A Lesson Learned

Share This:

My invaluable experiences at the 2015 American Physical Society (APS) April Meeting

American Physical Society April Meeting

April 11, 2015 to April 14, 2015

Baltimore, Maryland

Meeting host:

American Physical Society


Kevin Vargas-Velez

SPS Chapter:

Undergraduates at a Future of Physics Days event at the 2015 APS April Meeting. Photo courtesy of the American Physical Society.

After arriving at the APS April Meeting, I took a seat at the back of a large conference room. I had my ID badge, my press pass, and a cup of coffee. I was ready to be amazed.

The first plenary session did not disappoint. The presenters, collaborators on the IceCube experiment, were excited to present their results.

As I watched them, I thought about the help that professors, universities, and funding organizations provide to undergraduates and how important it is to support undergraduate research.

Later, at an event called “Lunch with the Grads,” other presenters gave us students important advice about graduate school. They told us what to do and what not to do, how to manage our time, and why it’s important to maintain a balance between your studies and your personal lives. I was surprised when they recommended that we focus on choosing an advisor that we could establish a good relationship with instead of aiming for a “cool” project. As Crystal Bailey, careers program manager at APS, said, “It could make the difference between graduating or not.”

It was also great to attend the undergraduate poster sessions and learn about experiences students had while doing research—all the difficulties that arose and the creative solutions that allowed experiments to continue. Before coming to the meeting, I thought that I would be seeing only projects related to fields in theoretical physics. That was not the case. As I walked through the posters, I saw results from one experiment that performed X-ray diffraction on a nanomaterial and another that involved an electrodynamic wheel. I was awestruck.

I realized that I, too, could have applied and maybe presented results from the experiments I do at my university. I remembered that one of my professors, Dr. Eric Roura, had encouraged me to apply for a poster presentation. The lesson was learned. If you are not sure about something, ask. Apply to every opportunity, even if the chances are low. Taking a risk makes a positive answer possible.

The APS April Meeting was a great experience. I learned a lot of theoretical physics related to topics such as quantum gravity, gravitational wave detection, the cosmic microwave background, and dark matter. Also, I got good advice about graduate school and getting a job in industry. You, too, can learn a lot from these conferences. If you are wondering if you should attend one of these meetings, I tell you, “Go!” You will not regret it. //

Next up

The next APS April Meeting will be April 16–19, 2016, in Salt Lake City, UT. For more information watch www.aps.org/meetings/meeting.cfm?name=APR16.

Areas of Alignment: Career Resources: Scientific Categories: