SPS Zone 9 Meeting

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February 10, 2023 to February 11, 2023

Lewis University

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


James Hofmann

SPS Chapter:

Dr. Linda Godwin opens her public lecture.

Dr. Linda Godwin opens her public lecture.

The SPS zone 9 meeting was held at Lewis University by the Lewis SPS chapter on February 10th and February 11th, 2023. During these two entertaining days, we had over 80 in attendance for a public lecture by Dr. Linda Godwin, telescope star gazing led by our astronomy club, faculty talks, guest speakers, and student poster presentations.

Friday evening was a busy one for our members, frantically running around making sure final preparations are done and food is available for our visiting SPS chapters and participants. For students who registered for the SPS Conference, we had a welcome pizza party Friday evening before the keynote speaker. Due to advertising the talk to the public, we had a busy night checking in people for the opening talk by Dr. Linda Godwin. She is a former NASA astronaut and a retired professor of physics at the University of Missouri. Dr. Godwin enlightened us with her strong and passionate presentation that dove into her professional career. Not every day, you are lucky enough to have a conversation with someone who has been to space, and her enthusiasm for physics sparked everyone in the audience. Her resume speaks for itself, but she was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate where she flew on four space shuttle missions and logged over 38 days in space. This was a public event that was advertised to local K-12 schools. As a result, 20 different school students from 10 different K-12 schools attended with their families. About 80 people attend Dr. Godwin’s presentations, with a handful joining virtually via Zoom.

After the talk, the Astronomy Club president and SPS member, Andy Alverez, set up telescopes in the University Green. Even with the cold temperatures, over 50 people walked outside for the star-gazing event. Despite a clear sky, no planets or the moon was visible. However, we were able to see a cloudy region of the Orion Nebula. As a result, Andy had his 16-hour high-exposure photo ready to show people. He explained how he constructed the photo and that given enough light/time, the resolution of the telescope would increase resulting in the photo he was showing.

Saturday morning opened with a delicious breakfast from a fitting restaurant for this zone meeting, Einstein Bros Bagels. During breakfast, our physics department chair, Dr. Joseph Kozminski, opened the day with his presentation on teaching as a profession, especially in the field of Physics. He used “Get the Facts Out” materials that he tailored to the Chicagoland area but also brought in some comparative data for areas near visiting colleges. He even included data from the University of Wisconsin River Falls area to relate to one of the visiting students. It was eye-opening for many prospective teachers in our STEM departments and visiting SPS chapters. It was captivating to see Dr. Kozminski debunk many generalizations associated with teaching, such as low pay, low job satisfaction, and burnout. Following Dr. Kozminki was Dr. Matt Caplan and his presentation on research is not a linear process, using his work in using astromaterials as an example. As undergraduate students, hearing an academic admit to their failures is comforting. As much as researchers always want to be right, one must fail countless times to learn and push forward their knowledge and make progress, and this talk did a great job in allowing us to understand that failure is needed to learn. Following this talk was our Chemistry department chair, Dr. Jason Keleher. His talk focused on how is chemistry research in the world of chemical-mechanical planarization (CMP) overlapped with physics and chemistry. With the industry of semiconductors and microchips booming, silicon wafers and their components must be as flat as possible with minimal impurities. CMP provides researchers with techniques and solutions to make them as flat as possible to further push the effectiveness of microchips.

At this point, we took a break before our final talk and had our chapter updates and lunch. Lewis University’s SPS chapter highlighted their annual Pumpkin Pitch event and Haunted lab. As well as the extensive community outreach with local K-12 schools in the Chicagoland suburbs. Next, the University of Wisconsin River Falls SPS chapter highlighted their annual 5k run as well as Physics Day in collaboration with the Minnesota Twins organization. After a delicious lunch consisting of Jimmy Johns, our final speaker, Dr. Jesús Pando, took the stage. Dr. Pando’s presentation included many deep subjects such as struggling with depression, purpose, and identity but finding the light in the tunnel that got him out of his dark place and finding a purpose through physics that ultimately changed his life. Rather than the research talk most of us expected, we were pleasantly surprised by the humility and vulnerability Dr. Pando demonstrated throughout his presentation. The dark but uplifting experiences he lived through are what brought him here to be a speaker at our zone meeting, and we were grateful to have him share his story with us.  Once the talks were done, we concluded the Zone 9 meeting with student poster presentations. Over 10 students shared the research they have been working on with curious attendees as we built bonds over the hard work we put in to push forth knowledge in our respective fields.

The meeting concluded with Lewis SPS members and Chemistry Club helping put away decorations and clean up any mess made. Having a weekend filled with educating talks, stargazing, research lectures, and friendships made is what a Zone 9 meeting brought to Lewis University and meeting attendees. Connecting with other SPS chapters and regional universities has diversified our network and opened opportunities for collaboration with other SPS chapters for future events. 

Lewis University SPS members with Dr. Linda Godwin

Telescope Star-gazing event

Dr. Joseph Kozminski presenting on Physics Education.

Dr. Jason Keleher giving a research presentation on chemical-mechanical planarization (CMP).

Student Poster Presentation.

Meeting Closing Selfie!

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