The Reasons for and Goals of the Anacapa Society

The Anacapa Society is founded on our experience that there is something special and particularly exciting about working as a theoretical physicist while based at a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI). PUI theorists have the flexibility to follow their interests, even when this means engaging in high-risk research or shifting to new interdisciplinary areas. They have the opportunity to benefit science by giving rigorous training to undergraduates through research activities in theoretical physics. Theorists at PUI often have a central role at placing physics in a broader intellectual context and addressing its societal impact.Theoretical physicists at undergraduate institutions successfully produce research in a wide variety of fields. Their work ranges from the mathematical to the computational, and spans the breadth of theoretical physics, from quantum optics to biophysics, from statistical mechanics to astrophysics. The increasing amount of high quality theoretical research coming out of PUI is an important success story in the growth of theoretical physics.

The situation for PUI theorists provides opportunities, but also creates challenges. The theoretical physics community has built up its infrastructure premised on departments at research universities and institutes that bring together substantial numbers of individuals in the given fields. By contrast, theorists at PUI often have few or no research colleagues in their own departments, and thus no opportunity for daily interactions on research matters. Similarly, many PUI theorists do not have access to local research seminars. Some also find themselves in departments that have no prior experience supporting and evaluating professional activity in theoretical physics.

In an effort to address these issues of isolation, the Anacapa Society provides networking opportunities and disseminates information to create, in effect, a large virtual department of PUI theorists.

Our initial networking activities take several forms. We foster and encourage contacts among theorists at different PUI, for purposes of scientific discussions, collaboration, and mentoring. We also promote interaction between theorists at PUI and physicists at research universities. We expect to facilitate a speaker series, workshops, and regular meetings of the Anacapa Society itself.

The Society also serves as a resource of information of value to current and prospective faculty members at PUI, departmental chairs and administrators at PUI, and research advisors of graduate students and postdocs in theoretical physics. This information includes, but is not limited to, training and advice to prepare for and succeed in a career at a PUI, opportunities for research and travel support of special interest to faculty at PUI, and the identification of research opportunities for undergraduate students.