Die Physiker ("The Physicists") in Heidelberg

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Presenting at the 29th International Conference of Physics Students in Heidelberg, Germany, August 10–17, 2014

International Conference of Physics Students

August 10, 2014 to August 17, 2014

Heidelberg, Germany


Helen Meskhidze

SPS Chapter:

The view from the castle of Heidelberg. Photo by Helen Meskhidze.

The opening ceremony of the 29th International Conference of Physics Students (ICPS) took place inside a castle. Hundreds of students from all around the world had gathered for this conference. We were each given a physics-related card depicting anything and anyone from Newton to a spiral galaxy. Our task was to find our match in the crowd and claim our prize. It was a great way to start a conversation; my card partner and I (who found each other nearly instantly) really enjoyed our small prize of German gummy bears.

The first of many guest lecturers was Metin Tolan of the Technical University of Dortmund, who discussed the physics behind James Bond films—the accuracy of Bond's free falls, the possibility of Bond watches, and Bond's questionable use of women as mirrors. His lecture was a hit with the young, eager, excited physics students in the audience. Other lectures I enjoyed covered the Higgs boson, simulations of the Milky Way on a supercomputer, and an astronaut's experiments in space.

I presented my own research on gamma-ray bursts (see “Modeling the Composition and Emissions of Gamma-Ray Burst Jet Cocoons”) at the student poster session, which was a great opportunity to discuss research with others in similar fields and learn about concepts I had never encountered before. A student from Finland doing galaxy merger research talked with me about computational astrophysics. A fellow American described the construction of a transmission electron microscope in his lab.

While in Heidelberg, I visited the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology as well as the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. The main building of the astronomy institute was shaped like a spiral galaxy! The conference also featured a slew of cultural events, including a costume party, an evening in which delegates shared foods from their home countries, and a performance by Die Physikanten, a German group known for hilarious presentations of spectacular experiments. The audience couldn’t stop laughing!

“Meet people, do physics, exchange knowledge” was the motto of the conference. It truly lived up to that motto and proved to be an experience I will not forget. The physics presented at the conference was interesting, the lecturers were great, and the cultural experiences were phenomenal. //

More Information

Helen Meskhidze received an all-expenses-paid trip to ICPS as a winner of the 2014 SPS Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research, along with fellow winner Zoey Warecki of Towson University in Maryland. You can read their full meeting reports online at www.spsnational.org/programs/awards/2014/OSA/index.htm. Interested in applying for the 2015 SPS Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research? Visit www.spsnational.org/programs/awards/student.htm; applications are due March 15, 2015.

The next ICPS will take place August 12–19, 2015, in Zagreb, Croatia. For more information see http://icps2015.unizg.hr/en/. All physics students are invited; you do not have to win the SPS Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research to attend!

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