Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Professional Service

Sorry about the slow posting this week!  I've been busy getting ready for a trip and Thanksgiving.  By themselves, they aren't that bad but I still need to get my regular work done so I've been trying to get ahead on that.  Hence, I haven't been on the blog as much as I'd like.

In my "About Me" section, I mention the 3 main parts of being an academic: research, teaching and service.  I've already talked about my research and teaching, so let me tell you a little about professional service.

Service covers basically any activity that enriches your profession but doesn't come in the form of teaching or performing research in whatever it is you do.  This could be sitting on a committee that helps ensure that the working environment is comfortable or you can serve the larger community through professional societies.  For physicists, the main professional society is the American Physical Society (APS) but I am also a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

This week, I am traveling to the APS Board and Council Meetings.  I sit on the APS Council as the representative of the Forum on Graduate Student Affairs (FGSA).  The Council is the legal decision making body of the APS and we vote on everything from general statements, to journal subscription rates.  Councilors are elected to the Board after 2 years (of a 4 year term) on the Council.  The Board does more behind the scenes discussions on matters before they are brought to the Council for a vote.  The Board meets 5 times a year and the Council twice (luckily for me, 2 of the Board Meetings happen the day before the Council meetings).  I will be sure to post later this week on what happens at these meetings.

Service is often seen as thankless work.  In many ways, it is.  That is one of the reasons I try to find ways to serve that I personally feel are fulfilling; that way even if no one notices the work I do, I still feel good about it.  Serving on the APS Board and Council is not only fulfilling, but I also feel deeply honored since I was elected by my peers to these posts.

Photo by Ken Cole, APS

The picture above shows Gay Stewart (University of Arkansas), Stefan Zollner (now of the New Mexico State University), and me at the LaserFest gala event that was held at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on February 12th this year.  All of us are on the APS Council and were invited to represent the APS.  For me, this was a night when being nerdy was cool!  I got to mingle with several Nobel Prize winners.  This photo really doesn't show the extent that the Smithsonian went to for this gala.  You can read more about it and see great pictures here.  This is definitely a time when service was not thankless!