Physics professors leading committees of national society

Two Florida State University physics professors — Susan Blessing and Paul Cottle — have been appointed to chair committees that make policy decisions for the American Physical Society, the national organization of physicists.

Blessing is chairing the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics and Cottle is leading the society’s Committee on Education.

“Susan and Paul have been active in the physics community both locally and nationally for years, and the significance of their contributions have been confirmed by these appointments,” said Sam Huckaba, dean of Florida State’s College of Arts and Sciences. “It is a bonus that the committee assignments bring high visibility to both Florida State physics and Florida State in general.”

Blessing, the Nancy Marcus Professor and an experimental particle physicist whose research focuses on searches for new phenomena in proton-antiproton collisions, also is director of the university’s Women in Math, Science and Engineering living-learning center. She won the Ross Oglesby Award from Florida State’s Garnet and Gold Key student honor society in 2011. The award is given for exemplary service to the university’s students.

The Committee on the Status of Women in Physics addresses the issues that arise from the significant underrepresentation of women in the field. As of 2006, only 12 percent of physics faculty members at American colleges and universities were women. Blessing’s committee addresses policy issues for physicists and physics students at all levels from college faculty down to the high school level, and conducts reviews of university physics departments around the nation.

Cottle’s Committee on Education addresses questions regarding physics education at all levels, from K-12 to graduate school. The committee is presently providing advice on a proposed set of national science education standards for K-12 schools, conducting an award program for undergraduate physics programs and working to make graduate study in physics more hospitable for students and more relevant for employment in the private sector.

Cottle was named a fellow of the APS in 2012 for “his efforts to improve university physics education, especially for precollege teachers, and his advocacy for effective precollege science education standards and policy in Florida and nationally,” according to the citation. Cottle is an experimental nuclear physicist who studies the behavior of exotic isotopes.

“Susan’s and Paul’s service really helps to further Florida State’s prestige on the national stage because these two committee assignments are two of the most important in the whole of the American Physical Society,” said Mark Riley, chair of Florida State’s Department of Physics. “Their appointments to these committees is a well-deserved recognition of their status, leadership skills and dedication to the study of physics.”

The American Physical Society has more than 50,000 members.