SPS Zone 11 Meeting

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SPS Zone Meeting

March 1, 2024 to March 3, 2024

Minneapolis, MN

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


Ragini Suttar

SPS Chapter:

March 2024 SPS Zone 11

Meeting Report

1. Zone Meeting Agenda

Friday, March 1st - Evening, Physics and Nanotechnology Building

Check-In 5:00-7:00

Late Night N2 Ice Cream Social 7:00-7:30

Opening Remarks 7:30-8:00

Observatory Viewing 8:00-9:00 (Tate Hall)

Saturday, March 2nd - Full Day, Physics and Nanotechnology Building

Coffee + Welcome 9:00-9:45

Lab Tours 10:00-12:00

Poster Set up + Lunch (Explore campus) 12:00-2:00

Poster Session 2:00-3:00

Snack Break + Socialize 3:00-3:45

Keynote Talk - Prof. James Kakalios “The Physics of Superheroes” 4:00-5:00

Dinner and Socializing 5-6:30

Evening Activities + “Gallery of Wonders” 6:30-8

Sunday, March 3rd - Morning/Send off, Physics and Nanotechnology Building

Coffee + Networking 9:00-10:00 Closing remarks 10:00-11:00

2. Zone Meeting Attendees

The meeting had 58 attendees from the following chapters: Coe College (12), South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (9), University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (9), North Dakota State University (7), University of North Dakota (6), University of Nebraska - Lincoln (6), University of St. Thomas (5), and University of Northern Iowa (4).

3. Recommendations of Future Zone Meetings

For future zone meetings, we would recommend a greater emphasis on networking events to boost the number of inter-university communications that occur during the event. A lot of the SPS chapters remained together throughout the weekend and did not interact with members of other chapters as much as we had hoped to.

The most successful part of our meeting was having socialization events that were not explicitly physics related as this is how we saw the greatest amount of socialization between members of different SPS chapters. Our liquid nitrogen ice cream social was also a really good ice breaker activity to help people ease into the zone meeting on Friday night with something that was only very tangentially related to physics.

We noticed that other zones had done a collaborative challenge at previous meetings, we had hoped to do this at our zone, but we did not have enough time to plan it thoroughly enough so we had to quickly substitute with an exhibit type event that while cool, did not really lend itself to a lot of socialization/networking.

We thought we made a really good choice having Professor Kakalios give one of his lectures on the science of superheroes as the presentation generated a high amount of engagement and was at a level that was approachable for the majority of attendees involved, but not too trivial that the keynote was uninteresting for more experienced students at the meeting that might not have been learning a lot of physics from the lecture, but did manage to find good entertainment in Professor Kakalios’ discussion of comic books.

Another good decision we made was to keep the Sunday portion of the zone meeting rather laid back (it was just a coffee + games + networking session) as a lot of chapters had requirements either at the APS March Meeting or just had to get back home to campus for the week ahead so not having any formal meetings on Sunday offered a great deal of flexibility for the different chapters that were in attendance.



As most of the University of Minnesota closed its doors and settled down as the majority of students embarked on a week-long Spring Break, the Physics and Nanotechnology building was alive with the sounds of humor, demonstrations, and lectures on… comic books. With attendees from eight colleges and universities from the Upper Midwest, the first post-COVID SPS Zone 11 meeting was a major success for all involved, offering opportunities to learn, network, and relax.
While the weather was remarkably nice and warm as far as Minnesota weather in March can be expected to be, the Friday night opening meeting kicked off to a rather freezing cold start with a liquid nitrogen ice cream social. Participants saw ice cream be made before their eyes through the magic of cryogenics as heavy cream, half and half, and granulated sugar combined with liquid nitrogen to form only what I can only assume to be the finest homemade ice cream offered at a Zone 11 meeting 
in history. Continuing with the theme of dairy-related physics content (we are massive fans of our SPS Spherical Cow overlords here at UMN), the director of the zone meeting, Christopher Ulate, gave a standup monologue consisting of a punch line relating condensed milk to his research in condensed matter. The segment, which was cleverly dubbed “Friday Saturday Night Live: Physics Addition” was a huge hit with audiences who surely often found themselves making milk-related analogies between their physics research and their everyday lives.
After all of the attendees had been properly welcomed to Minneapolis, had their bellies full of liquid nitrogen ice cream, and had a chuckle or two thanks to Christopher, the group made the two block walk to John T. Tate Hall: the other physics department building at UMN and the home of a historic observatory that offers Friday night stargazing. To the delight of all in attendance (as well as to the great relief of the organizers), the sky was clear and attendees were able to 
observe Jupiter using a historical refracting telescope! A special thanks to the observatory team who were able to accommodate our group for the Friday session.
With Friday in the books, the focus shifted ahead towards Saturday, which served as the main day of the event. To kick the day off with some much needed caffeine, the group socialized over the offerings of local business Caribou Coffee (fun fact: Minnesota is the only state where neither Dunkin’ nor Starbucks is the most popular brand of coffee) and we had the opportunity to welcome a couple of stragglers who weren’t able to make it to the Twin Cities for the Friday night proceedings.
After letting everyone collect their bearings and rejuvenate themselves through the power of caffeine, we got the actual physics content of the day kicked off with some rapid fire lab tours. Attendees were split up into 3 groups and had the opportunity to visit Vlad Pribiag’s quantum transport lab, Dan Dahlberg’s magnetic microscopy lab, Alexander McLeod’s opto-electronics lab, Lindsay Glesner’s small satellite research lab, and the Minnesota Nano Center cleanroom to get an insight into the pioneering research at the University of Minnesota. The SPS students, who no doubt offered tired PIs and graduate students who had been tirelessly preparing for the coming week’s APS March Meeting in Downtown Minneapolis, were praised for asking really great questions and dedicating their entire weekend to learning more about the different types of physics research being conducted at UMN.
Following lab tours, the group broke for a lunch break and had an opportunity to explore the campus while those individuals presenting during the zone meeting poster session were able to get their posters setup, offering many attendees a sneak preview of research that would be presented at APS March Meeting in the following week. After regrouping from lunch, the poster session commenced and attendees had the opportunity to learn about various topics such as the physics of nanocellulose fibers and the development of x-ray detection satellites that will one day be launched into space. Upon the poster session’s conclusion–post-poster session, if you will–it was time for the hotly anticipated keynote speaker: Professor Jim Kakalios talking about the science of comic book superheroes.
For those reading that have not had the privilege of attending one of Professor Kakalios’ famed talks discussing the physics of comic books (which unfortunately I would imagine is most people reading this), his lectures are unlike any other. A potent combination of insightful physics, witty humor, and an immensely deep knowledge of superheroes and their comic book origins–any talk given by Professor Kakalios is sure to not only be educational, but also quite entertaining.
During his keynote address, attendees were able to learn about the wide variety of science that comic books are able to teach. For instance, did you know that when an object approaches the speed of light (such as Barry Allen’s The Flash–or as the panel nicknamed him the “Mighty Monarch of Motion”) it tends to grow heavier? Now granted, the comic book panel in question did choose to explain this as the Flash getting hit with a gravity-increasing gun, but still, at least getting the results right ain’t half bad.
After a really insightful Q&A with Professor Kakalios during which he talked about his time working on The Amazing Spider-Man as a scientific consultant, the attendees visited the SPS club room where the hosts threw a pizza party. Participants were able to socialize and network while partaking in several of the board games that have become pastimes of the UMN SPS chapter including Codenames (which may or may not have been the only thing keeping SPS going during the dark days of the 
pandemic) and One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
As the night winded down, so did the zone meeting as a whole. Many schools had to depart Saturday night in order to get back to their respective campuses in a timely manner while others began preparing materials for the imminent APS March meeting. Sunday morning was the setting for one final coffee and networking event from which the participants bid adieu knowing that while this may have been the first post-COVID Zone 11 meeting, it certainly would not be
the last.

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