APPLETON, WIS. — David Cook, professor of physics and the Philetus E. Sawyer Professor of Science at Lawrence University, has been elected vice president of the American Association of Physics Teachers by a vote of the organization’s membership.
Starting with the association’s national meeting in mid-January, Cook will begin a four-year appointment to the AAPT’s executive board in which he will serve one year each as vice president, president-elect, president and past-president.
Looking ahead to 2010 when he assumes the AAPT presidency, Cook sees an opportunity to address what he considers “a growing crisis” facing the country.
“We are losing our competitive advantage because of the insufficient number of highly trained scientists and engineers we’re producing,” said Cook, the first Lawrence faculty member ever elected to the AAPT’s executive board. “Science is not held in very high regard. We need to educate the public on the importance of science and increase the appreciation for science education.”
Founded in 1930, the AAPT is the world’s leading organization for physics educators with more than 12,000 members in 30 countries.
“David’s election reflects his national standing as a leader in physics education,” said Lawrence Provost David Burrows. “Lawrence is proud that one of its own has achieved this high honor.”
Cook’s primary responsibilities his first two years on the executive board will focus on organizing the association’s two national meetings conducted each year. As the AAPT’s president, Cook will serve as the organization’s spokesperson to various constituencies, lead meetings of the executive board and plan the agenda of those meetings.
A member of the Lawrence faculty since 1965, Cook said he was humbled “in the face of the confidence the organization has placed in me” upon learning of his selection. “I’m a bit anxious over the responsibilities that lie ahead, but am firmly committed to living up to that confidence.”
During his tenure at Lawrence, Cook has led the development and incorporation of computers into the physics curriculum. He is the author of two textbooks “The Theory of the Electromagnetic Field,” which was one of the first books to introduce computer-based numerical approaches alongside traditional approaches, and “Computation and Problem Solving in Undergraduate Physics.”
With the support of more than $1 million worth of grants from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation and the Keck Foundation, Cook built Lawrence’s computational physics laboratory, which features 11 workstations equipped with sophisticated software for graphical visualization, numerical analysis and symbolic algebra.
Cook, the recipient of Lawrence’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 1990, earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University.