Welcome to Wyoming

Zone Meeting Reports

Welcome to Wyoming

Ryan Parziale, SPS Chapter Secretary, University of Wyoming

Attendees at the 2019 Zone 14 Meeting hosted by the University of Wyoming. Photo courtesy of Aman Kar.It has been over four years since the Zone 14 meeting has been held in Wyoming, so with the regional student and faculty representative to the SPS National Council both from the University of Wyoming (UWYO) in 2018–19, we thought it was time to bring it back. Our physics department is small, but along with our SPS chapter, it has been growing and doing more events. Hosting the zone meeting seemed to be a good way to get our chapter to be even more active.

Speakers were the highlight of the meeting, providing insights into research, outreach, and careers. Will Chick, a current UWYO graduate student in astronomy, opened the talks by sharing the features of UWYO’s 2.3-meter observatory, WIRO. Since the university owns the telescope, all of the observing time is devoted to students, giving undergraduates time to observe. It is one of my favorite aspects of UWYO, and it was exciting to share that with the visiting students.

Next, Dr. Randall Tagg of University of Colorado Denver presented his talk, “Physics, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship”. This engaging and interactive presentation provided a “toolbox” of different skills used in physics and explored how those skills apply to different areas of study. We were encouraged to think creatively and practically to solve a problem or meet a need. My favorite idea was to break down rocks and minerals on other planets into oxygen to use for the future of space exploration. This presentation was a sneak peek of the full presentation that Tagg will give at PhysCon 2019!

The last speaker was Kerry Kidwell-Slak from the SPS National Office. She walked us through the Careers Toolbox to illustrate the different career paths a student with a bachelor’s in physics could take. As a senior, this presentation was especially relevant to me. It may seem that career options are narrow and limited to only physics or astronomy, but there is a world of options available to a student with a physics degree.

To make the weekend truly unique, attendees were also able to tour our labs, the 3D cave, the science kitchen, and the geology museum. The science kitchen was a great way to show the type of outreach done in our department. This is where K-12 students and teachers get to investigate scientific ideas through experiments and hands-on exploration. The 3D cave is one of the lesser known attractions on the campus but also one of the more interesting ones. In the 3D cave, researchers use virtual environments to analyze spatially related data, providing invaluable insights into complex problems.

Overall, the Zone 14 Chapter Meeting was a success. While we were expecting a larger turnout, the weather prevented many students from being able to attend. However, we were able to learn valuable lessons about streaming presentations and fostering connections, and we brainstormed ways to make the next zone meeting even better. This was a great opportunity for UWYO, and we look forward to continuing to contribute to the zone and the national organization in the future.