Recently I attended the annual winter meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers. At the meeting I ran into many friends and colleagues whom I had not seen in one to two years. So, a frequent conversation opener was the question, "Well, how do you like being department head now?" My response always began with, "Well, you mean except for the budget, right?" Because most other states are in similar financial situations as Kansas, everyone immediately knew what I was saying.
In the spring, 2002, the Kansas Legislature worked long and hard to minimize the impact of the economy on all State agencies. By the time the Legislature adjourned, it had been able to patch together a budget for FY 2003 that in principle was identical for the institutes of higher education as the budget for FY 2002. At first glance it looked like the difference between the FY 02 and FY 03 budgets would be zero. However, inflation, increased medical insurance and several other costs quickly taught me that in the world of State budget accounting, zero can really be a negative number. So, we have spent this year attempting to find ways to meet our teaching, research and service obligations at lower costs. Fortunately, we have a strong and dedicated faculty who are contributing significantly to maintaining our quality at a time of some distress.
While the budget is the downside, our department has continued to have many positive components to our efforts. The funding for research that comes almost entirely from externally funded competitive grants remains at a very high level for a department of our size. The research funding for the past year exceeded $7 million, which is more than twice as much money as the State of Kansas provides for the department. For the past two years our department has had the largest grant income of any administrative unit on campus. This includes departments that have twice as many faculty members as we do.
Recently, for a report to the administration at KSU I did some comparisons of the productivity of our department to the faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences and at the University in general. In FY 2002 the Department of Physics received about $7 Million in Federal support for its research. As shown in the graph to the right, this amount is almost 11% of the total external research support granted to KSU and 33.5% of the amount coming to the College of Arts & Sciences for research. Most of our grants generate a rather large amount of indirect costs. In FY 2002 the Department's indirect cost income was $1.35 Million, 35% of the total indirect costs to the College and 16% of the total indirect costs coming to the University. We accomplish this with only 3.2% of the University faculty (7% of the Arts & Sciences faculty).
At the same time that the Department is a major player in the University's research, it is doing its fair share in teaching. In Fall 2002 the Department generated 14,733 student credit hours. These credit hours represent 2.8% of the University total and 5.0% of the Arts & Sciences total. Thus, our total teaching load is consistent with the fraction of faculty who are in physics while our external funding is extremely high.
This past fall we also had a very large incoming class of graduate students. Seventeen students began their first year of graduate studies in August, 2002. About one-third of these students had completed undergraduate work at a college or university in the United States while the other two-thirds came from all parts of the world. We now have a total of approximately 60 graduate students in our department. Likewise, the number of undergraduates increased slightly with the incoming class in the fall of 2002. We now have a total of about 40 undergraduate students and anticipate a relatively large graduating class in May of 2003.
On the faculty side, Bill Reay, University Distinguished Professor and leader of the High Energy Physics Group, retired during the summer, 2002. You may recall that Bill and Noel Stanton came to KSU about nine years ago to establish a high energy experimental research group. That group has flourished under Bill's leadership and is a significant factor in both our research and teaching efforts. Tim Bolton has now taken over most of the administrative tasks associated with the High Energy Group.
With Bill's retirement we were able to hire a new person in experimental high energy physics. Eckhard von Toerne received his doctorate from the University of Bonn in Germany and then completed a post-doc with the Ohio State High Energy Physics Group. During his post-doc he worked with the OSU group but was actually located at Cornell where he was involved in experiments on the CLEO silicon detector. Eckhard has now completed one semester at KSU and is well on his way to maintaining the quality that we have come to expect from the High Energy Physics effort.
An addition to our teaching program is Dr. David Van Domelen who has replaced Rebecca Lindell as Director of Laboratories. Rebecca has moved to a tenure-track position at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. David completed a Ph.D. in Physics Education at Ohio State and then spent two years as a post-doc at Michigan State before coming to KSU this past summer.
Several of our faculty have received honors and awards during the past year to indicate that we are maintaining a rather high quality effort. As reported elsewhere in this newsletter, Chris Sorensen and Amit Chakrabarti received the KSU Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Amit and Chris were cited for their overall efforts in teaching undergraduates and in particular for their work in revising the engineering physics course (this revision was described in last year's newsletter). Sanjay Rebello received a Faculty Early CAREER Development award from the National Science Foundation. This prestigious research grant is given by NSF to young faculty who show outstanding promise for a strong career in teaching and research. Sanjay is the second person (Bharat Ratra being the first) in our department to receive this award. To the best of my knowledge, Sanjay is the first person whose research specialty is physics education to receive this award. Three of our faculty, Itzik Ben-Itzhak, Brett DePaola and Bharat Ratra, were elected to Fellowship in the American Physical Society during the past year. Talat Rahman received the Olin Petefish Award for research achievement in the basic sciences. This $10,000 award from the Higuchi Endowment at the University of Kansas recognizes research excellence by faculty members at Kansas Regents institutions.
As usual, you, our alumni, have provided us with strong support in scholarship funds. Last spring in addition to our usual contributions, we received a generous gift that enabled us to create a newly endowed scholarship named for Leo Hudiburg who was a faculty member at KSU until 1947. We, of course, are very grateful for all of the support that you have provided and continue to provide.
During the past year we have had several distinguished visitors. As described elsewhere, Bill Porter who received a Master's degree at KSU visited in the early fall. Another alumna, Shanalyn Kiger Kemme, presented a colloquium on her research at Sandia Laboratories. Neal Lane, former director of the National Science Foundation and Science Advisor to President Bill Clinton, presented both a public lecture on Science in the White House and a physics colloquium in November of the past year. In early February, Eric Cornell, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physics, also presented a public lecture and a physics colloquium.
A quick summary of the past year in our department is that we, like many others, are struggling because of the weak economy. At the same time, our department remains strong because of its faculty, staff and students. Significant support from research funding agencies and our alumni enable us to realize that the times are not what we would like but we can still do our jobs and do them well.