Former Lawrence University Scientist Assumes Leadership of National Physics Association

Posted on: February 23rd, 2010 by Rick Peterson

Former Lawrence University Professor of Physics David Cook has assumed the role of president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the country’s premier national organization and authority on physics and physical science education with more than 10,000 members in 30 countries.

David-Cook_webCook, who retired as Philetus E. Sawyer Professor of Science in 2008 after 43 years of teaching in the Lawrence physics department, will serve as AAPT’s president in 2010 and past president in 2011. First elected to the association’s executive board in 2007, Cook is the first Lawrence faculty member ever to serve as AAPT president and the first from any Wisconsin college or university since 1955.

The AAPT, says Cook, faces challenges in keeping the United States competitive in an increasingly global marketplace.

“Both the future of the United States as a leader in science and technology and the strength of the U.S. economy are at risk because too few of our most able young people are preparing for careers in science and engineering,” said Cook.  “The AAPT is already playing an important role in addressing this growing crisis.  The current efforts, however, need to be expanded in both intensity and scope.

“We need to assess whether the current AAPT structure and content of our offerings for prospective scientists are as strong as they can be in preparing students for productive 50-year careers in the 21st century and whether they are as appealing as they must be to compete successfully with the students’ alternatives.”

During his four-plus-decades career at Lawrence, Cook has taught nearly every undergraduate physics course while leading the development and incorporation of computers into the physics curriculum.  Beginning in 1985, he built Lawrence’s computational physics laboratory with the support of more than $1 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation, the W. M. Keck Foundation and other sources.

Cook is the author of two textbooks, “The Theory of the Electromagnetic Field,” one of the first to introduce computer-based numerical approaches alongside traditional approaches and “Computation and Problem Solving in Undergraduate Physics.”  He was the recipient of Lawrence’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1990.

Founded in 1930, the AAPT is headquartered in the American Center for Physics in College Park, Md.

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