Every year, well over 10,000 research papers are presented at APS meetings all over the United States, but do any of those presenters ask: “Can I transform or adapt this new discovery into an advanced laboratory experiment?”

Have we forgotten about motivating the next generation of physicists by letting them experience some of the newest discoveries as part of their advanced lab, or do we think they will still get excited when they watch that tiny oil drop move up and down (if they can find one) as they apply an electric field? With all the research programs active all over the world, one would think that new teaching experiments would be proposed, and even generated, in great abundance, but we don’t see it. That doesn’t mean they’re not there – rather, we believe, that the experimental physics community just isn’t looking for them.

An important exception makes the case for mining the research community. Quantum Entanglement experiments, once only the province of a few sophisticated research laboratories, and the schools where they were based, have become the most sought after ALPhA Immersion experience. They are oversubscribed every time they are offered. The teachers, as well as the students, clamor to experience these exotic phenomena. What other new discoveries are waiting in research laboratories to become part of the advanced laboratory canon? Finding likely candidates is a challenge that this Foundation, in cooperation with the Advanced Laboratory Physics Association (ALPhA), has taken up. “Mining” conferences for those new research discoveries that can be transformed into exciting new advanced laboratory experiments, is a program the Foundation wishes to support.


An ALPhA Miner

Definition: An ALPhA Miner is a faculty or staff person who is or was involved in advanced laboratory instruction, and who has been selected by ALPhA, in cooperation with the Foundation, to attend an APS meeting with the express purpose of attending sessions and speaking with presenters about possible ways to bring their current experimental research into the advanced laboratory program. This might include requesting a formal collaboration or asking the research group to make special samples available, or share designs, special equipment, or electronic instrumentation – whatever cooperation/collaboration the Miners can extract from their colleagues to make it possible for a non-expert to build and/or teach experiments related to that experimental research.

There is no expectation that this interaction will instantly create fully vetted advanced laboratory experiments. That would be highly unlikely. But, we would expect to create both collaborations and inspirations that will result in bringing new experiments to our students.

The Miners will be obligated to share what they have “mined” with the physics community. This sharing will be accomplished through written reports, with references, that will be published in a dedicated section of the ComPADRE website. Dr. David Van Baak, formerly of Calvin College and now a senior scientist at TeachSpin, has agreed to edit these reports. They will be archived in ComPADRE in such a way that the material is easily accessible to the entire physics community.

For a selected Miner, some of the expense of attending the particular APS meeting will be covered by the Foundation. In exchange, Miners agree to write-up their “discoveries” and submit them to Van Baak in a timely manner. To encourage this, the Foundation will pay these expenses only after the report has been received.

The Foundation also wishes to encourage the Miners to disseminate their discoveries by giving talks at APS and AAPT meetings, as well as any relevant Topical conferences. To facilitate this process and raise the awareness of the research community, the Foundation will encourage the FED of APS to schedule special sessions on new advanced laboratory experiments. Here, along with Miner reports of their findings, new experiments could be proposed and discussed.

Are you interested in looking for new advanced laboratory experiments that can be gleaned from current research? Do you know someone who might be interested in this exploration? If so click here!


Apply Now