By Davide Castelvecchi
This year Helen Quinn (THP) may end up earning plenty of frequent flyer
miles to Washington, D.C.—she is the new president of the American
Physical Society (APS), one of the world’s most prestigious academic
societies. "Quinn’s distinction is a cause of pride for the whole Stanford
community," Director Jonathan Dorfan said.
(Photo by Diana Rogers)
APS members, over 40,000 in number, elect the society’s leadership to
four-year appointments, which include spending a year each as Vice
President, President Elect, President and Past President. Quinn is only
the fourth woman to hold the post of APS president in the society’s 104
years of history.
While she still wants to press ahead with her work on the theory
aspects of the B Factory here at SLAC, Quinn will take an active
role in steering the APS.
"I want the society to look further ahead," she says, especially in its
effort to reach out to policy makers. "The way the world is going you need
a more consistent, coherent presence in Washington."
Among the issues of concern for the Australian-born, Stanford-educated
president of the APS is that of visas. New regulations enacted in the
post-9/11 climate have made it harder for international students and
scholars to come to study, work or just attend conferences in the U.S.
"There have been cases," Quinn says, "of international meetings where some
people haven’t been able to attend." She thinks the APS should work with
the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and other scientific societies to
find ways to help the State Department make the necessary security checks
as efficient and as applicant-friendly as possible.
"We can set up a system to share information," she says, "to let
consular offices know when a visa applicant has recognition in the science
community as a colleague, such as a collaboration member."
"Science happens to be a particularly international community," Quinn
added. "For American science to remain at the forefront it needs to stay
well connected in the international science community."
Quinn, who was elected to the NAS last year, has been part of the SLAC
staff since 1978. She was a recipient of the 2000 Dirac Medal ‘for
pioneering contributions to the quest for a unified theory of quarks and
leptons and of the strong, weak, and electromagnetic interactions.’ She is
the leader of SLAC’s Education Outreach, and was the founding president of
the non-profit Contemporary Physics Education Project, which produces
materials for high school and college science teachers.