By Kelly Canright
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Students are taking initiative by helping the physics department pick the new department head.
The Society of Physics Students, a student organization that opens up students to research and scholarship opportunities, is sponsoring a series of forums where undergraduates can interview the five candidates competing for the physics department head position.
Five candidates have been chosen by Eugene Levy, dean of the Faculty of Science. So far, three of the candidates have been interviewed in the forums.
Physics Professors Michael Shupe, Adrian Patrascioiu and Dan Stein have been interviewed by undergraduate physics students to assess what course of action each candidate would take as the new department head.
Two nominees, optical sciences Pro
fessor Dror Sarid and physics Professor K.C. Hsieh have not yet been interviewed by the students.
"The physics department can go to hell, go in a new direction or stay the same," said Alaina Levine, a mathematics junior, and member of the Society of Physics Students.
"We are trying to get input from all the students because the department is about to be turned upside down," Levine added.
"We have always been very involved in the department. We wanted to make sure the undergraduates were involved in this decision. The department has always supported us strongly, and we want to encourage that in the future," said Ben Weaver, a physics senior and president of the Society of Physics Students.
"I think whomever is chosen, the department will take off in some direction. The department is ready to break out of its shell," Weaver said.
Debbie Koolbeck is a non-degree graduate student and is the historian and philanthropist for the Society of Physics Students. Koolbeck said she believes the purpose of the Society of Physics Students is to "try to break the geek stigma."
"There needs to be revisions of the undergraduate curriculum," Koolbeck said. "We need funding for new lab equipment. We aren't getting experience with the up-to-date stuff," she added.
"At present, there is little or no advising. We want people to have contact throughout their career at the UA," Koolbeck said.
"The undergraduates are looking for someone who will pay attention to their needs and acknowledge them," Koolbeck said. "We want to find someone who's open to make the changes that are needed here."
"Dean Levy seems to be very open to student input. The fact that he picked these candidates shows us that he is interested in turning the department around," Levine said. "He wants the physics department to be the best it can be. It's up to the students to tell Dean Levy who we feel will impact undergraduate education the best," Levine added.
"We have been asking about how they are going to enhance the quality of undergraduate teaching and the access undergraduates will have to research so that we can be competitive when applying to graduate school," Weaver said.
"Hopefully, our input will be evaluated equally with the input from faculty, staff and graduates," he said.
"We want the new head to raise the level of morale about physics and get people excited about physics. The morale extends throughout the department," Koolbeck said.
Stein said he is anxious to work on undergraduate education.
"I am particularly concerned with improving the undergraduate curriculum. I want to keep it in touch with modern trends," Stein said.
Undergraduate education needs to be integrated into the department, Stein said.
"For example, educational displays could be used to make students feel that they are contributing," Stein said.
"A lot of attention should be paid to undergraduate education. That is something I intend to focus on if I become head," Stein added.
The physics department head should be chosen by the end of December.
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