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Student Fellowships in Physics and Society
Recipients: 2009 | 2008 | 2007


Sponsored by the APS Forum on Physics and Society in partnership with the Society of Physics Students and the APS Forum on Graduate Student Affairs.

Program Overview

The American Physical Society Forum on Physics and Society (FPS) is proud to announce the Student Fellowships in Physics and Society. The Fellowships are open to undergraduate or graduate students in physics who will be awarded up to $4,000 each to support a project that applies physics to a societal issue.

The primary goal of the Student Fellowships in Physics and Society is to provide research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students interested in physics and society, and to raise the awareness of applying physics to problems in society as a career and as an important undertaking by members of the physics community. 

There are three objectives of the program.

  1. First, some students who are exposed to issues where physics impacts societal issues will choose to make careers in this area. These students will provide a badly needed younger generation of technically literate policy researchers, analysts, and leaders.

  2. Second, there are many more technical issues on the interface between physics and society than there are physicists working on them. Putting talented young people to work on these problems will help society and the physics community.

  3. Finally, students involved in projects applying physics to social issues will communicate their excitement to fellow students and faculty members in their institutions and nationally, thus raising the awareness of the entire physics community.

Structure of the Project

Students will conduct technical research in an area where physics is applied to societal problems with the guidance of an experienced senior mentor.  Their work will result in a final report suitable for dissemination to the physics community and/or the public.  This report may be in the form of an article for publication, or another product such as a CD/DVD, mass media project, course development, or web site.  It is suggested that the students present their work at an APS or other professional society meeting.  A report on their final project will also be considered for publication in the FPS publication, Physics & Society.

The timeline for the project will vary depending on whether the work is done during an academic year or a summer.  Proposals must include a detailed work plan and budget that will allow completion of the project within one calendar year.  The stipend can be used to support the student financially, to support student travel, to purchase critical equipment and/or services directly related to the project, or to support the project in other ways.  Typically, projects will occur over an academic term or the summer.  The size of the award will depend on merit, and the detailed work plan and timeline proposed by the applicant.  Matching funds are not a requirement, but the selection committee encourages applicant and mentor to explore the availability of such funds.

Selection Criteria

The criteria for selection include the following, roughly equally weighted:

  1. The extent to which the project addresses, engages, or furthers the objective of the Forum on Physics and Society, which is, "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge regarding the inter-relation of physics, physicists, and society."  The proposal should address the intellectual merit of the project and its probable impact on the issue being studied, and must include appropriate bibliographic references.

  2. The extent to which the proposer(s) have established their ability to perform the project in question, including the academic record and extracurricular activities of the student proposer and the commitment and track record of the proposed mentor.

  3. The extent to which the project has a realistic timeline and budget, a compelling format (paper or another product such as a CD/DVD, mass media project, course development, or website, for example), and utilizes existing resources.

Responsibilities of Mentor

The mentor is expected to advise the applicant during his/her choice of a project and preparation of the proposal, and to provide a letter of support with respect to the value and suitability of the project, and the applicant’s capabilities for successfully completing the project.

Should the applicant’s proposal succeed, the mentor should regularly discuss progress of the project with the applicant during performance of the project, and should consult with the applicant during preparation of the report, paper, or other product of the project (where appropriate, serving as coauthor).

Proposal Guidelines

The proposal should consist of the following elements, prepared by the applicant:

  1. Application form
  2. Application Checklist and Submission Instructions (page 4 of application), and associated documents:
    • Applicant’s resume/CV, including GPA, major, year in school, and other relevant activities and experiences.
    • Supporting letter from the applicant’s mentor.
    • Mentor’s resume/CV, with items relevant to the proposed project highlighted.
    • At least one additional letter of support for the applicant.

The application deadline is December 15

For more information, visit:

The American Physical Society Forum on Physics and Society (FPS)

Also of Interest:

Previous winners at Juniata College (Eric Flumerfelt and Elise Buckley) and UW-River Falls (Lee Massey) have presented the results of their fellowships in a variety of settings, including, search on Flumerfelt, search on Flumerfelt or Buckley, search on Buckley

Program Dates & Deadlines:

April 15
Blake Lilly Prize Applications Due
Outstanding Advisor Nominations Due

June 15
SPS Chapter Reports Due

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