Attending an APS March Meeting

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American Physical Society March Meeting

March 18, 2013 to March 22, 2013

Baltimore, Maryland

Meeting host:

American Physical Society


Shouvik Bhattacharya

SPS Chapter:

SPS Reporter Shouvik Bhattacharya with his poster at the APS March Meeting. Photo by Tracy Schwab

I joined the American Physical Society (APS) back in January 2009, in my freshman year of college. Since then I have wondered what it feels to attend an APS Annual March Meeting, which is the largest gathering of condensed mater physicists in North America. This year, I had the opportunity to present my senior year project about an SX Phoenicis star, XX Cyg, at this meeting. In addition, I attended two press conference sessions as a reporter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS). I also had a chance to meet with officials of the Society of Physics Students, American Institute of Physics and American Physical Society.

The March Meeting started on Sunday, March 17th when I attended a career workshop for students arranged by Crystal Bailey from APS and given by Peter Fiske. Last summer I was an SPS Intern for the American Institute of Physics (AIP) Career Pathways project and read Peter Fiske’s book Put Your Science to Work then. His career session at the meeting helped students see that there are many other career options available to them outside the realm of academia and research labs. Proper preparation can enable a physicist to compete with someone with an MBA or a law degree for some of these types of jobs. I think that the workshop was very useful because it taught physicists how to pursue nontraditional careers.

On Monday I attended a press conference, “Quantum Communication and Cryptography”. I spent about an hour preparing and was thrilled by the session. Dr. Fabio Sciarrino of Sapienza Universita di Roma and Dr. Thomas Vidick from MIT presented their research on the very new and emerging field of quantum computing. I was impressed to see how quickly and precisely the scientists presented complex topics to the reporters.

I also attended an undergraduate research session sponsored by the Society of Physics Students.  The talks were focused mainly on condensed matter physics. I am personally inclined to astrophysics and astronomical instrumentation, but I enjoyed all of them. I think it is a great opportunity for undergraduate students to come and present their research at a meeting like APS. There were two other undergraduate research sessions on Monday.

Later in the evening, I went to the undergraduate reception where four guests talked about using physics in nontraditional physics careers. For example, there are physicists who help policy makers decide whether a project is worth investing in.

I attended another press conference on Tuesday, “Fracking: Science, Environment and Economy”. This session was very intriguing, as I learned a little about what scientists and a committee of the National Research Council think about the consequences of fracking.

Later in the afternoon, I presented my poster. It was the most exciting part of the meeting. I checked out a few of the posters by other students and they checked out mine. Visitors to my poster asked me some good questions. I was glad to present my work to so many supportive peers, especially a lady who flew from the United Arab Emirates to attend this meeting. I told her that physics made it possible to bring scientists and students from the different corners of the world together to share their research.

Students who are interested in attending an APS meeting are advised to prepare an itinerary before coming. The APS meeting can be an overwhelming experience so, the more you prepare the better you can make use of your time. Also, consider applying for an SPS Reporter Award. Through this opportunity I saw how scientists can share their research findings quickly and efficiently without losing the scientific value of their work.

Areas of Alignment: Career Resources: Scientific Categories:

(Left to right) Dr. O’Sullivan, Dr. Jackson and Dr. Hitzman at the press conference on fracking. Photo by Shouvik Bhattacharya

Dr. Vidick and Dr. Sciarrino at the press conference on quantum communication. Photo by Shouvik Bhattacharya