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Education and Human Resources

SCIENCE EDUCATION

The nation's problems in science education have been described and documented in numerous reports and studies. The general level of scientific and technological literacy lags that of other developed nations and is inadequate for understanding and dealing rationally with scientific and technological issues and opportunities; precollege education and teacher preparation are in a state of disrepair; and despite universities and graduate programs that are the envy of the world, there is concern that the flow of talent into careers in science and engineering from all segments of society will be inadequate to meet future needs.

AMO science, through its focus on phenomena that are observed in the everyday world and its discoveries and technological developments, can contribute to science education at all levels. Optical wonders such as holography and lasers fascinate people of all ages and provide an excellent means to introduce them to the joy of science and to stimulate them to further scientific exploration and study. Once this interest established, AMO science can nurture it through the numerous opportunities it affords for practical hands-on experience and learning at all stages of development. Finally, training at the advanced level in AMO science produces flexible, capable scientists with knowledge and skills that apply to a wide range of disciplines and needs.

Developments in display and reprographic technology made possible by AMO science are having an important impact in the classroom. Devices such as small and inexpensive copying machines, laser printers, video disks, and CD-ROMs find widespread, and frequently innovative, applications in classroom



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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future 3 Education and Human Resources SCIENCE EDUCATION The nation's problems in science education have been described and documented in numerous reports and studies. The general level of scientific and technological literacy lags that of other developed nations and is inadequate for understanding and dealing rationally with scientific and technological issues and opportunities; precollege education and teacher preparation are in a state of disrepair; and despite universities and graduate programs that are the envy of the world, there is concern that the flow of talent into careers in science and engineering from all segments of society will be inadequate to meet future needs. AMO science, through its focus on phenomena that are observed in the everyday world and its discoveries and technological developments, can contribute to science education at all levels. Optical wonders such as holography and lasers fascinate people of all ages and provide an excellent means to introduce them to the joy of science and to stimulate them to further scientific exploration and study. Once this interest established, AMO science can nurture it through the numerous opportunities it affords for practical hands-on experience and learning at all stages of development. Finally, training at the advanced level in AMO science produces flexible, capable scientists with knowledge and skills that apply to a wide range of disciplines and needs. Developments in display and reprographic technology made possible by AMO science are having an important impact in the classroom. Devices such as small and inexpensive copying machines, laser printers, video disks, and CD-ROMs find widespread, and frequently innovative, applications in classroom

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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future teaching. If inexpensive projection TVs that provide large full-color images become available, these too would be a valuable teaching tool. K-12 Education At an early age, children question the magic of the blue sky and red sunset and the colors of the rainbow. If properly encouraged, this curiosity about nature and the world around us can be extended naturally into a lifelong interest in science. Children who take for granted devices such as the laser printer or TV remote control can be stimulated to question how they function and discover their operating principles. Many of the underlying optical principles can be simply explained and demonstrated with experiments that are inexpensive and safe, work reliably, and are suitable for the grade-school student. Volunteers from the Optical Society of America have developed an Optics Discovery Kit, now sold to teachers and schoolchildren, to provide an opportunity for young students to undertake simple experiments and, through guided discovery, obtain insights into optical science and windows into other fields of science and engineering. AMO science is well represented in the high school classroom. The study of atomic structure, spectra, and reactions is basic to the understanding of modern science. The availability of inexpensive lasers now makes possible a diverse array of physics demonstrations whose visual impact can capture the attention and interest of students and greatly facilitate learning. These demonstrations can be as simple as ray tracing in geometrical optics or as complex as creating holograms or fiber-optics communication systems. Lasers clearly fascinate students, as evidenced by their frequent use in science fair projects. AMO science contributes to increasing the scientific and technical literacy of people of all ages because its many applications in areas ranging from high-technology weaponry to concerns about the ozone hole are often discussed in the media. This coverage exposes people to many scientific issues and questions and can stimulate further reading on these topics. Advances in science and its applications are being made so rapidly that it is difficult for teachers to keep up with new developments. As a result, it is hard for them to communicate the excitement in science from the new concepts that arise. An important investment opportunity therefore lies in upgrading the curriculum of prospective and continuing teachers to acquaint them with exciting and rapidly moving research areas as well as to provide solid training in the fundamentals. Undergraduate and Graduate Education AMO science plays an important role in the education of science and engineering students at the college and university level. It forms an essential component of the course work undertaken by science and engineering students. In the

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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future instructional laboratory, it provides opportunities to carry out interesting and instructive experiments in active areas of scientific research (such as in optical pumping, holography, high-resolution spectroscopy, nonlinear optics, and even laser cooling) that hone their practical skills without the need for vast resources. The relatively small scale of equipment, manpower, and financial resources necessary to carry out research in AMO science allows it to be undertaken in a broad range of educational institutions. Undergraduate involvement in these research programs offers many future professional scientists their first encounter with the excitement of the search for new knowledge. At the graduate level the small scale of AMO science requires that students get involved in many or all aspects of an experiment from vacuum system design to data analysis and interpretation, and from laser development to computer control of equipment (Figure 3.1). This experience provides students with a diverse array of practical skills and promotes independent thinking. Furthermore, FIGURE 3.1 An AMO science graduate student at work on a small-scale experiment. (Courtesy of University of Virginia, Charlottesville.)

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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future AMO science is unusual in that the same student may frequently both perform an experiment and carry out a theoretical analysis of the data. Of course, in many cases the theoretical analyses are sufficiently subtle and complex that more sophisticated theoretical skills are necessary, provoking collaboration between theorists and experimentalists. Graduate training in AMO science, through its focus on phenomena that occur at energies characteristic of the world around us, provides students with skills and experience that have immediate application in addressing many of the problems facing the economic and technical vitality of the nation. AMO doctoral graduates play key roles in industry, government, and education and are among the professional men and women who are critically important to the future position of this nation in an increasingly competitive world. The broad training provided by AMO science also allows students to move rapidly into new areas and to attack complex, large-scale problems that require multidisciplinary input. Graduates in AMO science are a valuable national resource. However, the future of science funding is in a state of flux. Thus it is sensible to reexamine, in the context of changing national needs and priorities, the training offered to AMO students. Degree programs should be reevaluated with a view to increased interdisciplinary emphasis; students and research programs will benefit from the differing perspectives brought to AMO science by researchers in chemistry, engineering, and physics departments. Students must be made more aware of the opportunities and needs in the many areas that are enabled by AMO science, possibly through cooperative programs with industry and government. Principal investigators and agencies should consider increasing the number of positions for postdoctoral fellows and decreasing the reliance on graduate students to carry out most of the research. In addition, the possible demand for students having master's degrees should be explored to see if the current emphasis on the doctoral degree in graduate education is warranted. AMO science is a valuable contributor to science education and literacy at all levels. For the nonspecialist, it provides an opportunity to stimulate further exploration of science and engineering and to demonstrate the direct and accessible correlation between experiment and theory. For the specialist, it provides hands-on training that imparts a diverse range of practical skills with immediate application in addressing many of the economic and technical problems of the nation. HUMAN RESOURCES IN AMO SCIENCE Ultimately, progress in any field is driven by the activities and capabilities of its human resource base. AMO science is a dynamic, interdisciplinary enterprise

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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future in which there is a significant movement of professionals into and out of the field. The data presented here are taken from the American Institute of Physics (AIP) Employment Survey 1990 (AIP Report No. R-282.14, American Institute of Physics, New York, 1991), the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) containing data for the years 1961 to 1991,1 and the survey conducted in 1992 by the Panel on the Future of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Sciences (the FAMOS survey, discussed in Appendix D). These surveys all focus almost exclusively on PhD-level professionals and ignore the much larger number of individuals whose employment depends on applications of AMO science. Consequently, the data reflect the demographics of research employment. None of these surveys is exhaustive; they give different kinds of information; the data can only be regarded as approximate and are open to different interpretations. Taken together, they nevertheless provide some insight into human resources in AMO science. Present Situation For the year 1989 the SED estimates that there were 2,725 PhDs employed in AMO physics. The number employed in AMO chemistry is more difficult to estimate because the data contain no distinct category that corresponds to the present definition of AMO science. Nonetheless, the SED estimates that in 1989 4,666 PhDs were employed in physical chemistry, but this must represent an upper bound to the number employed in AMO chemistry as defined here. Taken together, the SED data suggest an upper limit of ~7,500 PhDs active in AMO science. The FAMOS survey indicated that ~59% of respondents received their degree in some area other than AMO physics. Thus, using the SED figure of 2,725 PhDs employed in AMO physics, the survey suggests that the number of PhD professionals actively engaged in AMO science is about 6,000 to 7,000 and does not appear to be changing rapidly. About half of these scientists work at universities and one-quarter in industry, and the remainder are employed primarily by the federal government or in government research laboratories. The SED estimates that in 1989 there were 3,990 holders of PhDs in AMO physics and 12,476 holders of PhDs in physical chemistry employed in science. The data show that only 25% of the PhD professionals holding degrees in atomic and molecular physics were still active in that field, but that 91% of them remained employed in science or engineering. The retention in optical physics was considerably higher, with 50% of the degree holders remaining in that field. About 30% of the physical chemistry PhDs are employed in the field of their 1   The Survey of Earned Doctorates is sponsored by five federal agencies—the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Education, National Endowment for the Humanities, and U.S. Department of Agriculture—and is conducted by the National Research Council.

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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future degree, but 23% work in fields other than chemistry, physics, or engineering. The large mobility out of AMO science demonstrates the broad applicability of AMO methods and techniques in a wide range of science and technology. The outward flow of professionals is balanced by a comparable influx from other disciplines: the FAMOS survey shows that only about 30% of the PhDs now working in AMO science actually have degrees in AMO physics. The distribution of PhD specialties of AMO professionals responding to the FAMOS survey is shown in Figure D.2 of Appendix D and confirms the interdisciplinary nature of AMO science and the career mobility within it. The distribution of year of PhD attainment for respondents to the FAMOS survey is shown in Figure D.1 and is shaped by the retirement of individuals receiving their PhDs before 1955, by an increase in PhD employment between 1955 and 1970, and by a constant rate of new PhD employment between 1970 and the present, with some diffusion of the new degree holders into other fields after an initial employment in AMO science. According to the SED, minority representation in AMO science is small but is characteristic of that in physics and chemistry as a whole. The group is about 93% male, 88% Caucasian, 10% Asian, 1% Hispanic, and 1% Black. About 80% are native U.S. citizens, and 12% are naturalized citizens. The only recent demographic trend has been that the fraction of AMO PhDs awarded to U.S. citizens has decreased from about 85% in 1961 to about 62% in 1991. Almost all of the foreign students come from Taiwan, the People's Republic of China, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, India, and Canada. European, Middle Eastern, South American, Australian, and African students are present, but in insignificant numbers. PhD Production and Initial Employment The primary source of PhD AMO scientists in the United States is domestic graduate education. The SED shows that as a fraction of total physics degrees, the number of PhDs in AMO physics has remained essentially constant at about 10% for the last 20 years. U.S. institutions granted 160 AMO physics PhDs in 1991, and this annual output has been relatively constant, varying between a high of 182 in 1970 and a low of 115 in 1985. The time required to obtain a PhD has been constant at about 6 years since before 1970. The only noteworthy change has been a steady increase in the fraction of degrees in optical physics, growing from about 10% of the AMO total in 1969 to about 50% in 1991. During the same period, the fraction of physical chemistry degrees declined from 28% to 18% of all chemistry PhDs, with the absolute number of physical chemistry PhDs granted decreasing from 506 in 1969 to 408 in 1991. The 1991 AIP Graduate Student Survey 1989-1990 (AIP Report No. R-207.23, American Institute of Physics, New York) reveals that, after graduate school, about two-thirds of the atomic and molecular physics graduates took

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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future postdoctoral positions, while the remainder went into potentially permanent positions. This initial employment distribution is characteristic of all physics graduates as a group. Three-quarters of the optical physics graduates, however, secured long-term positions, indicating a relatively high demand for personnel in the optical area. Of physics graduate students seeking potentially permanent employment, those in AMO science had among the highest probability of receiving at least one job offer. The FAMOS survey data indicate that about 5 to 10% of the AMO PhD work force is in temporary positions and point to a relatively high incidence of postdoctoral employment: more than half of the research groups in universities and government laboratories contain one or more postdoctoral associates and have hired postdoctoral researchers within the last 3 years. Most of the FAMOS survey respondents in academe and government (58% and 67%, respectively) reported regular interaction with postdoctoral associates. Most of the initial positions held by AMO PhDs in academe and government are postdoctoral, while potentially permanent initial positions are primarily in industry. (The FAMOS survey shows that industry employs relatively few postdoctoral researchers.) The SED reports that the distribution of new AMO PhDs' first employment is about 65% industrial, 20% university, and 15% government and that this distribution has been approximately constant for the last 10 years. The FAMOS survey, however, indicates that only about 37% of recent AMO PhDs are employed in industry. Taken together, these data may imply that at the time of their initial employment, new PhDs often take industrial positions in non-AMO areas; but a reduction in hiring of PhD scientists by industry would also be consistent with the data. Combining the AIP and FAMOS survey data suggests that about half of all AMO PhDs are initially employed outside AMO science. This conclusion is consistent with the AIP employment survey, which found that only 56% of PhDs in atomic and molecular physics remained in the field for their postdoctoral work. This healthy flow of AMO expertise, predominantly into the industrial community, promotes technology transfer and reemphasizes the value of the skills and knowledge imparted to the student via an education in AMO science. Future Needs It is reasonable to anticipate a constant level of postdoctoral positions in the near term. The FAMOS survey shows that those groups that now employ postdoctoral researchers also anticipate hiring them in the next 3 years. The situation is more negative for near-term permanent employment: the survey reports that about 50% of the respondents' departments and research groups had attempted to hire a permanent employee in the last 3 years, but that only about 40% of the groups and departments intend to make permanent hires in the next 3 years. The near-term employment picture is strongly influenced both by the economic downturn of the 1990s and by changes in the defense and aerospace industries and in

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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future the national laboratories that, traditionally, have been performing defense and energy research. Thus for the next few years, more AMO graduates will probably find employment in non-AMO fields, and the numbers in the "postdoctoral pool" may increase. The long-term future human resources needs will derive from needs within the AMO community and from demands of industry, government, and academe outside of AMO science. The employment within AMO science has been constant since 1970. Even if most academic positions are refilled as their present holders retire, this demand is relatively small and might absorb 10 to 15% of the projected future PhD output. The demand for AMO graduates in other areas is more difficult to predict. Many industries that have typically hired AMO graduates, such as the microelectronics manufacturing, aerospace, and defense industries, are all now under stress and face an uncertain future. The outlook is somewhat brighter for AMO PhDs in other industries, such as communications, environmental monitoring and control, and medical instrumentation. As noted elsewhere in this report, future national economic growth may hinge on increased research and development activity in AMO science because of its many contributions to industry. If this increase occurs, there will be an augmented need for AMO graduates; if not, the demand will probably follow the recent historical trend of constancy. The historical and demographic data show that PhDs in AMO science undertake a wide range of occupations, with many working in areas enabled by AMO science, but few leaving science. AMO graduates are readily adaptable to occupational mobility, perhaps because the small scale of most AMO projects requires students to become intimately involved with all aspects of the project, including planning, design, execution, and data analysis and presentation. PhD graduates leaving the research laboratory for employment in industry are themselves a most effective vehicle for technology transfer. They carry with them internal knowledge of new science and techniques and are able to apply these effectively in an industrial environment. The industries that employ AMO scientists are those that have contributed significantly to recent economic growth in the United States and are most needed to sustain its economic health.