Physicists in the City of Angels

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American Physical Society March Meeting

March 5, 2018

Los Angeles, California

Meeting host:

American Physical Society


Kami Malestein

SPS Chapter:

Lights…Camera…Action!!!  Hollywood’s finest were not the only ones taking over the City of Angels on March 4th, physicists from all around the world met at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the APS March Meeting.  

Hi, I’m Kami, retired United States Air Force and working on my second bachelor’s degree in physics, with minors in Astronomy, History, and Political Science, but enough about me.

It all started when 12 undergraduates from the University of South Florida landed at Los Angeles International Airport on a beautiful sunny Sunday. Our Chapter was excited to be here as we had two speakers as well as poster presenters, we were all there for moral support. My excitement level for the APS meeting was through the roof, but Los Angeles was a city I lived in for three and a half years, so it was almost like coming home to me. After checking into the AirBnB, food and exploration was the game plan. I went and checked in for the conference, as it was that time and I wanted to beat the potential of long lines, then I met others at Santa Monica Pier.  After frolicking at the pier, it was time to go back, set settled and rest up for the week ahead.

Monday came around and after the hustle and bustle of 12 people getting ready, we were ready to start the week.  My conference day started with walking around the conference area getting to know the layout.

My first conference was by Hariharan Srikanth who spoke about Magnetic Particles and Biomedical Applications. This interested me as I do undergraduate research with ferromagnetic materials and it is interesting to see how many applications they can be applied to.  His research discussed using nanoparticles to help with hyperthermia. There are many reasons that magnetic nanoparticles are important in biomedical application research today. These reasons are such that:

  1. They are small enough to interact with cells, genes, etc.
  2. They can be non-invasively manipulated by an external magnetic field.
  3. They are easy to synthesize and functionalize.
  4. They can be effectively used for both diagnosis and treatment. 

To use magnetic nanoparticles to assist with hypothermia, you would insert the magnetic nanoparticles into the subject and then heat the nanoparticles to 40-45°C with a magnetic field which would then quickly heat the damaged cells.  This application could also help with the deterioration of cancer cells.

Later that day was the Building Your Undergraduate Physics Career workshop, I attended the course with one of my fellow roommates.  Pizza and salad was enjoyed by all while we learned about the physics job market and how to successfully transition into physics careers with bachelor’s degrees. We were given statistics on those who hold BS degrees, MS degrees, and PhD degrees, which was nice to know that you can get a job with a Bachelor of Science. They also gave us a list of jobs that you could get with a BS, which was a lot more than what I thought it was going to be, aside from teaching High School. You can work alongside engineers and computer science techs in the private sector as well as being a technician and assisting users in a national lab or government position.

We then learned about the three-step process for resume writing and the differences between resumes and a curriculum vitae (CV).  Those consisted of understanding the skills the job requires, assessing yourself honestly if you have those skills and whether you are genuinely interested in building those skills, and finally, connecting the dots in your resume by focusing on those skills, not the labels.  The major differences between resume’s and CV’s are that resumes are only no longer than one page, they are not interchangeable, and you will need a unique resume for each position that you are applying to.

Another aspect that was discussed was the layout of the resume. The header was to include your name and address, then your work experience, for example data acquisition experience, algorithm design experience, leadership experience, education, then leadership/service, teaching experience, etc. Those are the most important topics that employers want to see. Finally, we learned that the APS website has a lot of good information and resources that you can use to find careers webinars via the APS Online Professional Guidebook.  On the APS Careers website, you can find a library of Physicists profiles, Job Prospects pages, Physics Employment and Salary Information, and APS Webinars Archive.

The end of the day culminated into the Welcome Reception where it seemed a good time was had by all. The quality and number of vendors were phenomenal, and the variety of equipment was overwhelming. I wanted to buy it all.  I could have spent way too much money on all the books that were available for purchase. A few vendors made giveaways a little more fun by making you play games, that was fun, although the lines could get long for those. Overall it was a great reception and I couldn’t wait for the rest of the conference.

Frank Schooner, an undergraduate presenting his research, was another presentation. His research topic was “Exchange Bias of Py-Based Ferromagnetic Multilayers Compared To Their Alloy”. What he was trying to do was measure the exchange bias and coercive field of an alloy of two ferromagnets against multilayers which have the same volume average magnetization and total thickness. An exchange bias is when there is a shift in the hysteresis loop often when an antiferromagnet is introduced. Hysteresis loops occur when you measure the magnetic flux of a ferromagnetic material while the magnetizing force is changed. His method of data acquisition was to use a photodetector to measure the intensity of a laser reflected off of the sample.  This will cause a change due to the transverse Magneto-Optic Kerr Effect (MOKE). The transverse MOKE is important as the polarized light reflects off a magnetized surface, altering its reflection coefficient thus its intensity.  The result was that the exchange bias is unchanged whether the ferromagnetic layer is homogeneous or multilayered.

I also had the chance to talk to, Frank Schooner, who is a Senior at Rochester Institute of Technology.  He is currently majoring in Physics and minoring in Mathematics. I had asked him if this was his first time to Los Angeles and his response was “technically no, however this is my first extended trip to LA.”.

Since it was his first extended trip, of course I had to ask if he did any sightseeing.

I “went to Little Tokyo, Griffith’s Observatory, and Santa Monica Pier while there.”

Q. What or whom got you interested in pursing Physics?

His reply was “always wanted to be a scientist growing up and I was always good at math so it seemed like a perfect fit.” Frank also looked up to “Maxwell because he was able to plot spherical harmonics by hand about 100 years before anyone else an inkling of what they looked like.”

Q. I also asked him what made him decide to present his research at the conference and

his explanation was that “giving a presentation is part of my senior thesis project, so an oral presentation of the research I’ve done is good practice for that.”

Q. And of course, the typical question, was he nervous? 

“Isn’t everyone? I could have practiced the presentation 50 times and I’d still get nervous.”

Q. Because I have an interest in ferromagnetic materials, I asked him how he enjoyed working with them.

“It’s fun, I like their properties.”

Q. How much time, per week, do you put in for your research?

“Between 15 and 20 hours normally, when crunch time rolls around I crank that up to about 25”.

Q. I know when I first started working with ferromagnetic materials, I had to do a lot of outside reading, did you have to utilize a lot of outside resources to understand what was being asked of you?

Frank responded, “The vast majority of the information about my research is gained from discussions with my advisor.”

Q. What were some challenges you faced with this research?

His reply was “Everything broke about a week before March Meeting and the sputtering system has been down for almost four months so no new samples can be made.”

Q. Are you working on any other research projects?


Q. And finally, what are your plans after you graduate?

“Attend Grad School, I’m trying to figure out where to go as of right now.”

And my finally question to Frank was what does he hope his research will contribute to in the future and his response was “Definitely.”