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[an error occurred while processing this directive] 2008 American Physical Society March Meeting
New Orleans, Louisiana

By Ann Deml, SPS Reporter & Associate Councilor Representative to the SPS Executive Committee, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Also see: 2008 APS March Meeting by Lee Massey | When the Physicists Come Marching In by Katherine Zaunbrecher


The afternoon SPS poster presenters are pictured above. In all, 24 SPS members presented research at the APS March Meeting.


The March Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) is the largest physics meeting of the year and was held in New Orleans, Louisiana this year.  Even as an undergraduate from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UW-River Falls), a small teaching university in the Midwest, I was able to attend and participate in this annual meeting.  I had the opportunity to present my research, to listen to physicists from around the world discuss their recent work, and to experience a part of the New Orleans culture. 

I had decided last fall that this meeting would be an amazing event to partake in, having heard about its magnitude and significance many times.  I only needed to find research to present and sources willing to fund my travel; both of which actually happened quite easily.  First, I had conducted research as part of the Montana State University’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program during the summer of 2007.  Secondly, funds for travel to present were available through the national Society of Physics Students (SPS), the UW-River Falls Physics Department, and the University grant program. 

I was present at the meeting for three days:  March 10th through the 12th.  I arrived in New Orleans late Sunday night and essentially just unpacked clothes for the next day before going to bed.  I was able to get an early start on Monday, walking over to the Convention Center along the River Walk and picking up my Press Badge – a benefit of being an SPS Reporter.  I browsed through the 650+ page program, sat in on an invited talk on the Photophysics of Cold Molecules, and then headed over to the morning SPS session of oral presentations.  The SPS session included a variety of well presented talks by other undergraduate students, and I even obtained an interesting paper to bring back as a potential senior seminar research topic for other UW-River Falls students.


The SPS national office hosted a game of "Physics Jeopardy," with most of the questions on diversity topics in keeping with this year's SPS theme "Future Faces of Physics." The Physics and Astronomy Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) provided support for a tasty Louisiana-themed reception for about 50 presenters, Jeopardy players and spectators. Image credit: American Physical Society.

Following the morning SPS oral session, delicious New Orleans style food was provided, courtesy of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Physics and Astronomy Division, as we competed in teams at Physics Jeopardy. The various subjects brought out diversity topics in physics and this year’s SPS theme, The Future Faces of Physics, while still managing to be entertaining and fun.  The following afternoon SPS oral session included several more good presentations targeted nicely at the student audience.  All of the 24 SPS students were very enthusiastic about their research and results and seemed quite proud to receive such acknowledgement of their work and potential as future physicists. 

My Tuesday morning began in a more relaxed manner as I had an enjoyable, but enormous fruit crepe for breakfast at a very interesting little cafe in the French Quarter.  At the meeting, I had the opportunity to listen to an invited talk entitled “Why are we so excited about carbon nanostructures?” by Millie Dresselhaus, recipient of the Oliver E. Buckley Prize.  I was especially excited to listen to Dr. Dresselhaus, because we had recently discussed her contributions to physics and to the position of women in the field in one of my current classes. 


An overview of the exhibit and poster hall.


Tuesday afternoon I was able to listen to part of a press conference on the role physics can play as related to the study of global warming.  It was extremely interesting to hear about the work being conducted by various research groups as they apply the statistical approach and modeling capabilities of physics to examine climate changes.  With science reporters as the target audience, the technical concepts of the presentations were simplified, and I was able to clearly understand the ideas being expressed.  The majority of the other talks at the meeting are directed toward experts in each particular field; therefore, it is difficult to gain new understanding as a student with limited background knowledge.  The remainder of the afternoon I spent with my research poster, among more than 300 other presenters in the poster session.  I was able to talk to a variety of interested people including other undergraduate students, members of my research group at Montana State University, and the program’s NSF Project Coordinator. 

Wednesday’s sessions included a couple panel discussions for me.  The first targeted the question “How can industry best support the innovative research that it needs?” while the second presented nontraditional careers in physics.  Both were interesting especially as I am graduating this year and continuing on to graduate school with career intentions of becoming a researcher in an industrial setting.  I also partook in the Students’ Lunch with the Experts.  There I was able to hear about exciting research being conducted with molecular magnets and found myself becoming quite eager to begin more of my own research as a graduate student. 


Even though it was a busy meeting, SPS Reporter Ann Deml still found time to goof off.

Overall, my experiences at the March APS Meeting were amazing and wonderful.  The presented research was exciting to learn about, the magnitude of the meeting was impressive, and I felt significant having been a part of it.  I was able to spend several evenings in the New Orleans French Quarter, listening to energetic street bands, walking along the river bank, looking in awe at the quiet neighborhood houses, and always enjoying the tastes and sounds of the New Orleans atmosphere.  This March 2008 APS Meeting was a great experience for me and is absolutely an event that I highly encourage other students to take part in as well.  Being a part of the physics community is exhilarating and so much more attainable than you might expect! 



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