Robert Rosner likes big questions.
How could nuclear power help humanity in a warming climate? How can physicists better explain their work to the public? And why are magnetic fields… well, everywhere? “The nerve of them, being so ubiquitous,” he says.
Rosner is an eminent theoretical physicist and the 2023 APS President, and his love for the field stretches back to childhood. “I loved puzzles; I always read science articles, books,” he says. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Brandeis and his doctorate from Harvard and has been at the University of Chicago since 1987.
Rosner’s research focuses on fluid dynamics, plasma physics, and computational physics, but energy issues — both science and policy — loom large, too. “Why do I care? That’s simple: climate change,” he says. Rosner spoke with APS News about his background and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for APS and physics. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What first got you into physics?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love science. When I was a kid in Germany, I had a subscription to this monthly magazine called Kosmos — it covered all sciences, and I loved it. I would get their science kits; I built stuff all the time.
When I came to the States, at 12, I continued that — devouring science magazines, building stuff. In high school, I took regular physics, AP physics; I took regular math, calculus, advanced math. I loved it all.