr. Stroud did postdoctoral work in cardiovascular research at UCLA and NYU before returning to Vanderbilt in 2007. Dr. Stroud is also a Certified National Research Mentoring Network Mentor Training Facilitator and was part of the original team behind the development of mentor-mentee supportive technology known as MyNRMN.


Dr. Dara Norman
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Associate Scientist

Dr. Dara Norman is a scientist at NSF’s National Optical and Infrared Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) (formerly of NOAO) and the Deputy Director of the Lab’s Community Science and Data Center. She currently serves as the AIP TEAM-UP Workshop Organizing Committee Co-Chair, leading the TEAM-UP Report Implementation Workshop effort to support departments in taking action to increase African Americans earning bachelor’s degrees in physics and astronomy. Dr. Norman served for many years as the AURA Diversity co-Advocate at NOAO where she created and advanced opportunities at NOAO/AURA and in the field to bring more under-represented minorities and women into the “astronomy enterprise. As a former governing board member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) she chaired the taskforce to revise the society’s Ethics Code. She has been an active member of the AAS’s Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA), chair of the astronomy and astrophysics section of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) and has led efforts on several astronomy community white papers including one entitled, “Significantly Increasing the Numbers of Minorities in Astronomy in the Next 10 Years” for the 2010 Decadal Survey and “Women of Color in Astronomy and Astrophysics” for the National Research Council’s Women of Color in Academia 2012 Conference. She was an organizer of the Inclusive Astronomy 2015 conference and was invited, as a panel member, to summarize that conference as well as concerns around access and leadership in STEM fields to Obama’s President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Dr. Norman holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Washington and a B.S. in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science from MIT.


Prof. Philip W. Phillips
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Professor Philip Phillips received his bachelor's degree from Walla Walla College in 1979, and his Ph.D. from
the University of Washington in 1982. After a Miller Fellowship at Berkeley, he joined the faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1984-1993). Professor Phillips came to the University of Illinois in 1993.

Professor Phillips is a theoretical condensed matter physicist who has an international reputation for his work on transport in disordered and strongly correlated low-dimensional systems. He is the inventor of various models for Bose metals, Mottness, and the random dimer model, which exhibits extended states in one dimension, thereby representing an exception to the localization theorem of Anderson's.

His research focuses sharply on explaining current experimental observations that challenge the standard paradigms of electron transport and magnetism in solid state physics. Departures from paradigms tell us that there is much to learn. Such departures are expected to occur in the presence of strong-electron interactions, disorder, and in the vicinity of zero-temperature quantum critical points. The common question posed by experiments that probe such physics is quite general. Simply, how do strong Coulomb interactions and disorder conspire to mediate zero-temperature states of matter? It is precisely the strongly interacting electron problem or any strongly coupled problem for that matter, such as quark confinement, that represents one of the yet-unconquered frontiers in physics. Understanding the physics of strong coupling is Phillips' primary focus.


Prof. Lisa Randall
Harvard University

Professor Lisa Randall studies theoretical particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University. Her research connects theoretical insights to puzzles in our current understanding of the properties and interactions of matter. She has developed and studied a wide variety of models to address these questions, the most prominent involving extra dimensions of space. 

Randall has also had a public presence through her writing, lectures, and radio and TV appearances. Randall’s books, Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions and Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World were both on the New York Times’ list of 100 Notable Books of the Year. 

Randall is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was a fellow of the American Physical Society and the recipient of several honorary degrees. She is the recipient of the Klopsteg Award from the AAPT, the Gemant Award from the AIP, and the Lilienfeld and Sakurai Prizes from the APS.


Prof. Willie Rockward
Morgan State University, Professor and Chair, Department of Physics & Engineering Physics

Dr. Rockward has a unique combination of leadership from academic, professional, and community experiences. Since August 2018, he serves as the Chair of the Department of Physics & Engineering Physics at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland.  Prior to his transition to Morgan State, he served 7 years as the Chair of the Department of Physics & Dual Degree Engineering Program (Physics & DDEP) and 20 years as the Research Director of the Materials and Optics Research & Engineering (MORE) Laboratory at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia.  Among his professional leadership experiences, he is the immediate Past President of both the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) and the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society (ΣΠΣ).  Also, he has served a combination of 29 years as Pastor of the Divine Unity Missionary Baptist Church, East Point, Georgia; Associate Minister of Antioch Baptist Church North, Atlanta, Georgia; and Associate Minister of New Shiloh Baptist Church, Baltimore, Maryland.

As Chair of Physics & DDEP at Morehouse College, his vision and leadership resulted in the department being the US #1 producer for underrepresented minorities with Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics according to the American Institute of Physics in conjunction to boasting the Nation’s most productive Dual Degree Engineering Program. He is a strong proponent of STEM mentorship using methodologies of faculty-to-student, peer-to-peer, professional shadowing, life-skills coaching, and research apprenticeship. His current research interests include micro/nano optics lithography, extreme ultraviolet interferometry, metamaterials, terahertz imaging, nanostructure characterization, and crossed phase optics.

 

Prof. Mel Sabella
Chicago State University & AAPT Past President

Mel Sabella is the Past President of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and a Professor of Physics at Chicago State University, a Predominantly Black Institution on Chicago’s southside. His research and teaching focus on improving STEM education for students underrepresented in physics by identifying and leveraging the resources, strengths, and culture of this community to build inclusive classrooms. He was named an APS Fellow in 2019 and is the co-director of the CSU Learning Assistant (LA) Program and serves on the LA Alliance Leadership Council.


Prof. Carol Scarlett
Florida A&M University, Associate Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy

Dr. Carol Scarlett is an Associate Professor of Physics at Florida A&M University.  She holds an bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from Yale University and Masters in Nuclear Physics from Duke University.  After graduating from the University of Michigan with a Doctoral degree in Experimental High Energy Physics, she worked for close to five years as a postdoc and staff scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL).  Dr. Scarlett left Brookhaven for an academic position at the U.S. Military Academy West Point.  She then joined the physics faculty at Florida A&M University and has since become a tenured Associate Professor of Physics.  Dr. Scarlett works in High Energy and Dark Matter (DM) physics.  Her research into experimental design for DM searches has lead to several patents.  She is the recipient of several small business awards, based on these patents, including: Small Business Innovative Research Grant (SBIR), Florida Ventures Small Business Award and ORISE Fellowship.


Farrah Simpson
Brown University, NSBP Board Student Representative & Graduate Student

Farrah Simpson is currently pursuing her physics doctoral degree at Brown University. Her research is in Experimental High Energy Physics and focuses on models beyond the Standard Model. She hails from the island of Jamaica and completed her undergraduate degree in Applied Physics at Columbia University in the City of New York. She currently serves as the Student Representative on the National Society of Black Physicists Executive Board.


Prof. Quinton Williams
Howard University, Professor and Chair, Department of Physics & Astronomy

Dr. Quinton L. Williams is Chair and Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Howard University. His current research interests include nanomaterials, photonics, and renewable energy via lithium iron phosphate batteries.  Prior to joining academia, Dr. Williams worked in industry as a Member of Technical Staff at Lucent Technologies – Bell Laboratories.  After leaving industry, he co-founded a venture capital-backed integrated optics company in Atlanta.  He entered academia at Jackson State University where he served administratively as Chair of the Department of Physics, Atmospheric Sciences and Geoscience and as Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Life.  He has authored about 40 scientific publications and given numerous invited presentations.  As part of his life-long mission to educate, mentor and train underrepresented minority students in physics, Prof. Williams has directly supported and trained over 30 minority undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in his research laboratories at both Jackson State University and Howard University.  He served as President of the National Society of Black Physicists from 2006 – 2008 and was an elected member of the Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics.  Dr. Williams received his Ph.D. degree in physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1996.

Removing Barriers: Physics in HBCU, MSI, and PBI Communities

Black students are being excluded from the explosive growth in physics degrees through both hidden and open barriers. (Over the past 10 years, less than 4% of physics bachelor’s degrees have been awarded to African Americans, according to AIP statistics.) The larger physics community has a significant opportunity to increase the participation of persons of the African diaspora in the discipline by lowering barriers for interactions with communities within Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI). In this second joint physics society webinar (view the previous webinar), panelists will highlight examples of successful partnerships that have a record of involving the 21 HBCU, 23 PBI, and four HBCU-PhD US institutions in creating effective bridges and taking a holistic view of building a unified physics community.

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From Passion to Action: Levers & Tools for Making Physics Inclusive & Equitable

As physicists interested in the advancement of the discipline we must address systemic barriers in academia that have led to a gross underrepresentation of minorities, particularly Black Americans, in our field. This webinar features a panel of physicists who have been actively involved with increasing diversity in physics and improving its culture. The panel discusses why everyone from students to teachers to professors to administrators has an important role in building a diverse next generation of physicists. The panel shares ideas and concrete actions on what each of these groups can do to work toward this goal.

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