[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

My experience at the 2009 Joint Meeting of the AAPT and the AAAS
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

by Jenna Smith, Rhodes College

View of Al Gore's address from the "overflow" room.  

Thousands of attendees, hundreds of presenters, tens of speakers, two hotels, one city. This year’s AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers) Winter meeting was held jointly with the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Winter Meeting in Chicago, IL, February 12-16. I was able to attend two days of the meeting, along with another student from Rhodes College, Lulu Li, and a Rhodes faculty, Dr. Deseree Meyer.

After workshops and field trips to Fermilab or the Museum of Science and Industry on Friday, former U.S. Vice-President and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Al Gore gave a special invited address. We had been advised to arrive early, so we hurried over and joined the hoards of attendees being herded into a ballroom. We were thrilled that we actually got seats and waited for the presentation with barely-contained enthusiasm. It was only when Mr. Gore appeared on the projection screen at the front of the room that we realized we were in the overflow room! It was a little disappointing, but Mr. Gore’s address was just as poignant through the screen. He presented a shortened and updated version of his An Inconvenient Truth presentation, which I had never seen or read before. From a scientific point of view, he used data and images from many sources to paint a picture of the global climate change and to extrapolate what might happen in future years. He spoke of deforestation, carbon emissions, and the melting northern polar ice cap. From a presentation standpoint, he spoke in a way that conveyed the urgency and magnitude of climate change but always with a thread of hope.

After Mr. Gore’s address, the Rhodes College crew trooped over to the other hotel for the AAPT/AAAS Demo Show with demonstrations ranging from a giant Newton’s Cradle to an impressive bed of nails display. Just outside the Demo Show was the SPS Undergraduate Research and Outreach Poster Session. Approximately ten posters were presented, with topics ranging from two different experiments conducted in microgravity to an impressive display of chapter outreach by Millikin University in Peru. There was so much interest in the posters that many presenters stayed until much past the original time schedule!

Vera Rubin gives her Richtmyer Address on Rotating Galaxies and Dark Matter.  

Saturday morning began with an AAPT/AAAS Richtmyer Address by Dr. Vera Rubin on Rotating Galaxies and Dark Matter. Dr. Rubin’s analysis of orbital velocity and the distance from the center of the galaxy was one of the key observations that led to the conclusion that a great amount of “dark matter” exists in the universe. She presented not only the arguments for dark matter (rotation curves of galaxies, galaxy motions in clusters of galaxies, and gravitational lensing), but also the main argument against dark matter (Modified Newtonian Dynamics).

After Dr. Rubin’s address, I had the privilege to attend a symposium on Advancing Women in Science Internationally. Barbara Sandow, Catherine Massey, and Arthur Bienenstock presented not only data on the situation of women in science (just under half of high school physics students are female but less than a quarter of undergraduate physics degrees are awarded to women), but also presented what scientific communities around the world are doing to allow girls to “stick” to hard sciences. Efforts have been coordinated in countries from Japan to Germany to the US. After the presentations, attendees began a discussion with their own views and experiences regarding gender in the sciences. There were many successful female scientists in the room, the conversation was fascinating and truth be told, I didn’t want to leave!

Lulu Li presents her poster at the SPS Undergraduate Research and Outreach poster session.  

Saturday afternoon included a meet and great with other young physicists, a plenary about exciting research at Femi National Accelerometer Laboratory and the SPS Undergraduate Research and Outreach Presentation session. The meet and great was a great experience; I highly recommend it to other SPS members who attend national meetings.   We learned quite a lot about particle physics and the goings-on at Fermilab from their scientists. I enjoyed the SPS session also. I spoke about my experience as a summer intern for SPS (also something I highly recommend to other SPS members!) and also learned from presentations with subjects ranging from pseudo-science and how to fight wrong beliefs to theoretical calculations about Berry’s phase.

Even if it was the middle of February in the Windy City, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the 2009 AAPT/AAAS Winter Meeting. I was sorry to make the trip back to O’Hare airport and back to Memphis. I learned a lot, met many great people who share my passion for physics, and experienced the national physics community that is part of the reason I love this field.

Jenna SmithJenna Smith is a senior physics major at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. She has been active in the Rhodes SPS chapter since her freshman year, where she and her chapter sponsor events ranging from Rhodes’ annual Pumpkin Drop to demo shows at local schools.

Jenna's involvement with the SPS National organization has included two years as the Associate Zone Councilor for Zone 10, and a position as one of the 2008 SPS Interns. She is currently the Associate Zone Councilor Representative to the SPS Executive Committee, part of the SPS National Council.

Between her physics courses, Jenna also takes Spanish and recently completed a semester abroad in Madrid, Spain. In Fall 2009 she plans to attend graduate school and pursue a PhD in physics.

Free 1-Year Membership in AAPT
When you join SPS national as an undergraduate, you get free one-year membership in one of ten other physics societies, including the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). AAPT is a professional membership association of scientists dedicated to enhancing the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching.  

SPS Reporter Program
SPS national sends student reporters to most major AIP Member Society meetings, where they are treated like other members of the press. Many ambitious student reporters succeed in securing interviews with society leadership and prominent invited speakers on such occasions.

SPS Travel Awards
A limited number of grants, on the order of $200 each, are offered to help fund SPS members' travel to national meetings of AIP Member Societies holding a "SPS Session" co-organized by SPS and the Member Society.

 [an error occurred while processing this directive]