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A Glimpse into the World of Physics Teachers

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The 2010 AAPT Summer Meeting, July 17-21, Portland, OR
by SPS intern Foha Rafiq, University of Denver


SPS Intern Foha Rafiq presenting her poster on Physics to Go, an online magazine for physics enthusiasts.


Being part of the SPS internship program came with many added bonuses. As I am one of the “outreach interns” I was able to attend the 2010 Summer Meeting of AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers) in Portland, Oregon.

AAPT has been organizing such conferences for many years, holding annual winter and summer meetings in different cities around the country. These conferences are mainly for people who are teaching physics at the high school or university level, or who are interested in teaching physics. The conference includes sessions on topics related to physics, mostly on physics teaching and informal education. Throughout the week there are workshops and other opportunities to learn techniques to help make physics classrooms fun. The meeting is not just about learning and attending sessions, it gives members a chance to develop professionally and be exposed to networking opportunities.

I had never really attended a professional meeting before, except for a weekend conference that was nothing like what I experienced in Portland. Moreover, in Portland I was not just attending the conference, but also presenting my poster and the work I was doing this summer. The evening of my poster session was overwhelming, as so many people from so many different backgrounds showed interest in what I was doing. Also, I realized that everyone was very keen to learn about what an intern does and what it feels like to be part of the Society of Physics Students. People were not just interested in my work; they were also interested in knowing who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. Of course most of them thought I wanted to be a physics teacher of some sort, which I think was due to being at an AAPT meeting and working on a website that is aimed for informal education.

The next two days I spent my time attending sessions that interested me. I wanted to attend sessions that showed how physics is part of the world at large, since I was not very interested in physics teaching. I enjoyed the plenary talks, as they were on applications of physics in the world. Also there was a session on science, media and politics that I found quite intriguing. I realized that people just love blaming politicians, media personnel or researchers for the problem in the world, but in reality what those people do and how they do it is based on what the general public is interested in. Hence, until and unless the world around us changes and wants to pay attention to the problems, science, media and politics can only do so much.

The last evening of the conference I attended a young physicists meeting, which was very refreshing as there were a whole lot of people with different ideologies willing to share them with each other. A bunch of us had a very interesting conversation about having a green revolution. I believed that the world is moving very slowly to protect Mother Nature, but there were people who thought that change takes time. Some even believed that change won’t really have an effect because people are no longer serious about the issue. The discussion shifted from the energy crisis to global village policies to acknowledging that God must really exist. It was a very healthy exchange of ideas and viewpoints.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Portland and attending the conference and meeting so many brilliant minds from not just the US, but other nations as well. I would have preferred to stay a little longer to attend more sessions. If I get a chance, I might attend the winter 2011 AAPT conference in Jacksonville, FL.

Free 1-Year Membership in APS or 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).  

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.

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