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Anacapa at Amherst

Posted by Arjendu on July 21, 2009

(Adapted from an Amherst College Press Release)

AMHERST, Mass. — The Anacapa Society, a professional organization promoting research in all areas of theoretical and computational physics at primarily undergraduate institutions, has found a permanent residence. On Tuesday, June 2, the group signed a letter of understanding with Amherst College that formalized its relationship with the school and established the college’s campus as its official home.

David Gross, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics, directs the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at the University of California at Santa Barbara, which has played a key role in the genesis of the Anacapa Society.  He said, “I am delighted to witness the launching of the Anacapa Society and proud of the help that the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics has given to this organization.  Through our KITP Scholars Program that brings theoretical physicists from primarily undergraduate institutions to our Institute for annual two-week visits, we have endeavored to help physicists at institutions with a strong undergraduate teaching mission maintain a vigorous research program.  We believe that strong research is of paramount importance to quality undergraduate education and to science as a whole.  I am sure the Anacapa Society will play an essential role in this effort, and I wish it well.”

The origins of the Anacapa Society date back to a serendipitous meeting at a 1999 Newton Institute workshop in Cambridge, England. There, four physicists from undergraduate institutions discussed over lunch the possibility of forming an organization for theorists at liberal arts colleges. Independently, in 2001, Arjendu Pattanayak, then recently hired by Carleton College, thought it would be useful to assemble a meeting of theorists at similar institutions, and proceeded to obtain the support of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and its Director, David Gross, to sponsor such a workshop. The First Workshop for Theoretical Physics at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions took place at the KITP in Santa Barbara, California, July 21-25, 2003. As a result of the success of the first workshop, and building on the recommendations coming out of that workshop, a follow-up meeting was held at the KITP, July 16-27, 2007, with the express goal of forming a national organization to benefit theoretical physicists at PUI. The Anacapa Society was founded at that meeting on July 20, 2007.

The name “Anacapa Society” is meant to reflect the organization’s origins and mission. Anacapa Island, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, is known for its distinctive natural bridge. This geographical setting serves as a metaphor for the vision of the Society, “to connect theoretical physicists at primarily undergraduate institutions with the larger physics and academic communities, while at the same time affirming their distinctive identity.”

There’s also a workshop (more details on the Anacapa Society Website):

The first-ever Anacapa Society Workshop for theoretical and computational physicists at primarily undergraduate institutions will be held at Amherst College this summer, August 17-20. This workshop is being funded in part by the National Science Foundation, as part of the first ever grant proposal submitted to the NSF on behalf of the Anacapa Society.

The focus of the workshop is twofold: To provide an opportunity for interaction among Anacapa members on research matters, and to provide theoretical/computational physicists at undergraduate institutions with some tools to handle critical career moments. Thus the workshop is focused both on scientific research and career development.

The workshop will include time for research talks; sessions on three critical career stages: starting a job at PUI, approaching tenure review, and sustaining research activitiy at mid-career; and unsheduled time for informal interactions.

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One Response to “Anacapa at Amherst”

  1. […] The Anacapa Society, an organization aimed at promoting theoretical physics research at undergraduate institutions, has taken up permanent residence at Amherst, more here. […]

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