UChicago scientist Robert Rosner elected to presidency of the American Physical Society

Distinguished theoretical physicist will be eighth UChicago professor to serve as president

Prof. Robert Rosner, an eminent theoretical physicist at the University of Chicago, has been elected to the presidency of the American Physical Society. He will assume the position in 2023, when he will become the eighth UChicago scientist to do so.

Founded in 1899, the American Physical Society is an association of physicists which works to “advance the knowledge of physics.” With more than 54,000 members, the APS is active in public and governmental affairs, publishes multiple science journals, and conducts extensive programs in education, public outreach and media relations.

Starting Jan. 1, 2021, Rosner will serve successive yearlong terms as vice president, president-elect, president and past-president.

“These are perilous times for science—the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, as perhaps never before, the skepticism of ‘expert advice’ based on science,” said Rosner, the William E. Wrather Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Physics. “As representatives of the physics community, I believe the APS must respond vigorously—advocating for science at all levels, from the federal government to the media and the general public, and expanding access to the field to everyone who is interested in physics.”

He cited the low numbers of Black and female physicists as “a detriment to the field. It’s a huge mistake not to be able to tap the full complement of talent. Beyond that, it’s simply the right thing to do.”

Rosner is a theoretical physicist whose scientific work has been related to fluid dynamics and plasma physics problems, as well as in applied mathematics and computational physics, especially in the development of modern high-performance computer simulation tools.

Within the past few years, he has been increasingly involved in energy technologies, and in the public policy issues that relate to the development and deployment of various energy production and consumption technologies—especially nuclear energy, the electrification of transport, and energy use in urban environments. Rosner was the founding director of the Energy Policy Institute at UChicago, and is the co-primary investigator for the Daniel K. Inouye Telescope, which took the most detailed images of the sun’s surface last year.

Rosner also previously served as chair of the UChicago department of astronomy for six years, and as director of Argonne National Laboratory for four years. He currently chairs the science committee of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which sets the hands of the Doomsday Clock.

In 2013, Rosner’s colleague Prof. Michael Turner became the first astrophysicist to serve as president of the American Physical Society.

In addition to Turner, six UChicago scientists have previously served as president of the APS: Albert A. Michelson in 1901, Robert Millikan in 1916, Arthur Holly Compton in 1934, Enrico Fermi in 1953, Robert R. Wilson in 1985 and Leo Kadanoff in 2007. Three alumni have also served as president: Luis Alvarez in 1969, Mildred Dresselhaus in 1984 and Marvin L. Cohen in 2005.