SPS Zone 6 Meeting

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SPS Zone Meeting

March 10, 2023 to March 11, 2023

Lakeland, FL

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


Matthew Klink

SPS Chapter:


Friday, March 10th


Chapter Showcase & Poster Presentations

12:00 PM


5:00 PM

Lunch from Hibachi Express

1:00 PM

Congregate for First Session

6:45 PM

Campus Tour

3:30 PM

Dinner & Cross-Chapter Discussion

7:00 PM

Talk by Dr. Stephanie Eckert

4:00 PM

Board Games & Free Time

8:00 PM to

9:30 PM

Workshop Two - Industry Career Panel

5:00 PM



Workshop Three - Career Talk

5:45 PM

Saturday, March 11th


Banquet Dinner w/Guest Speakers Dr. Tom Dvorske & Prof. Mel Blake

6:15 PM

Registration & Breakfast

8:00 AM

Free Time (w/Optional Activities)

8:15 PM

Talk & Round-Table Discussion w/Dr. Willie Rockward

9:00 AM

Telescope Observations

8:15 PM

Talk from Mr. Matthew Klink

10:00 AM

Free Hangout Night

9:30 PM

Group Photo & Break

10:30 AM



Workshop One - Grad School Panel

11:00 AM



Break (w/ Optional Activities)

12:00 PM



Chapters Represented

  • Florida International University
  • Florida Polytechnic University
  • Florida State University
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Florida
  • University of North Alabama

Total Number of Attendees: ~25 Attendees

Zone Meeting Narrative

After over ten hours of driving, a coffee and a red bull, some Whataburger and too many podcasts for one man, I had finally made it to Lakeland, Florida. It was a long drive from Alabama, but despite the extended trip I was still going strong upon reaching my AirBnB, eager to meet new faces the next day. I went to sleep excited for what the meeting would bring.

The next day I drove to the Florida Polytechnic campus, wrapping around the long, ovular driveway and gawking at the beauty of the campus. I had actually made it. It would only be a matter of time before the meeting would commence with pizza, icebreakers, boardgames, and… Oh no. I forgot to bring the board games for the opening night.

I turned around immediately upon reaching the campus and went back to grab the board games from my AirBnB, driving the 15 minutes there and 15 minutes back once more. Ultimately the mistake was remedied, and our guests were able to play them together and just have a good night unwinding, getting to know each other over a game of uno. The intended impact was a success.

In a meeting a few months before the conference, Sesha and I discussed the possibility of adopting a theme for the zone meeting. Something that would leave an impact unusual for conferences focused on Physics. Forgetting the board games was a small mistake but it highlighted the theme of the weekend. Humans make mistakes. Humans are about connection. Humans are different and bring unique perspectives, ideas and passions to the table. Sesha and I ultimately agreed that we wanted to explore the human side of physics in every way possible, and as such we decided to adopt the theme, “Physics is Human.”

Our first event of this theme was mentioned above, the board game night. We wanted to give people an opportunity to bond with people outside of their chapter, an issue that some of us had seen at some other conferences. This would allow the weekend to feel more intimate while also allowing students to partially grasp the far-reaching scale of SPS and physics as a whole. This goal was ultimately achieved with great success, carrying over into the next day and breathing some extra life into the meeting.

The following day was our biggest of the conference, packed with many events and activities. The morning started with my talk, where I presented on “Expressing Identity in Physics.” This encapsulated the topic of identity in all forms, how to express that identity, and what we can do as people to respect others who want to do that or may have trouble doing that. Though I might be a little biased, I feel like this topic also helped bring some unity to the body of physicists at our meeting. We had a diverse cast of people present but that didn’t stop them from wanting to hang out with one another.

Following my talk we had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Willie Rockward, a previous Zonce Councilor for Zone 6. He didn’t have a lot to say about his research or anything like that, but rather just stood up and was himself in front of us. He was unashamed of his identity and was incredibly personable, making us laugh more often than not. It was refreshing to hear from someone just being themselves.

Later on we took a break for lunch, ordering food and eating together while simply conversing. It was a great time to get to know people more than we had the night previous. Following lunch we had carved out a few hours of free time with optional events like a campus tour, but wanted to give people the option of taking a break to do whatever they like. This break time was taken by people to instead spend more time together, playing board games once again, laughing and bonding. It was exciting to see people so happy and enthusiastic about meeting others.

In the evening we had Dr. Willie Rockward speak once again, this time highlighting his career path and how it didn’t conform to any rigid structure, but rather followed his passions and what he truly desired in life. We also had the chance to hear from Dr. Mel Blake from the University of North Alabama, who spoke on the history of influential women in physics. This was a topic that I was particularly excited about. While I had focused broadly on identity in physics, Dr. Mel Blake was able to explore something similar while also sharing the history of the field we all know and love. It was a talk that really brought the theme together and gave it some depth.

This talk concluded our official schedule for Saturday, upon which time we had an unofficial hangout time for the rest of the night. We had planned a bad physics movie along with yet again more board games, the latter of which people were much more excited by. We played uno among other games late into the night until we had to leave the building, upon which time those of us remaining walked around the campus for a bit. The day concluded with everyone parting ways, heading home to rest for the trip ahead of them the following day.

Sunday we had organized an optional trip to Cape Canaveral if enough students expressed interest, though it unfortunately didn’t end up happening. What was exciting however was seeing students from different chapters coordinating to meet up for breakfast/lunch before their drive home. This wasn’t even something in the schedule, but something done entirely independently of the conference. It really made us feel like the weekend succeeded at conveying and instilling the theme.

These weren’t the only activities of course. Among the other events over the weekend, Dr. Sesha Srinivasan gave a career mentoring session, we hosted grad school & industry career panels, and Dr. Stephanie Eckert spoke on Saturn’s rings. The conference was still assuredly about physics and equipping students to succeed professionally and academically, but we wanted that success to also apply to their personal lives as best as possible.

I was sad to leave Lakeland, though it wasn’t because of the astronomical number of lakes. It was the people that I was going to miss. There were definitely mistakes made and lessons learned over the weekend, most of them harmless like forgetting the board games. However the mistakes fade away for us when we see the impact that we were actually able to make on the people attending. I feel confident in saying that our guests were able to leave this meeting having gained something different from most other conferences, knowing that it may be physics that connects us, but that it is humans who are connecting with humans.