Why Every Undergrad Should Attend a Physics Conference!

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American Physical Society March Meeting

March 5, 2018

Los Angeles, California

Meeting host:

American Physical Society

SPS Chapter:

Seven students from Adelphi University, Muhammad Aziz, Allan Delerosa, Fernanda Murillo, Kristen Oldja, Anthony Romagnolo, James St. John, and Kidan Tadesse, had the privilege of attending the 2018 APS March Meeting in Los Angeles, California! Those of us presenting our research from summer REUs or projects at Adelphi felt the familiar mixture of nerves and excitement that comes when you finally get to show the world (or at least a part of it) that hard work and hundreds of hours you have put into you research. Our research covered a wide range of topics, from James’ research conducted at the University of Alabama on measuring and studying the impedance of bamboo, Fernanda’s research at Lehigh University on the physics of bursting giant unilamellar vesicles, to Muhammad’s research conducted at Adelphi on building and testing a quantum eraser with momentum entangled photons.

Presenting at the March Meeting was a powerful experience in which we got to indulge in our enthusiasm for research while also receiving valuable feedback from experienced physicists and our own student peers. We all gained new insights not only into different areas of physics research and its applications, but also the universities and people involved in those areas. The undergraduate poster session was very beneficial in understanding the physics behind complicated projects, but on top of that, seeing how other students conducted their research also helped some of us see ways to better our own. Muhammad said the following about presenting his research:

I really enjoyed presenting a poster on illustrating the differences between a superposition and mixture of states. Not only did I get the chance to explain my research to people who were interested, but I also received useful input and ideas from professors/graduate students on different variations and improvements to my experiment. I feel that I utilize these ideas to make my experiment more efficient and easier to understand.                                                                        

Allan had a similar experience, saying that while discussing his research on nonlinear lithography with a graduate student in applied physics from the University of Michigan, she suggested he increase the depth of his sample of quantum dots to try to maximize the nonlinear effects, a modification to his experiment that could better his results.                                                                                       

In addition to presenting our research at the poster session and learning from other students, we had the opportunity to attend undergraduate talks. These talks were extremely motivational because it was easy to see the passion the presenters had for their research and the attention to detail required to complete the work they did. We each attended a variety of talks related to different fields. Some of the undergraduate talks included Non-Standard Lagrangians presented by Niyousha Davachi from the University of Texas, Arlington, Floquet Perturbation Theory presented by Meghan Lentz from Syracuse University, and Dancing Our Way to Mars Through Physics presented by Justine Walker from The College of Wooster; the three presenters, while very different in their focuses, all showed the same tediousness and genuine care for their research that made them highly interesting and intriguing. At the end of every talk there was time for questions and interesting discussions which was crucial in obtaining a deeper understanding of the topic. In addition to these question time-blocks, the talks were effective in stimulating conversation once the sessions had ended. Muhammad was able to run an idea past Niyousha after her talk on Non-Standard Lagrangians, wondering whether or not the non-standard Lagrangian could be used to find probability distributions of wave functions and if this would be more efficient than the path integral approach. Their combined brainpower allowed them to have a fairly interesting discussion, concluding that this method is likely possible but perhaps not more efficient. These kinds of conversations were one of the main reasons we were all excited to attend the conference - being able to engage in conversation with peers who harbor the same kinds of questions is a rare treat for those of us who are used to seeing eyes glaze over when we talk physics to anyone outside of our fields.


All of us attended the Careers in Physics panel consisting of physicists and chemists working in the industry. They each gave detailed accounts of their career paths, advice for research opportunities for physicists looking to work in industry, strategies for successfully pursuing industrial jobs, and tips on how to thrive in the exciting and challenging work environment of a physicist. The later half of the session was dedicated to questions where students had the freedom to inquire about specific careers and opportunities in industry for physics majors and graduate students. Kristen asked about the possibilities of getting a job and working in industry straight out of undergrad with her physics bachelor’s degree. The panel was able to give advice and agree that while there are different (perhaps more) opportunities for those with a master’s degree or a PhD, there are many companies, like Regitti, that offer programs which allow you to work as an employee with a bachelor’s degree while also learning the essentials for certain higher positions before becoming a full employee in one of these positions.

The lasting part of the of the conference that each of us will benefit from is the networking we were able to do. Networking at the meeting played a huge role in affecting which fields some of us are considering going into, and helping us get a foot in the door to finding opportunities in those fields. Muhammad said that he had the opportunity to associate with and make connections to people in the field of high energy physics and quantum information, which are the fields he is most interested in for graduate school. Anthony and James had the opportunity to attend the job fair and talk to potential employers in industry and finance. There were also on the spot interviews. Regardless of whether or not we walked away with jobs, getting the practice in talking to potential employers was something truly valuable. Talking to employers gave us insights to what they are looking for and what skills are important to have right now, giving us a better idea of what skills to focus on and develop over the next few years.

In addition to the job fair, attending the graduate school fair was also a great networking opportunity to talk to representatives from not only PhD programs for physics, but also from other fields like computer science, finance and medical school. The representatives were very enthusiastic about divulging information and tips to us about applying to their schools. The networking continued throughout the entire conference by personally meeting dozens of vendors in the enormous exhibition hall and learning what fields are open and upcoming. Anthony learned a lot about the marketable skills he could build up just by talking to vendors and inquiring about their field - skills such as working with CAD software, knowing different programming and scripting languages, and most importantly being an effective communicator!                             

            Overall the conference was life changing. It affected each of us in a unique way, and the doors that it has opened will have lasting effects throughout our entire careers. Each of us recommend that every student in physics should attend a meeting like the APS March Meeting to develop a more comprehensive view of the entire field of physics and take advantage of the prodigious opportunities available!