First Time Flier Goes to San Antonio

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American Physical Society March Meeting

March 2, 2015 to March 6, 2015

San Antonio, TX

Meeting host:

American Physical Society


Evan van de Wall

SPS Chapter:

I was excited to attend the 2015 American Physical Society March Meeting since I had never attended a physics conference before, even though I had heard that they can be intimidating because of how large they are and how many people attend. An added bonus was getting to go to San Antonio during one of the hardest winters in New York. I do not travel much and had never been on a plane, so all together this was a new experience for me. Along with all of these reasons, I was really excited to hear about cool physics research. We have a seminar series at Ithaca College and I attend every seminar that I can. Having so many talks in one place and getting to pick and choose the talks that I would like to attend provided an opportunity that I couldn’t miss.

Ithaca College encourages students to participate in research as soon as possible, with most students starting the second semester of their freshman year. Having the opportunity to participate in research for a long period time is beneficial for undergraduates. This is why I was excited to attend the special sessions of undergraduate presentations. Getting to hear the cool research students at other institutions are participating in and how widespread the topics were was amazing. I have never given a research presentation, so hearing the different ways people present research allowed me to consider what makes for a good presentation.

Then there were poster presentations by undergraduates. The oral presentations were enjoyable to sit down and listen to, but they lacked the interaction that poster presentations make possible. The poster session provided an opportunity for me to really get in depth with a presenter about the research that was going on. Having the ability to ask students to go deeper into the meaning of their work, or to have them scale it back if I didn’t know anything about the field they were working in, was great.  It allowed me to be able to scale up or down the way the information was presented to help me understand and enjoy their work.

There was a grad school fair at the meeting and I spent a good deal of time there.  As a junior physics major I am starting to look at grad schools to attend after I graduate from Ithaca.  This was a hands on way to talk to schools about what they have to offer that was extremely helpful.  Along with getting to hear what fields of research are offered at each school, I was able to learn more about what life is like as a graduate student compared to being an undergraduate student.  Learning all of this information taught me what I want to look for in a grad school and will help me find the right place.

When I first heard I was able to go to the March meeting I was excited to be able to attend presentations in several different fields of physics. Much of this conference focused on material science. Although that is not my primary area of interest, a meeting app was incredibly helpful and enabled me to find sessions and presentations of interest.  I appreciated that the app had a schedule that I could personalize with talks that interested me, like those in the undergraduate sessions.

On Tuesday there was an undergraduate get together that was a lot of fun.  I was able to just relax and meet new other undergraduates. It provided an environment where we could talk to other people that we might not have been able to talk to during the regular conference events.

About the author

I am a junior physics major at Ithaca College. I have participated in research at Ithaca College for three years in archaeogeophysics and architectural conservation. The Ithaca College SPS chapter is very active. It consistently sends students to conferences because it feels that there is great value in going to these events and listening to talks on several different topics. Along with sending students to conferences, the Ithaca chapter host events for students and faculty, like our annual fall semester physics picnic, our bimonthly seminar series, and our annual spring physics banquet. There are also events for just students, like game nights and weekly bowling night at a local bowling alley. The Ithaca College chapter has won an outstanding chapter award for each of the past ten years.

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