My Nuclear Family

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Research and relaxation

Joint Meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society and the Physical Society of Japan

October 7, 2014 to October 11, 2014

Waikoloa, HI

Meeting host:

American Physical Society


Marie Blatnik

SPS Chapter:

The author discusses her research on neutrons at a poster session.

In October I joined nuclear physicists from around the world for a physics party in Hawaii, in part thanks to an SPS Reporter Award. Our hotel overlooked an ocean-fed lagoon filled with dolphins and colorful fish. We had “bonding time” between scientific talks at the beach, where we surfed on our stomachs, and I saw a more carefree side of my coworkers from the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center in New Mexico. It was a blast.

Of course, we also learned about cutting-edge physics at this joint meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Nuclear Physics (DNP) and the Physical Society of Japan. Talks were given on everything from neutrinoless double beta decay to magic numbers.

One of my favorite talks was about the RIKEN-Brookhaven Research Center, made possible by a collaboration between Japanese and American physicists who come together to work on difficult quantum chromodynamics systems. This talk set the tone for the rest of the meeting by providing an example of how cooperation can achieve physics research goals.
  International collaborations in the physics community amaze me. In large-scale experiments, pieces of equipment are often created piecemeal, thousands of miles apart. When these pieces are brought together and assembled, they must have near-perfect tolerances, interface together, and meet the sensitivity requirements of the experiment. With little margin for oversight or error, international projects are a testament to how well physicists can work together to probe the mysteries of the universe.

Collaboration in the nuclear physics community goes beyond alliances based on individual research projects; when Jolie Cizewski from Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey, gave a talk for undergraduates about graduate school applications, she addressed us with the greeting, “Welcome to your nuclear family!” This sentiment of solidarity resonated with me. Nuclear physics is a small, intimate community. The spirit of collaboration, so alive both in my own research group and in the larger nuclear physics community, is one reason why I will be pursuing nuclear physics in graduate school.

On the fourth day of the conference, I and other undergraduates attending the meeting presented our posters to our nuclear family. The hallways of the conference venue, outside but in the shade, filled with chatter as we impressed career physicists with our efforts and discoveries.

Animated and excited about the work I had done using a magnet to control the spins of neutrons, I never had an idle moment discussing my results. My poster received a wide range of responses, from curious questions about my methods to praise for the meticulousness of my graphs. My advisor brought over his thesis advisor, whose response to my presentation was, “I believe you.” It was a validating experience to have something to contribute to this meeting. I declared to the nuclear family that I am a physicist, too. How empowering!

Next up

The next meeting of the APS DNP section will take place October 28-31, 2015, in Santa Fe, NM.

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