The Advanced Laboratory Physics Association, ALPhA, has created a highly successful faculty development program called the “ALPhA Immersions.”
These two to three day immersion experiences bring faculty to a college or university advanced laboratory site where they concentrate on a particular apparatus, learning it well enough to teach it, with confidence, to their own students. These faculty are mentored by another faculty member, who is an expert in this area of experimental physics.
The program is supported by the National Science Foundation and by fees charged to the participating mentored faculty. There are Immersion sites all over the United States, so that travel costs can be minimized. Additional sites are continually being developed to offer both similar and/or new experiments in a wide range of fields. Both the mentors and the participants have consistently given this program extremely high marks.
For some of the faculty participants, however, one problem does persist. Although these participants are very interested in bringing the Immersion experiment to their home institutions ,the available funding is insufficient. They are looking for help in purchasing the necessary equipment. Well, help is on the way!
At the inaugural meeting of the Foundation Board, September 2014, it was unanimously decided that the first activity of the Foundation would be to provide help with the purchase of the apparatus used in the various Immersions. That is, faculty who complete an Immersion on a given advanced laboratory apparatus, will now have the opportunity to apply for a Foundation grant that will provide up to 40% (with a maximum of $7,500) of the cost of the hardware used in the experiment. The total amount for all grants awarded over the past three years has generated more than $378,720 in equipment now in use in instructional labs. For the fiscal year 2018, we look forward to continuing this grant program at approximately the same level as previous years.
Faculty participants can submit his or her grant application after they have completed the Immersion experience. The last application will be accepted on September 1, 2017 and awards will be made by the end of September 2017. Applicants must include a binding written commitment from the participant’s institution to pay the remainder of the cost of the entire apparatus, if the grant is funded. This commitment includes the promise to purchase the equipment within six months of receiving the grant.
The grants will be evaluated by the Foundation using the following criteria (in order of priority):
- Evaluation, by the mentor, of the participant’s work during the Immersion.
- How well this new apparatus fits into the advanced laboratory program of the home school of the participating faculty member.
- The financial needs of the home school.
- Efforts made at the home school to improve their advanced laboratory program.
This program will not fund “short-lived” devices such as computers, data loggers, Arduino’s, data acquisition systems, etc. It will fund physics hardware such as optical components, mechanical devices, vacuum systems, x-ray units, particle detectors, pulsed NMR spectrometers, atomic physics apparatus, plasma physics equipment, specialized electronic instruments like lock-in amplifiers and spectrum analyzers, etc. In short, it will fund apparatus that has a usable long-life in the teaching laboratory. The apparatus may be purchased from any manufacturer that the faculty chooses. It is neither necessary nor advantageous to purchase equipment from TeachSpin, Inc., which is affiliated with the Foundation. These grants are only available to colleges and universities within the United States.
The maximum grant any one school may receive in one academic year is $7,500. The total amount for all grants awarded in the calendar year 2016 is $68,000. The Foundation hopes to raise additional endowment in the coming years, so that it will be able to fund many more grants in the future. Grant funds will go directly to the vendor or to the purchasing department of the school after the Foundation has received a copy of the purchase order or of the invoice for the instruments from the manufacturer. It is also acceptable to the Foundation to reimburse the department after it has made the purchase of the apparatus.