The Winding Road of Physics: The APS March Meeting

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American Physical Society March Meeting

March 13, 2017 to March 17, 2017

New Orleans, LA

Meeting host:

American Physical Society


By Andrew Polcari

SPS Chapter:

SPS reporter Andrew Polcari at the APS March Meeting 2017.

I never thought I would be going to New Orleans over Spring break—for a physics conference at that. I had never been to a conference, let alone anything of this scale. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but my fellow classmates, who had experience going to conferences, helped me and made the experience seem so much easier.

I didn't have any research to present nor did I understand much of what was being talked about, as many of the people there had been studying physics much longer than I have. However, I wanted to put myself out there and see the physics community outside of my high school and college. By the end of the trip I can say with full confidence that I really enjoyed myself and was glad I went.

When I first got to the conference, I was surprised at how large the venue was. There were thousands of people. I sat in on some of the undergraduate presentations and some of the research was amazing to listen to and see how they were able to come to the conclusion they did. However, I think that the poster presentations were even more compelling. To be able to walk up to someone and ask them to explain what was on their poster and ask questions about it makes it seem like you really have a connection with the presenter. I went up to a student named Bethany Campbell who was from The University of West Florida. She was studying the effect of the mathematics course progression prior to the collegiate level. Her poster highlighted physics and went into detail on how different levels of mathematics prepared students for college. I really got to ask questions and hear about her research instead of just sitting through a presentation and only have a couple minutes for questions at the end. This type of interaction definitely made the poster presentations more of an attraction for me.

Vendors in the exhibit hall on the first day.

As the conference went on, we got to see more presentations, but we also got to see all the different vendors displaying their products. Obviously, I was not in the market for cryo-coolers and giant vacuums but listening in was eye opening. All of the presenters did an excellent job and the vendor's fair was very interesting to attend, but one of the highlights for me was seeing the Physics Bus, a mobile physics exhibition that was contributed to by some of the students in the SPS Chapter at Ithaca College. The students that helped out with this bus were able to travel around with it to show kids what physics is all about and to see it at the conference was pretty cool. I had no idea how connected the whole physics community is and I plan to immerse myself in knowing more and more people, whether they are students, professors or SPS board members.

The Physics Bus, a mobile physics exhibition that Polcari's SPS chapter at Ithaca College took part in.

I had the opportunity to have a conversation with the amazing Crystal Bailey, who is the careers program manager at APS (American Physical Society). Part of why I was here at this meeting was to see what kind of research was being done and hope it would inspire me, so I asked her the question, "How did you decide what you do?". She told me her story of how she came to sit where she is today. She described the whole journey as a road and instead of just looking at the path directly in front of us; we need to see every option available. This will allow all sorts of opportunities to happen. If you make a mistake—and you will—just recover and move on. The road may change but the overall view will always be the same. To hear her story and all the trials she had to go to made me realize that I should just dive in. Put myself out there for research and if something happens then I will be able to react to it knowing I can see the road which lies ahead.

This March Meeting will forever have started me (and perhaps many more people) on a path to a better future in physics.