SPS Zone 5 Meeting

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SPS Zone Meeting

February 24, 2024

Chapel Hill, NC

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


Em Chittenden

SPS Chapter:




9:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Arrival/Check-In with bagels

Phillips Hall 335

10:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Introduction and Icebreaker

Phillips Hall 335

10:30 AM - 11:00 AM

Inclusivity/Imposter Syndrome Workshop

Phillips Hall 335

11:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Physics Pictionary

Phillips Hall 335

11:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Chapter Workshop

Phillips Hall 335

12:00 PM - 12:45 PM

Lunch (Mediterranean Deli) and Grad Panel

Phillips Hall 335

12:45 PM - 1:45 PM

Speaker (Dr. Erickcek from UNC-CH)

Phillips Hall 335

1:45 PM - 2:00 PM


Phillips Hall 335

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Poster Session

Phillips Hall 335

3:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Physics Trivia

Phillips Hall 335

3:30 PM - 4:00 PM

Closing Remarks and Departure (to Planetarium)

Phillips Hall 335

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Arrive at Planetarium

Morehead Planetarium

4:30 PM - 5:30 PM

Planetarium Show

Morehead Planetarium


  • Approximately 50 attendees from 7 chapters
  • Chapters represented: Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Davidson College, Duke University, NC State University, University of North Carolina at Asheville, and Wake Forest University

Ideas for Future Meetings

e Zone MeetingsThis zone meeting had clear strengths in its focus on diversity and inclusion, offering multiple opportunities for attendees to express their thoughts and feelings on issues like imposter syndrome and minority underrepresentation. Future zone meetings should hone on this equally if not more, giving ample space for young students entering their careers to freely express feelings of doubt and create community through vulnerability. Workshops like Physics Charades and round-table discussions of the aforementioned issues encourage attendees to bond with others and potentially feel less isolated in a challenging field. Similar activities should be practiced in future zone meetings. It is important, also, to ensure all future zone meetings are properly stocked with dietary-needs-friendly food and beverage for attendees to stay hydrated and satiated during the day. It may be worthwhile to consider having multiple guest speakers at future meetings to offer a variety of professional research perspectives. If weather permits and forecast is trustworthy, activities held outside or in nature, such as demonstrations or engaging games, might afford attendees the opportunity to see physics in daily life. Activities towards the end of the meeting that allow attendees, especially from non-hosting universities, to explore the hosting campus are additionally engaging and rewarding for students. In general, activities that provide ample disability-accessible, inclusive intellectual and physical engagement are highly recommended for future meetings.


It was a crisp Saturday morning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The organizing committee of the 2024 Society of Physics Students (SPS) Zone 5 Meeting - led by Em Chittenden - trickled into Phillips Hall by 8 45 AM. After last year’s exciting meeting at the neighboring Duke University, expectations were high for this one. Undeterred, the UNC SPS executive board swiftly began to set up the meeting on the third floor of the physics building, with the first major task being navigating the coffee cambro through the Labyrinth that Phillips hall is. Within a half hour, they were done - just in time to welcome the attendees with bagels, cream cheese and coffee!

 The first group to arrive was the Appalachian State University cohort, which consisted of many familiar faces from the 2023 SESAPS conference, which took place in Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. As more universities joined the check in process in the corridors 

Lunch was provided by a local restaurant, Mediterranean deli. During lunch, there was a graduate student panel of three students from varying academic backgrounds. Attendees were invited to ask questions to the panel, and the conversation ranged from balancing graduate school life, to tips for applications, to choosing the right program. The panel provided practical advice, as well as just sharing personal experiences, to help encourage students with their academic paths. After the official panel was concluded, the graduate students stayed for a few more moments to talk to any students one-on-one. 

After everyone finished eating lunch, it was time for the keynote speaker, Adrienne Erickcek. Dr Erickcek is a professor at UNC, whose research focuses on cosmology. Many of the UNC students had taken a class or two taught by Dr Erickcek, and were familiar with her engaging teaching style, thus the decision to request her to speak. Dr Erickcek didn’t disappoint at the zone meeting, providing a captivating lecture on cosmology's current understanding of the universe. The lecture was simple enough that everyone could easily follow along, but still intriguing and engaging enough that the audience asked questions for almost 20 minutes afterwards. 

After the talk and Q&A session had concluded, attendees were encouraged to take a short break while the room was prepared for the poster session. During the poster session, students who weren’t presenting were able to wander around the room, looking at content from a wide range of physics topics. Presenters gave short descriptions of their work and answered lots of questions from the viewers. For some presenters, this was one of many poster presentations under their belt, but for others this was their first time presenting at a poster session. This activity was also an excellent chance for the attendees from different schools to mix with each other, hearing about research going on at other universities opened the door for conversations about different academic experiences in general.

Following the poster session, the next activity was a game of physics trivia. The room was divided into multiple teams, and an incentive of candy was provided to motivate the competition. The game consisted of some easy questions that were quick to be answered by a plethora of hands, as well as harder questions that kept even the smartest of minds stumped while they collaborated with each other to deduce the answer. At the end, the members of the winning team were all provided with some candy, as well as some cool SPS merch to take home. 

Once trivia had wrapped up, it was time for the closing remarks. The closing remarks included information about SPS scholarships and other opportunities provided by SPS national, as well as some shameless plugging of all the great benefits that came with being an SPS member.  

Finally, it was time for the last activity, a show at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Attendees who wished to see the show were provided a discount price, and all who were going walked over together, enjoying the UNC campus as they made their way to the planetarium. The show was one of only 2 live shows offered by the planetarium, Carolina Skies, an in-depth show exploring seasonal constellations and deep sky objects, that concludes with a virtual trip to the edge of the observable universe. After the show was over, everyone said their final goodbyes and parted ways.

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