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By Renee Michelle Goertzen
Among the many benefits it provides to the physics community, APS offers a wide range of programs in careers, diversity, education, and public engagement. These programs are directed by dedicated professionals, some of whom have recently taken the helm of their respective departments. So that members may better understand the work of those behind the scenes at APS, here is a brief introduction to each of the program heads.
Geraldine Cochran, Acting Head of Diversity
Geraldine L. Cochran is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers University. She is a physics education researcher and teaches large enrollment, introductory physics courses for engineering students. She supports STEM education research and outreach projects and equity and social justice efforts in physics and STEM education. She was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society for “for scholarly advocacy around equitable access that pushes the boundaries of physics education, especially for Black women and women from other minoritized and marginalized ethnicities, for advancing research on racial justice in physics education, leading to deeper understanding of structures of power."
“I am very excited about Geraldine's role as the new Acting Head of Diversity,” said Monica Plisch, APS Director of Programs. “Dr. Cochran is an APS Fellow who brings considerable expertise to the department, including as a former chair of the Committee on Minorities, a leader with the Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN) project, a physics education researcher specializing in equity, diversity, and inclusion, and a mentor to many students at Rutgers, to name a few relevant accomplishments. She will help us define the new role of Head of Diversity in the Programs department and recruit for the permanent position. As our diversity programs have expanded over the past few years, it is critical to bring expert leadership to this important program area.”
Michael Wittmann, Head of Education
Michael Wittmann will be taking a leave of absence from his position as a Professor of Physics at the University of Maine, where he has been since 2001. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Duke University in 1993 and his MS and PhD from the University of Maryland, specializing in physics education research. Wittmann has served as the editor of the Physics Education Research Section of the American Journal of Physics and was first chair of the PER Leadership and Organizing Council, the decision-making body for the PER Topical Group in the American Association of Physics Teachers.
In the area of teacher development and professional learning, he is a founding member of the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education, where he helped design the Master of Science in Teaching program.
“Michael brings a high level of expertise in physics education to the new role of Head Education as a national leader in the physics education research community, a full professor and former department chair,” said Plisch. “Dr. Wittmann is an APS Fellow who led a professional development project for physical science teachers across the state of Maine, co-founded the biannual conference Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research, and developed tutorials for use in mechanics and quantum physics courses.”
Claudia Fracchiolla, Acting Head of Public Engagement
Claudia Fracchiolla is a Venezuelan native and Physics Education Research (PER) scholar. Her research has focused on assessment of institutional structures and cultural practices to make STEM fields more accessible to women and other underrepresented groups, mainly in non-formal learning environments. She has over a decade of experience in design, facilitation, and assessment of informal physics programs in several different countries. She has conducted research on the impacts participation in informal physics education programs can have on both participants and facilitators. Specifically, some of her recent work has utilized a Community of Practice framework to investigate identity development of facilitators in informal programs.
“Claudia brings a strong background in informal physics education, program design and evaluation, and physics education research,” said Plisch. “In her first year as Head of Public Engagement, Dr. Fracchiolla launched a new portfolio of programs to engage and support members in effective outreach. She led a series of very successful WikiScientist courses, which train participants in adding knowledge to Wikipedia on topics including quantum science and biographies of women and minority physicists. Dr. Fracchiola is building a community of practitioners and researchers in public engagement, starting with a series of virtual workshops and webinars this summer to offer professional development and networking opportunities.”
Crystal Bailey, Head of Careers
Crystal Bailey works on several projects which are geared towards marketing physics and physics career information to high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, and physics professionals. Some of her principal projects include the career events and workshops at APS annual and division meetings, the APS Job Board and Job Fairs, the APS Careers Website, and the recently launched Success in Industry Careers Webinar series. As the principal investigator for the APS PIPELINE project, she also devotes significant time to integrating meaningful workforce development into undergraduate physics education.
Before coming to APS, Bailey did research in nuclear physics at Indiana University (IU), Bloomington in the area of few-body systems. In 2008 she received the Konopinski Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching from the IU Physics Department. She graduated with her PhD from IU in 2009.
“With over a decade of experience at APS, Crystal has been a strong leader since stepping into her role as Head of Careers in 2018,” said Plisch. “She has been innovative in pivoting to serving our members virtually during the pandemic, launching new webinar series, online career networking events and job fairs, and initiating the Career Mentoring Fellows program to improve student advising.”
The author is Assistant Director of APS Programs.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondents: Sophia Chen, Alaina G. Levine