The new academic years brings a changing of the guard in the Department of Physics. Professor Bradford Orr assumes the Department Chair, and Professor Myron Campbell moves on to become Associate Dean for the Natural Sciences in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA).

Professor Bradford Orr recently addressed the scientific community through the recent Physics Annual Review newsletter:

With the changing of a departmental Chair, people always ask, “Will there be a new agenda?” I suppose this question is only natural, but in reality, the Chair does not set the department agenda, the faculty does. Starting last year and continuing into 2010, the University of Michigan Physics Department is producing its next five-year plan. At the end of the process, we will have a document that examines where we are and where we want to go over the near future.

Physics, with 50 faculty members, begins such a plan with many diverse opinions. However, through discussion, these ideas must be brought together into a self-consistent, coherent vision for our department.

The important issues include: How should our introductory classes be structured to give the best education to the 30% of U-M students who take them? What education and training must be provided for students concentrating in physics, both those who plan to continue on to graduate school, and those who do not? Where do the next great discoveries in physics exist, and how will we be either the discoverers or at the forefront of the research?

As you might imagine, having such a discussion is not easy. Professor Myron Campbell and the associate chairs have done a wonderful job of organizing the onset of this process and they deserve our thanks. Nevertheless, much work remains, and in order for Michigan Physics to prosper in the future as it has in the past, we must continue the discussion.

In addition to all this planning, the Physics Department, students and faculty, continues to produce some of the best research in the world. Whether it is the origin of mass, dark energy, quantum computation, or nanomaterials Michigan researchers are leading the way in our understanding of the physical world. I am humbled and honored to have the chance to serve the Michigan Physics Department as Chair, and look forward to what the next five years will bring.

Bradford Orr,
Physics Chair