SPS Zone 4 Meeting

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SPS Zone Meeting

March 31, 2023 to April 1, 2023

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


Darren Upton, Shrinidhi Nadgouda, Tristen Lowrey

SPS Chapter:

SPS Zone 4 Meeting Report


In last year’s report, we made note of our efforts to host the zone meeting, and thanks to the tireless efforts of the executive officers, especially 2022-23 vice president Darren Upton, we were successful.  From Friday, March 31, 2023 to Saturday, April 1, 2023, the UVA Physics Department hosted an SPS Zone 4 Meeting, where we hosted students from schools such as George Mason University and The College of William & Mary, and Randolph College. The itinerary from our zone meeting included a Breakfast Social, opening remarks from our 2022-23 President Philip Velie and Zone Councilor/Assistant Zone Councilor, UVA Chair Address, Chapter Showcase, Nationals Presentation, Catered Lunch, Group Talk, Poster Session, Women in Physics & Math Panel, and Closing Remarks.  


From Friday, March 31, 2023 to Saturday, April 1, 2023, the UVA SPS chapter hosted an SPS Zone 4 Meeting, where we hosted students from schools such as George Mason University, The College of William & Mary, and Randolph College. All events were held on Grounds. We had approximately 15-20 total attendees from across all schools.

On Friday before the Zone Meeting, we had Prof. Christopher Jarzynski (University of Maryland) give a talk on "Scaling Down the Laws of Thermodynamics’. As part of our typical weekly meeting format, he gave a scaled-down version of his colloquium lecture to us at an undergraduate level. With above average attendance, we were treated to his chalkboard lecture on thermodynamics with an emphasis on how they scale into the quantum level. Several students attending the zone meeting came to this talk.

Saturday morning came, and we had members from more than five other chapters in attendance. We welcomed them with a breakfast social. Then our associate chair, Prof. Peter Arnold, welcomed everyone to the UVA Physics Department with encouraging words and memories from his time as an undergraduate We started the day with an informal Chapter Showcase, where each chapter was encouraged to speak about their SPS programs. We placed particular emphasis on outreach efforts, for which Randolph College impressed the room with their school’s STEM Fair which draws hundreds of families. We heard about JMU and GMU’s efforts to revive their chapters after becoming more or less dormant during COVID times. During these discussions, everyone gained insight from the creativity and experience of the impressive activities and events of each chapter. We held a card/board games session where everyone formed groups playing Uno, Chess, and other games brought by visiting chapters. This allowed us to form connections, while having some good-hearted competition.

After our intro activities, we held a catered lunch from a local sandwich shop while continuing to chat about our departments and experiences at PhysCon. After lunch, we took our visitors on a tour of the historic UVA Grounds. Many of our attendees commented on architectural similarities and differences between their institutions and UVA, but this provided a good breath of fresh air to everyone. After the tour, Prof Craig Group gave a talk on “Careers in Physics”. He showed statistics from the AIP on careers of people holding various degrees in physics. Prof. Group highlighted the limited number of faculty positions at universities, emphasizing that many people with all levels of degrees in physics find fulfillment whether conducting research in industry or moving to a career outside of STEM. We held a fruitful discussion of the realities of careers in Academia, and how the value of problem solving skills learned from a background in physics is highly sought after by industry. We followed this up with our poster session, where members from many of our SPS chapters presented their research and extracurricular projects. We had everything from posters on experimental atomic physics, to impromptu chalkboard lectures on detectors in nuclear physics, and even a home-built telescope from GMU. To finish off the day, we held a Physics Kahoot session.


Hosting a zone meeting was a goal of our chapter’s for a few years. Before Spring Break of 2020, our chapter was in the midst of planning to host the Zone Four Meeting to bring SPS chapters from Virginia and Maryland together to strengthen our connection. Given that didn’t happen, our 2022-2023 executive board decided to follow through with our predecessor's plans. We wanted to bring together our “local” community of chapters to share ideas and experiences to build up our chapters.

It was definitely an extremely fulfilling experience to meet physics students from other universities and colleges in Virginia, and spending the weekend exchanging ideas and thoughts. We are extremely grateful for all of the attendees we had from various chapters, and found it extremely mutually beneficial to host this zone meeting as an event for academic growth for all.

Future Improvements

The main issues we had related to the zone meeting were responses from chapters, and appropriate planning for housing. Due to delays in planning, we were not able to find extremely affordable and adequate housing for attendees, which may have deterred potential attendees. We also emailed many SPS chapters across our zone, as our has many colleges and universities (CNU, ODU, Virginia Tech, JMU, UMW, W&L, etc), but did not receive many guaranteed responses. In the future, the zone meeting could go better if it is planned a year to eight months in advance, and housing and guest logistics are planned more smoothly and attendees are assured that everything has been planned appropriately.


We would like to acknowledge the UVA Physics Department for their support and faculty assistance.


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