Interdisciplinary Seminar: Michael Lubell


Michael Lubell, Interdisciplinary Seminar March 26, 2015

Michael Lubell, "Science Challenges and Opportunities In a Populist Era."
 March 26, 2015 from 12:30 PM to 01:30 PM


Michael S. Lubell
Mark W. Zemansky Professor of Physics, CCNY
Director of Public Affairs, APS

Ten years ago, Craig Venter, best known for his groundbreaking work on the human genome, wrote, “If the 20th century was the century of physics, the 21st century will be the century of biology.” Of course, neither claim is correct. In truth, the sciences are interdependent, as former director of NIH and Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus observed in his October 4, 2000 Washington Post op-ed, and they have been so throughout much of recent history. Today, synergies across fields are evident wherever you look, although politicians and policymakers usually pay the connections little heed. And as the public sees it, iPads, iPhones, MRI machines and the Higgs particle are gifts from Jobs or gods.

In a time of sinking confidence in government, hyper-partisanship in Washington and a rapid rise of populism on the hustings, science is facing unprecedented challenges in making a claim for its share of increasingly scarce federal resources. If discretionary spending continues to shrink as a fraction of the federal budget, in accord with Office of Management and Budget projections, and if political dysfunction remains the norm for years to come, as Francis Fukuyama predicts in his Sept./Oct. 2014 Foreign Affairs article, “America in Decay,” scientists will have to mobilize and take their case directly to the public. Otherwise, discovery and innovation will move off shore at an ever-increasing rate. Moreover, as scientific research becomes increasingly international, America’s capacity to capitalize on the next big thing will require public policies that promote innovation and entrepreneurship more effectively than they do today.

Slideshow Part I

Slideshow Part 2

Michael S. Lubell is the Mark W. Zemansky Professor of Physics at the City College of the City University of New York (CCNY) and the Director of Public Affairs of The American Physical Society (APS). Dr. Lubell earned his B.A. (1963) from Columbia University, and his M.S. (1965) and Ph.D. (1969) from Yale University. He was a member of the Yale faculty from 1971 to 1980 before joining the Physics Department at CCNY in 1980, where he served as Department Chair from 1999 to 2006. He has held fellowships from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has also held concurrent positions at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Texas-Austin, the Santa Barbara (Kavli) Institute of Theoretical Physics and Universität Bielefeld. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and his biography appears in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering and Who’s Who in American Education.

Dr. Lubell's publications comprise more than 250 articles and abstracts in scientific journals and books covering subjects in the fields of high-energy physics, nuclear physics, atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics, energy research and science policy. His use of polarized electrons to probe fundamental processes in atoms, nuclei and nucleons is internationally known. His science research interests now center on AMO studies of quantum chaos and simple molecular systems and energy efficiency.  He has delivered more than 150 invited lectures and has appeared often on radio and TV in North America and Europe. He is one of the experts most frequently quoted by the national and scientific media on science policy issues. He is also credited as being one of the pioneers of science advocacy in Washington and is regarded as one of its most effective practitioners.  He has served on many scientific advisory committees inside and outside government. Dr. Lubell has also been a newspaper columnist and presently writes a bimonthly opinion piece, “Inside the Beltway,” for APS News, which has a circulation of more than 50,000, and a guest column for Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper that reaches more than 20,000 readers. He has been active in local, state and national politics for more than forty years and has served as an advisor to members of Congress and local, state and national officials.