Zone 17 Meeting

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SPS Zone Meeting

April 20, 2018 to April 21, 2018

Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


Elliott Capek

SPS Chapter:

The conference began on Friday April 20th at 3:30pm. Attendees were instructed to meet us in Weniger 328 during a department-organized pre-lecture snack break. We set up a table with our conference logo, name tags and conference programs. No attendees made it to our pre-lecture reception. The Yunker Lecture, an OSU physics department-sponsored invited lecture, occured between 5:00 and 6:00pm. We invited chapters to attend this lecture and meet us for the commencement of the conference at 6:20pm. 

Attendees posing at the end of the conference.

We officially began the conference at 6:25pm in Weniger 212. Roughly half the attendees came to the event, including all attendees from Alaska universities, Peninsula College, and several OSU attendees. Dr. Liz Gire, the faculty advisor to OSU SPS, commenced the conference with a brief opening speech. She introduced me, and I introduced our first speaker, Dr. Davide Lazzati. 

Dr. Lazzati gave a forty-five minute keynote talk about his life, his relationship with physics, and the research he does. There were numerous questions after the lecture. After the lecture we began our last activity of the night, a demo mixer. We set out a couple physics demos and provided attendees with an “Interpersonal Bingo” form (attached to this document). Attendees mingled and played the interpersonal bingo game for roughly 45 minutes. We served light refreshments at this time. It was fun getting to know attendees who had come thousands of miles. We disbursed for the evening at roughly 8:15pm. 

The next day started at 9:00am. We served coffee, various types of muffins, and bananas for breakfast. We held a poster session during breakfast which, due to printing problems, there was only one presenter at. We awarded Angela Cook an award for best presentation. People mingled, looked at the poster and talked while waking up. Several students from Oregon State University and University of Oregon showed up who weren’t present the previous day.

Attendees trying on SPS eclipse glasses during breakfast.

Our first event was called the “Physics Olympics.” We broke the conference into groups of 5 attendees randomly, with the hopes to mix up different chapters. Each group sat at a different table. We then facilitated three different events. 

The first event was an engineering activity where groups would try to build the tallest marshmallow structure possible. Given unlimited spaghetti rods, a meter of tape and a single jumbo marshmallow, groups had 18 minutes to build a structure which placed the marshmallow as high as possible. We monitored groups and after 18 minutes stopped everyone and went around and recorded heights. 

The second event was an airplane building contest. Each group spent 15 minutes making the best airplane possible. We then flight tested the airplanes for accuracy and distance. The winning groups were similarly tallied. 

Conference participants testing paper airplane designs for accuracy .

The final event of the Physics Olympics was a trivia session. We used 10 questions modified from Dr. Brad Conrad’s trivia game (he sent this to us prior to the conference). We gave each group 30 seconds to answer each question on a whiteboard. We tallied scores and calculated the winners at the end.

One group answering a question during physics trivia.

After the Physics Olympics was over, we did a Skype interview with Dr. Brad Conrad from SPS nationals. He spoke to us for thirty minutes about a variety of topics. His talk was received very well. We spoke about finding a job after college, what getting a PhD is like, how to find a career in astrophysics, and other topics. 

After our talk with Dr. Conrad we had our second speaker come in, Dr. Matt Graham from OSU. He gave a talk on his research on ultrafast imaging. His talk was also very well received.

Dr. Matt Graham presenting on ultrafast imaging to conference attendees.

We then broke for lunch. We had Domino’s pizza, soda, chips, salsa, salad, and vegan options. During lunch we listened to a talk by Vicke Ngo, an OSU physics alum and current employee at HP in Corvallis. She came in to talk about her life at HP and what the transition from physics to engineering was like. She spoke about what kind of research she does, what it’s like working at a company, and how physics changed her life.

After Vickie’s talk we listened to talks by OSU graduate students. There were three in total. Our first presenter was Allison Gicking, who worked in a biophysics lab. She gave a ten minute talk on motor proteins. We were then joined by Nicole Quist, a researcher in organic semiconductors. We finally got a presentation from Tyler Persotan, a researcher in astrophysics who worked in our keynote speaker’s lab. 

After our graduate student talks we broke the conference into groups and toured two different labs: Nicole Quist’s for the first group and Amani Alobaidi for our second. Amani also does research in biophysics. These tours lasted from 10 to 30 minutes. After the tours we spent some time outside relaxing and enjoying the sun.

A group of attendees touring Nicole Quist’s optics lab.

At 3:00pm we walked over to the OSU Memorial Union Quad to do our final chapter reports. Each chapter went around the circle discussing what they had done that year, what was successful, and what they hope to do in the future. We learned something from each one of the chapters. It was interesting learning about the struggles the Alaska universities faced, but how they successfully planned fun events despite limited group members. It was cool learning about what Peninsula College’s chapter did to engage with physics despite being a general science club. Finally it was cool hearing about University of Oregon’s success planning outreach events.

Chapter reports session in the Memorial Union Quad.

After the conference ended some of us went back to Weniger Hall where we took a group photo. Attendees then got their stuff and we all went our separate ways.

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