Barry McNamara  |  Published January 31, 2024

A Career Mentoring Fellow

Professor Chris Fasano to help physics students chart their careers thanks to appointment from American Physical Society.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – For years, Monmouth College professor Chris Fasano has been an advocate of studying physics, calling the field “great career preparation, and great preparation for life.”

CHRIS FASANO: The physics professor is one of 54 Career Mentoring Fellows around the nation appointed by the American Physi... CHRIS FASANO: The physics professor is one of 54 Career Mentoring Fellows around the nation appointed by the American Physical Society.Now, Fasano will continue that advocacy in an official role, as he’s been named a “Career Mentoring Fellow” of the American Physical Society for 2023-24.

“This allows me to play an increased role in mentoring students in their scientific careers in physics,” said Fasano, who joined Monmouth’s faculty in 1998 and serves as the College’s Martha S. Pattee Professor of Science.

APS Career Mentoring Fellows are physicists working in industry, government or academia who are interested in mentoring undergraduate and graduate students and early career scientists. The fellows have the opportunity to learn and teach about the diverse career paths of physics degree holders and establish a stronger connection with the physics community.

Some of the universities represented by Fasano and this year’s other 53 fellows include Princeton, Harvard, Vanderbilt and California-Berkeley. Other institutions represented include the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Solving complex problems

“Physics teaches students how to tackle complex problems and to come up with solutions,” said Fasano. “I want to be able to tell people about that. The possible career paths are part of it – and it’s not just in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, as we’ve had physics majors at Monmouth go on to be lawyers and work in other fields – but, more importantly, solving complex problems.”

One of those problems is within the field of physics itself, said Fasano.

“This is a relatively new initiative for the APS, within the last five years,” he said. “They want to draw more people into physics, and the Career Mentoring Fellows are a way to tap into that. But they’re also looking for more people from diverse groups to become involved – people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and people from other marginalized groups – African Americans, Hispanics, women.”

“Physics teaches students how to tackle complex problems and to come up with solutions. I want to be able to tell people about that.” – Chris Fasano

Of the latter group, “We do pretty well with that here, actually,” said Fasano, who had just returned to campus from taking six students to the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, hosted by the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Fasano of his advocacy. “But working with the APS provides access to slide decks they have and other resources and statistics that are helpful. It gives the ability to have this broader picture of the value of studying physics.”

The fellows are encouraged to give a talk using APS resources at a nearby institution, at an APS CUWiP, or at a conference of their choice to raise awareness about diverse physics careers.

“I don’t know when yet, but I will be giving a talk,” said Fasano. “It could be here. I’ll be talking about this idea of ‘What does a degree in physics prepare you for?’”

Although the timeline on his appointment is only through 2024, Fasano said he and other fellows will be able to continue in their advocacy as “alumni fellows.”

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