SPS Zone 7 Meeting

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SPS Zone Meeting

April 12, 2024 to April 13, 2024

Flint, MI

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


Dr. Ronald Kumon

SPS Chapter:

Spring 2024 SPS Zone 7 Meeting Report


On April 12‒13, 2024, Kettering University hosted the 2024 Spring Meeting of the Society of Physics Students Zone 7 (https://sites.google.com/view/spszone7/events/2024-spring-zone-7- meeting) in conjunction with the 2024 Spring Meeting of the Eastern Great Lakes Section of the American Physical Society (EGLS-APS) and Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (https://sites.google.com/kettering.edu/egls-aps-spring24/home). The meeting was locally hosted by the Kettering University B Chapter #3541 in coordination with the Associate Zone Councilor Jacob Callebs and Zone Councilor Ronald Kumon. All events were held on the campus of Kettering University except an off-site banquet. Activities included invited speakers, SPS zone meeting kick-off event, contributed posters, banquet with keynote speaker, SPS game night, contributed oral presentations, SPS pizza lunch, and SPS field trip to a local science museum and planetarium. Over 32 undergraduate students and 1 alumnus attended the zone meeting from 13 chapters from across the zone and beyond.

Meeting Agenda

The meeting was primarily held in the Learning Commons (LC) and Academic Building (AB) at Kettering University. The agenda of the events included (SPS sponsored events are in bold):

Friday April 12

1:00‒2:00 pm:  On-site Registration (excluding banquet) [LC Owens Lobby] 2:00‒2:15 pm: Welcoming Remarks (together with EGLS) [LC Reiss Auditorium]

2:15‒3:15 pm:  EGLS APS Invited Speaker Session #1 [LC Reiss Auditorium] Prof. Na Hyun Jo, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

3:15‒3:30 pm:  Coffee Break [LC Owens Lobby]

3:30‒4:30 pm: SPS Zone 7 Kick-off Event [LC Owens Conference Room]]

This event gave students the opportunity to introduce themselves, meet fellow students from across the zone, and find out more about the Society of Physics Students. The event was hosted by Associate Zone Councilor Jacob Callebs and Zone Councilor Ron Kumon.

3:30‒4:30 pm:  EGLS APS Invited Speaker Session #2 [LC Reiss Auditorium] Prof. Alex Matos Abiague, Associate Professor, Department of Physics Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

4:30‒6:30 pm:  EGLS APS Poster Session [LC Asahi Kasei Traverse]

7:00‒9:00 pm:  EGLS APS Banquet & Keynote Speaker [Factory One] Keynote Speaker: Dr. Sean R. Wagner, Senior Researcher, Battery Electrode & Formation Manufacturing Materials & Manufacturing Systems Research Lab General Motors Corporation, Warren, Michigan

9:00‒11:00 pm: SPS Zone 7 Game Night and Social Activities [AB 2-601]

SPS Zone 7 and the Kettering University SPS chapter sponsored a fun game night and snacks!

Saturday, April 13

7:45‒8:15 am:  Registration and Light Breakfast [AB Outside of McKinnon Theater]

8:15‒9:15 am:  EGLS APS / MI-AAPT Invited Speaker Session #3 [AB McKinnon Theater] Dr. Rachel Ivie, Director of Higher Education and Grants American Association of Physics Teachers, College Park, Maryland

9:15‒9:30 am:  Coffee Break [AB Outside of McKinnon Theater]

9:30‒11:00 am:  EGLS APS / MI-AAPT Oral Presentations (parallel) [AB 3rd Floor] 11:00‒11:15 am: EGLS Chair's Remarks [AB McKinnon Theater]

11:15 am‒12:45 pm: EGLS APS Invited Speaker Session #4 [AB McKinnon Theater]

Speaker: Prof. Kathryn Svinarich, Chief of Staff, Office of the President & Associate Professor of Physics, Department of Natural Sciences Kettering University, Flint, Michigan

Speaker: Quinn Peterson, (B.S., Physics, Kettering University) Mechanical Engineer Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, Illinois

12:45 pm-1:30 pm:  SPS Zone 7 Pizza Lunch [AB 2-601]

1:30 pm-3:30 pm:  SPS Zone 7 Field Trip [Meet at AB 2-601 to car pool to venue]

Field Trip to Sloan Museum of Discovery and Longway Planetarium in Flint's Cultural District


At least 32 undergraduate students and 1 alumnus attended the meeting either in person or online. Undergraduate attendees were from 13 chapters, including Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Zone 3), Case Western Reserve University, The College of Wooster, Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Kettering University, Marietta College, Miami University, Marshall University, Michigan State University, Oakland University, Ohio Northern University, and Wayne State University.

Meeting Activities

Zone Meeting Kick-off

The SPS Zone 7 Kick-off Event started at 3:30 pm on Friday. Associate Zone Councilor Jacob Callebs (Wayne State University) and Zone Councilor Prof. Ronald Kumon (Kettering University) led the session, which was also live-streamed via Zoom. Items from a Zone Meeting Kit were distributed to participants including brochures about SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma as well as past issues of the SPS Observer, Radiations, and the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Physics and Astronomy (JURPA). After introductions of themselves and participants, Jacob and Prof. Kumon introduced the SPS National Council and staff and SPS Zone 7 Council and provided QR codes to the Zone 7 web site, YouTube channel and Discord server. They also described upcoming year-end activities including the SPS Zone 7 Logo Contest, SPS National Council elections, Sigma Pi Sigma inductions, and Chapter Reports and Awards. Next, they outline SPS awards and grants, internships, publications, outreach resources (e.g., Science Outreach Catalyst Kits [SOCKs], SPS Demonstration Library, Alumni Engagement Program, etc.), jobs and graduate school resources (e.g.., Careers Toolbox, GradSchoolShopper), and the 2025 Physics Congress. They also described the benefits of SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma membership. The kick-off event was recorded, and the video has been posted to the SPS Zone 7 YouTube channel. The slides from the presentation were also sent out to the meeting participants and posted to the zone meeting’s web page. A total of 17 students and alumni from 6 different chapters across the zone attended the kick-off, including 3 students online.

Invited Speaker Sessions

 Students attending the zone meeting had the opportunity to attend sessions with 4 of the 5 invited speakers (one of the sessions was concurrent with the kick-off event):

  • Prof. Na Hyun Jo from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor spoke about a wide range of quantum materials.
  • Dr. Rachel Ivie, former SPS executive director and current director of higher education and grants at the American Association of Physics Teachers, spoke about the role of professional societies in strengthening physics education.
  • Prof. Kathryn Svinarch from Kettering University spoke about the EP3 Guide for phyiscs programs thriving amidst higher education challenges, a topic relevant to the recent statement passed by the SPS National Council, with a particular focus on career preparation.
  • Quinn Peterson, a recent Kettering alumnus and undergraduate engineering physics and mechanical engineering major, spoke about his work experience and how it inspired him to seek out a position his current position as a mechanical design engineer in the Target Systems Department at Fermilab.

Contributed Poster Session

The contributed poster session on Friday had a total of 27 posters, and many of the presenters were undergraduate students (Fig. 3). The EGLS APS undergraduate poster award went to Grace Kessler from the College of Wooster for “Impact of Nuclear Level Densities on Astrophysical Reaction Rates,” while the EGLS APS graduate poster award went to Andrew Messecar from Western Michigan University for “Predicting Synthesis-Structure Relationships in Epitaxially- Grown Semiconductors with Quantum and Classical Supervised Learning.”

Banquet & Keynote Address

For the banquet, the meeting moved to Durant–Dort Factory One, the birthplace of General Motors (Figs. 4, 5). The keynote speaker was Dr. Sean R. Wagner, Senior Researcher in Battery Electrode and Formation Manufacturing in the Materials & Manufacturing Systems Research Lab at General Motors Global Research & Development in Warren, Michigan (Fig. 6). He discussed his evolution from an education major to physics major to condensed matter physics graduate student to industrial researcher. He also described some of his and others’ work at General Motors, key skills for working in industry, and his lessons learned along the way.



SPS Game Night

Friday evening concluded with the SPS game night (Fig. 8) featuring a variety of board and card games as well a plentiful selection of snacks (Fig. 9). A total of 11 students from 5 chapters attended game night.

Contributed Presentations

On Saturday morning seven concurrent sessions of contributed talks were held in the areas of (1) applied and computational physics, (2) astrophysics & space science, (3) biological, chemical, and medical physics, (4) condensed matter physics, (5) nuclear and particle physics, (6) MI- AAPT physics education 1, and (7) MI-AAPT physics education 2. A total of 33 presentations were given (Fig. 10). During each session, audience members were asked to provide feedback on the presentations. This information was used by the judges to choose the winners of the student presentation awards. The EGLS APS undergraduate award went to Chris Bastajian from Oakland University for “Magnetic Particle Spectrometer for Characterization of Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles”, while the EGLS APS graduate award went to Payton Linton from Ohio State University for “Lunar Subsurface Ice Detection with Cosmic-Ray Showers” (Fig. 11).


SPS Pizza Lunch & Field Trip

At the end of the Saturday morning program, the zone sponsored a pizza lunch which was attended by 6 students (Fig. 12). Unfortunately, some students who attended the meeting were not able to attend lunch because they had to make a long drive home. After lunch, the zone sponsored 6 students to visit the Sloan Museum of Discovery and Longway Planetarium in the Flint Cultural District (Fig. 13).


Recommendations for Future Zone Meeting Planning

It was somewhat easier to plan this zone meeting because the local host chapter’s advisor was also the zone councilor (Ron Kumon), co-chair of the EGLS APS Meeting, and member of the EGLS APS executive board. However, we believe there is still some room for improvements:  (1) We continued to have problems in finding out who was coming to the zone meeting because the EGLS APS registration does not always clearly specify if attendees are undergraduates (some undergrads are classified as undergraduates, but some are also classified as “first time member eligible”). We asked students who were planning to attend the zone meeting to also register through the SPS web site, but most students did not. (2) APS refuses to provide email addresses of registrants to the local hosts, so we could not directly contact undergraduate registrants even if we could identify them as undergraduates. It would be helpful if the SPS executive team could have some higher-level conversations with the APS registration team to set policies to better facilitate information transfer in cases where zone meetings are run in conjunction with EGLS APS. The lack of this information made it difficult to properly estimate the amount of food needed for the snacks and pizza lunch and plan for our Saturday afternoon field trip. (3) We had somewhat reduced attendance at the banquet as compared with the fall zone meeting. While it is hard to say for sure, this reduction may have in part occurred because the zone did not have sufficient funds to cover the $10 banquet tickets for students at the spring meeting (banquet tickets were provided to all students who registered for the zone meeting via SPS at the fall meeting). (4) We also ran into some problems with attendance at some SPS events within the meeting because the rooms for the SPS events were separated from rooms where EGLS APS events were taking place, and it was not easy to find the rooms for the SPS events within the rather convoluted Academic Building at Kettering. The situation was also exacerbated by the lack of contact information for student attendees. If we would have had such contact information, we could have sent out emails or invited people to join a group chat or a channel on our Discord server to better communicate with student attendees in real time during the meeting. Despite all of these issues, we do feel that we were able to provide information and support to undergraduate students in the context of the EGLS APS that may not have been there otherwise, and thereby positively affect the undergraduate student experience at the meeting. Indeed, we were able to learn about an inactive chapter which is planning to reactivate soon.


The Spring 2024 SPS Zone 7 Meeting at Kettering University provided a way for students to find out about ongoing activities in the national SPS, present their research, find out about recent developments in physics and astronomy, and meet other undergraduate students in physics in the zone.


We would like to acknowledge financial support from the SPS National Office, EGLS APS, and Kettering University for subsidizing the cost of the meeting, thereby enabling free registration for students to attend the meeting and reduced cost to attend the banquet. Finally, Jacob Callebs and Ronald Kumon would like to thank the local host committee from the Kettering B SPS Chapter #3541, including Daniel Budd, Samantha Chiang, Grace Mostek, Ethan Sims, and Anna Tran, as well as the Kettering co-chairs for the EGLS APS and MI-AAPT meeting, Prof. Ronald Tackett and Prof. Demet Usanmaz.