Join the new APS Forum on Diversity and Inclusion!

APS has a new forum dedicated to diversity and inclusion (announcement). This has been in the works for a while, but it’s finally approved and ready to join (for free for APS members). Join now to get in on the ground floor! Below I am copying the email I received with more details and signup instructions (sorry if the formatting is weird).

The Forum on Diversity and Inclusion (FDI) has officially been approved by APS Council as a unit.
If you would like to be among the founding members of FDI, please add the Forum to your online renewal notice or upcoming print or you may add it through your Member Profile. As a reminder, Forums are free to join!

Once signed into your profile, click on “Manage My Units”, select “Diversity and Inclusion (FDI)”, and “Add to cart.” (Adam’s note: I believe you then have to checkout, but that button can be a bit hard to find).
  Sign up for FDI

The objective of the Forum on Diversity and Inclusion is to support the mission of the APS by:
-Working to ensure that all physicists, particularly those from historically or currently marginalized or underrepresented backgrounds or identities, will be fully included and have the opportunity to thrive within the physics community
-Emphasizing, educating, and publicizing the important role of APS members and leadership in diversifying physics
  -Engaging stakeholders to initiate opportunities and support efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in physics FDI will encourage aligned APS Units to partner with the larger APS membership to further coordinate and advance the Unit’s work.

After signing up for FDI, you will receive updates about the forum’s programs, events and news via email. View our privacy policy.

If you have any questions on how to join or you are an APS Life Member, please contact

Thank you,

Holly Croft
APS Unit Engagement Coordinator

Boston University Physics Grad Alumni Group

I created a facebook group for students and alumni of the Boston University graduate physics program (postdocs are welcome too). If you’re one of those people, please join!

Boston University Physics Grad Alumni
Private group · 41 members
Join Group
I thought it would be a good idea to make a Facebook group for the BU physics department grad alumni to keep in touch. Alumni and current students of …

NIH is experimenting with 'cluster hiring' in an attempt to boost diversity

In this week’s issue of Science they cover a new pilot program by NIH called FIRST that will fund ‘cluster hiring’, where a department hires 10 or more faculty in 1-2 years. The idea is that this will help cast a wider net and yield more junior faculty from underrepresented groups.

I can see how hiring in larger cohorts could make it easier to detect if there are biases, since have a cohort of 10 white men would set of alarm bells. Cluster hiring is unproven, but it’s promising and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what comes out of the pilot program.

Here’s the article (paywall): Science: NIH hopes ‘cluster hiring’ will improve diversity

Just presented at the Annual Meeting of the Physical Society of Taiwan

I just presented a talk “Quenching to field-stabilized magnetization plateaus in the unfrustrated Ising antiferromagnet” based on my preprint that I posted on arXiv last week at the Annual Meeting of the Physical Society of Taiwan at National Pingtung University in Pingtung, Taiwan. I haven’t gotten around to making a post about this paper yet (that is coming soon), but in the meantime I will post my slides from this talk here. My slides included some movies of the process of freezing in to magnetization plateaus. Since PDFs can’t include movies I will post the movies below.

Gif of Ising spin configurations arriving at a frozen plateau state.
The spin configuration over time starting from a random (T=∞) state and doing single spin flip Metropolis updates at T=0 and h=1 until we arrive at a final frozen state. Individual spin states are denoted by the (+) and (-); the background shading shows which of the antiferromagnetic ground states each site is in. In the final frozen state the domain walls are all straight lines or corners with (+) on the inside.

Gif of Ising spin configurations arriving at a frozen plateau state.
The spin configuration over time starting from a random (T=∞) state and doing single spin flip Metropolis updates at T=0 and h=3 until we arrive at a final frozen state. Individual spin states are denoted by the (+) and (-); the background shading shows which of the antiferromagnetic ground states each site is in. In the final frozen state the domain walls are all diagonal or square-wave-like with excess (+) spin.

APS Congressional Visit Day 2020

APS Congressional Visit Day 2020

This week, I am in Washington DC for the APS Congressional Visit Day and Annual Leadership Meeting. We started on Wednesday with the Congressional Visit. APS broke us up into teams by region. I’m a Massachusetts voter, so I joined a team of people from Massachusetts and Connecticut. We had six meetings with the offices of Massachusetts Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal along with House Representatives James Himes and Rosa DeLauro.

Map of CT in Senator Murphy's office with pins
Senator Murphy’s office had this map of CT where visitors can mark where they come from. I put a pin in for my hometown: Bethel, CT

Despite (or perhaps because of) the impeachment trial, the Senate and House office buildings were very quiet. We discussed five different issues (APS policy memos linked below). The top-billed issue was science funding [1]. We also discussed the Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019 (addressing student visas and a path to residency for advanced STEM grads in the US) [2], a bill to address sexual harassment in science [3], fugitive methane emissions [4], and the crisis of liquid helium [5].

Adam in front of a map of MA.
Senator Warren’s office has this map of Massachusetts on the wall where constituents use pins to mark where they are from. Surprisingly, there was a little gap for me to put a pin in Allston (where I am registered to vote).

From reading the news, it’s easy to get the idea that policy is irreparably frozen in partisan gridlock. That is certainly true for a lot of issues, but there are also many issues where there is broad bipartisan support (science funding, for example) and other issues where members simply don’t have the information they need to make the best policy decisions. In these cases, constituent visits can make a really big difference.

There is so much I could say about this experience, but I will highlight the helium crisis because it is a good example of how visits can make a difference. Liquid helium is a critical resource for medicine, science and industry; it’s essential for cooling the magnets at the heart of MRIs. And it’s a nonrenewable resource: as it is used, it evaporates and escapes into the atmosphere, and then into space. The US Federal Helium Reserve has a roughly 10-year supply of liquid helium, but it is slated to close in September 2021. We are asking congress to keep the helium reserve open and to also extend the life of the existing helium supply by funding the deployment of recycling equipment to recapture and reuse helium. This is an important issue for science and medicine, but it’s obscure. All of the offices we spoke to were supportive, but many of them had never heard of it, or they had heard of it, but were unable to find the information they needed to develop policy. We were able to provide that information.


Thanks to the APS Office of Government Affairs staff for their hard work organizing the congressional visits, scheduling nearly 100 meetings and preparing the excellent briefing materials. Also thanks so much to my wonderful delegation: Mohammad Soltanieh-ha, Mark Shattuck, Grant O’Rielly, Nimmi Sharma and LaNell Williams!

photos of MA/CT delegation
The MA/CT delegation for CVD2020. From left to right: Adam Iaizzi, Mohammad Soltanieh-ha, Mark Shattuck, Grant O’Rielly, Nimmi Sharma and front and center: LaNell Williams.

More information

If you’re interested in getting involved in this sort of advocacy, check out the APS Office of Government Affairs website where they describe these issues and provide very helpful links and form letters for contacting your elected officials. You can also sign up for their mailing list or check out Signal Boost, short monthly videos with science policy updates.

APS Policy Memos

[1] R&D Funding
[2] Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019
[3] H.R. 36: Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Sciences
[4] Methane Emissions: Now is not the time to rollback regulations
[5] Liquid Helium Crisis

Women are no better or worse than men at doing physics, but they are, however, more persistent.

Myriam P. Sarachik, 2020

Today I attended an awards dinner for several APS awards. Myriam P. Sarachik received the APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research and gave a truly insightful acceptance speech and I just had to share this specific quote. She told a number of stories of the obstacles she faced to building a scientific career and how she overcame them through luck, talent and persistence. A great lesson for us all!

Footnotes and citations should look different

Overall, I think physics is lucky to have its premier journals (Physical Review) be run by our own nonprofit professional society—APS. I think that explains, at least in part, why the arXiv has been so successful in physics and why similar efforts have floundered in other fields.

All that said, I have one bone to pick with the Physical Review journals: they insist that footnotes should be denoted in the same manner as citations [1,2]. Citations and footnotes serve very different purposes, and I both use and consume them in very different ways. When I’m reading a paper, I often read the footnotes, especially if I’m trying to totally understand a passage. I almost never look at the citations on my first reading. As a reader, I love footnotes! They’re a great way to add context, clarifications, parenthetical remarks, or definitions without interrupting the flow of your argument. Citations, on the other hand, are for backing up your claims or giving proper credit. If you mistake a footnote for a citation, you might miss some useful information or you might wrongly assume that the claim is backed up elsewhere in the literature [3]. Finally, I prefer footnotes to endnotes because footnotes keeps the information nearby, rather than forcing readers to flip pages back and forth.

In summary, Physical Review Letters and A, B, C and D: please follow Physical Review E‘s lead and allow separate footnotes!

Just one section called references:

[1] Waldron et al. “The Physical Review Style and Notation Guide” APS 2011 (a citation)
[2] At least for Physical Review B and Physical Review Letters, which are the PR journals I use. Phys Rev E does allow separate footnotes. (a footnote)
[3] For example, if you mistook [2] for a citation, you might not have noticed my caveat about which specific journals exhibit this problem.