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[an error occurred while processing this directive] SPS Student Report on the 2008 APS March Meeting
By Lee Massey, recipient of a 2007 Student Fellowship in Physics and Society, sponsored by The American Physical Society Forum on Physics and Society

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



Current State of Research of Alternate Fuel Sources for Passenger Vehicles
The purpose of this project is to report on the current state of research in the field of alternate fuel sources for passenger vehicles. Because the number of alternate fuel options is very large, this study focuses on selected bio-fuels and briefly describes a couple of the most popular non-bio and non-renewable alternatives. The fuel and energy sources studied are compared using well-to-wheel and well-to-tank net energy balances. Data also includes relative production capabilities by volume in terms of current fossil fuels. Qualitative data includes production methods and transportability.

I mentioned in my last student report on the 2007 Industrial Physics Forum (IPF) in October that if I were given another chance to attend a similar conference to count me in. Well, that chance came. Thanks to the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, the Division of Chemical Physics, and the Society of Physics Students, I was able to attend the APS March Meeting in New Orleans, LA. This was yet another place that I have not previously been. This time I was able to present my research on “The Current State of Research of Alternate Fuel Sources for Passenger Vehicles” (see abstract at right). My research was supported by an APS fellowship from the Forum on Physics in Society. This was my first time ever presenting research of any kind outside of school. It was a very rewarding experience.

New Orleans was also a great place to visit. With great food and lots of excitement, there was always plenty to do. The hotel I stayed in was only a half block from Bourbon Street, so I got to see a lot of that in the evenings. I think I ate some form of Gumbo every day, and thanks to some advice from Jerry Hobbes, the Director of Industrial Outreach/Corporate Associates for AIP,  I also tried something called Beignets. The best description I could come up with is that they are a square deep fried doughnut, covered in about a half inch of powdered sugar.

Carriage In Front of Royal Cafe. Photo by Carl Purcell.  

I also ventured down by the Mississippi River and through some of the neighborhoods in the French Quarter to see some of the homes in the area. One of the things that I found to be really neat down there was the gas lamps on the sides of the buildings that lit the streets at night. They made me feel as though I had stepped back in time. New Orleans also has an interesting history with many different influences compared to where I am from in Wisconsin. Most of the old buildings in the French Quarter are either still standing, renovated, or rebuilt to look like they did many years ago. The architecture of some of the homes and other buildings was really neat to see.

During the day, however, I spent my time at the convention center trying to see all of the things I wanted to see. Even though I couldn’t see everything I wanted, I did see quite a bit. I was able to attend the Oliver E. Buckley prize  talk given by recipient Millie Dresselhaus. The talk was on her research of carbon nano-tubes and carbon structures. I also watched the George E. Pake award talk presented by Julia M. Phillips on her research on solid state lighting. I was also able to attend contributed talks and poster sessions on all ranges of interesting topics. Thanks to the opportunity to write this report for SPS, my badge was actually a press badge which allowed me to attend press conferences and ask questions! I only had time to go to one, so I chose to attend the one titled “Physicists Look at Global Climate Change” . Most of the discussion focused on different methods to view global climate change as well as various ways to interpret the data. There was also a portion that focused on related policy, which I personally found most interesting.

The New Orleans Convention Center.  

Similar to the press conference, but possibly more in depth, were the panel discussions which I also was able to attend. In particular, I attended the discussion titled “How can industry best support the innovative research that it needs?”  The discussion included talks by each of the panel members, followed by a discussion  session which also involved the audience. The panel discussion was one of my favorite parts of the meeting overall.

The Divisions of APS held an awards banquet Tuesday evening which I was invited to attend, followed by the business meeting for the Division of Chemical Physics in which I am a new member. If you are a member of APS, I would encourage membership and participation in a division. Divisions offer great networking possibilities with people that have similar interests and conduct similar research. The Division of Chemical Physics, for instance, focuses on issues in Physics related with chemical processes and components. The Division of Chemical Physics is always looking for new members and welcomes new ideas.

Overall, the trip was fun and educational, and well worth any effort that might be necessary to go. These meetings are for students and future physicists, engineers, and scientists alike, as well as professionals in the field. From my perspective, students are held with high regard at these meetings by all of the coordinating staff. There is help available for students to attend these types of events and I would again recommend that every student try to attend at least one meeting within their college career. If I have another opportunity, I would also like to try to attend the Sigma Pi Sigma Congress in November.

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