Amherst Professor Hilborn to Head National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics

July 31, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.-The ExxonMobil Foundation has awarded the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics $133,000 to support Strategic Programs for Innovations in Undergraduate Physics (SPIN-UP). Robert C. Hilborn, The Amanda and Lisa Cross Professor of Physics at Amherst College and the chair of the Task Force, says it is charged with planning, developing, and coordinating activities aimed at “revitalizing” undergraduate physics programs across the country and providing advice to the professional organizations and the physics community at large about undergraduate physics.

The program’s goals are to involve more than half of the 762 undergraduate physics departments in responding to the changing scientific and education environment; to recruit more students who major in physics; to create undergraduate physics courses that can contribute to the education of all undergraduate students, including science majors, pre-service teachers, and non-science majors; and to work with similar groups in other scientific and engineering disciplines to promote common efforts to improve undergraduate science, mathematics and engineering education.

For 2001-02, SPIN-UP will focus on a survey of all undergraduate physics programs in the U.S. and on site visits to about 20 departments with thriving undergraduate physics programs. A case study report of the site visits will be distributed to all physics departments in the country.

Hilborn points out that SPIN-UP’s unique approach to undergraduate science is based on three principles: that revitalization is more than curricular reform; that the physics department is the critical unit for change in undergraduate education; and that all reform is ultimately local. “One size does not fit all” for serious innovation.

“The ExxonMobil Foundation is pleased to support SPIN-UP as part of our program in undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to foster improvement in teaching and learning in these disciplines,” said Ed Ahnert, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation. “We are particularly committed to improving science literacy of all undergraduate students within two-year and four-year institutions, and think that this initiative by the Task Force will help to address that need specifically for physics.”

Hilborn, who currently serves as the associate dean of the faculty at Amherst, is a past president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, which sponsors the Task Force with the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics. Physics departments interested in being part of the site visit program should contact the Task Force at Further information about the Task Force is available at the website


Lembo Looks at TV in New Book

July 30, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.— In the recently released book Thinking Through Television ($54.95 cloth, $19.95 paper, 544 pp., Cambridge University Press, New York 2001), Ron Lembo, associate professor of sociology at Amherst College, confronts the social criticism that claims television is merely a form of capitalist control over the masses, and argues that individuals may indeed profit from their discourse with television.

A member of the Amherst College faculty since 1990, Lembo investigates American television viewing habits as a distinct cultural form. Based on an empirical study of the day-to-day use of television by working people, he integrates cultural sociology, postmodernism and the literature of media effects to explore the way in which people give meaning to their viewing practices.

“A life-long viewer who admittedly enjoys watching commercial television,” Lembo has a personal interest in TV. “Among my family and friends, television viewing was a source of pleasure. It also served as an important way of knowing the world; and, on occasion, it provided me with insights that were unobtainable elsewhere. But in the world of middle-class values and tastes, a world that we inevitably had to enter, television viewing often resonated with numerous hidden injuries of class and ethnicity.”

Lembo received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, his M.A. from U.C. Santa Barbara and his B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.


Steven Lee To Study Korean Diaspora in Uzbekistan on Fulbright Grant

July 17, 2001
Director of Media

AMHERST, Mass.—Steven S. Lee, a January 2001 summa cum laude graduate of Amherst College, has been awarded a J. William Fulbright Fellowship for postgraduate study overseas. Lee, the son of Kwang S. Lee and Young S. Lee of Fairfax, Va., will study the lives of the ethnic Koreans from the Soviet Far East whom Josef Stalin forcibly resettled into Uzbekistan in Central Asia in 1937.

“This history was kept silent and the Soviet Koreans were viewed as a model minority, quickly assimilating and becoming successful farmers. My project will seek to ascertain how the Koreans in Uzbekistan have maintained distinct ethnic identities, comparing their experiences with my own as a Korean American,” Lee says. He wrote in his Fulbright proposal that he hopes to explore “the very substance of ethnic identity: perhaps I will find that Korean-Uzbeks share certain traits and concerns with Korean-Americans, another group in Diaspora. During the Silk Route times, Uzbekistan was at the crossroads of the world, and for three years now, I have dreamed of seeing my studies and background intersect there.”

Lee plans academic study at the Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies and additional work with Valeriy Khan at the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of History.

An English major at Amherst&em;where his senior thesis examined Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiographical exploration of history and consciousness, Speak, Memory—Lee was also an editor at the Amherst Student and The Amherst Review, a literary magazine. He held summer internships at Civilization magazine and the (Northampton, Mass.) Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Congress created the Fulbright Program in 1946 to foster mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchanges. Senator J. William Fulbright, sponsor of the legislation, viewed scholarship as an alternative to armed conflict. Today the Fulbright Program, the federal government’s premier scholarship program, funded by an annual Congressional appropriation and contributions from other participating countries, allows Americans to study or conduct research in over 100 nations.