Two at FSU join prestigious ranks of AAAS Fellows

Gregory Boebinger

Two Florida State University faculty members have received high honors for their work: Both have been elevated to the rank of Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Gregory Boebinger, the director of FSU’s National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and professor of physics, and Sherry Southerland, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Middle and Secondary Education, both received the honor, which was formally announced in the Oct. 26 issue of the journal Science.

Boebinger was recognized “for research in high-temperature superconductivity and two-dimensional electron and hole systems, including the development of pulsed magnetic fields as a prominent research tool.” Southerland was honored “for distinguished contributions in describing the cultural and affective dimensions of science learning and understanding the barriers to systemic reform in science education.”

A leading researcher of high-temperature superconductivity, Boebinger came to FSU in 2004 to become director of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. At the lab, he continues to engage in research using intense magnetic fields to suppress superconductivity and regularly collaborates with colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Sherry Southerland
Sherry Southerland
Boebinger also has a strong commitment to interpreting science for students and the general public. In addition to his many scientific publications, he has written articles designed for mainstream audiences in both Physics Today and Scientific American and has given public lectures all over the country. He also has been interviewed and demonstrated magnetic levitation on the History and Discovery channels.

“I am particularly honored to be named a Fellow in the AAAS because it is a wonderfully cross-disciplinary organization focused on advancing science broadly—much like high-magnetic-field research itself,” Boebinger said. “This mission is critically important because there is an increasingly urgent need to educate and train greater numbers of the next generation to become scientists and science-aware citizens.

“I am keenly appreciative that this personal recognition would not have occurred without the many fruitful collaborations with so many colleagues through the years.”

Southerland is the coordinator of the Science Education Program Science Education Program within FSU’s College of Education. The program is organized around the reform-based principle of “science for all,” the notion that a deep, meaningful knowledge of science for all students is essential for making informed decisions in a democratic society. In one aspect of her research, Southerland works to identify the supports and barriers to science-education reform. She and colleagues have examined the fundamental discord between science-education reform efforts and the current accountability movement in schools, and have offered ways in which science educators can work to help teachers and their students despite these contradictions.

In another aspect of her research, Southerland studies the learning of non-mainstream learners, a group traditionally underserved by science instruction. Focusing on classroom dynamics, Southerland works to understand the ebbs and flows between group discussion and individual learning. Her work in this area, as well as in her description of the learning of evolution, highlight the importance of emotions and religious beliefs upon what students come to understand about science.

“It is incredibly gratifying as a science educator to be recognized by such a prestigious group of scientists,” Southerland said of the AAAS designation. “I see this as a tribute to the many teachers and students who have offered their classrooms as sites for investigation, as well as a tribute to the many gifted graduate students and coworkers who have shaped these investigations.”

With the addition of Southerland and Boebinger, FSU now has 32 current and emeritus faculty members who are AAAS Fellows. (See

“Being elected a Fellow of the AAAS represents a significant level of achievement within one’s academic field,” said Kirby Kemper, FSU’s vice president for Research. “Professor Southerland and Professor Boebinger have proven themselves to be national leaders in the fields of science education and superconductivity research, respectively, and we commend them on these latest accomplishments.”

The AAAS ( is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of Science, which, with an estimated total readership of 1 million, has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world.