Lee College takes PhysCon!

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Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Congress (PhysCon)

November 3, 2016 to November 5, 2016

San Francisco, CA

Meeting host:

Sigma Pi Sigma


Hugo Anguiano, Catherine Wood

SPS Chapter:

Lee College students pose with Dr. S. James Games (4th from left).

Out of everything the 2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress offered students, the poster and art sessions were by far one of the most enriching sessions. Like at most conferences, students had the opportunity to present a poster. They were judged by scientists on their development of scientific ideas and methods; effectiveness of the poster; what has been accomplished; and the student’s ability to respond to questions over the topic.

Caleb Mosakowski is an undergraduate student from CSU Sacramento and intern at CERN.  His poster, “What comes after the Higgs Boson?”, focused on the theoretical development of potential new candidates for a particle that goes beyond the Higgs Boson. “The goal is to find a signature of two photons and two b-quarks,” he told us. “We know why particles have mass but the standard model of particle physics is incomplete.” By analyzing incredible amounts of data of energy and momentum from the particle collisions and using a multivariate algorithm, Mosakowski and his team are able to distinguish between signal and background distributions. They compared their data to Monte Carlo simulated background and found the data to be in good agreement with Standard Model predictions. Mosakowski said that the whole journey, ever since receiving the news he would be a part of PhysCon, has been completely amazing. He originally started at a community college as a physics major, but has been inspired to pursue more advanced studies. “My grandfather was a physicist and took me to lectures at CERN. Books by scientists like Michio Kaku were also what inspired me.”  Mosakowski plans on taking a break before entering graduate school.

What presenting at PhysCon provides students, that other conferences do not, is the chance to present to what is one the largest gatherings of physics students in the nation. As a student walking around the session, it was almost intimidating, as well as inspiring. There are hundreds of students from schools all over, with different backgrounds but with a mutual love of physics, discussing the research they have been working on for months. The research varied from anything as big as improving military satellites, to how to help sweaty college students studying in their dorm by researching what is causing dorm rooms to get too hot. A smaller project, perhaps, but no less important to undergraduate physicists!

It even brought students from different schools, who are interested in different disciplines of physics, to do research together. Kaydian Quintero, a physics and mathematics major from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and Kevin Knebel, also a physics and mathematics major from the University of Texas-Arlington, presented their poster: “Synthesis and Fluorescence Spectroscopic Analysis of CdSe Quantum Dots.” After recent budget cuts, their schools brought students together to continue their research. It will hopefully help future undergraduates in the lab, and even benefit the futures of both energy and medicine. When we asked about their research and why they chose to present, they both discussed the opportunities in collaboration, and they said they were excited about what opportunities would arise after presenting at PhysCon.

Authors Hugo Anguiano (left) and Catherine Wood (right).

Since the 2008 Congress, students have also had the chance to submit to the art session,  giving the students a chance to creatively show how they see not only physics but the scientific world in a different way. During the art session Jordan Rice,a physics major from Carthage College who hopes to become a successful astronomer one day, presented an inspiring piece called “We Are Made of Star Stuff.” She told me that her work was meant to give students a cosmic perspective: “The hands represent us, and the stuff inside represents our origin. I would want students to know where we originally came from, stars, and our place in the universe.”

The first poster and art session offered students the opportunity to present research to their peers and scientists from all over. As one student put it, “A great opportunity to be pushed out of my comfort zone, and help prepare me for the future of being a physicist!” To the students who did not present a poster or create art, the session extended the chance to explore and learn from peers. After all of the amazing science that was presented this year, the next PhysCon cannot come soon enough.

Without a doubt, Lee College SPS has made an impact by attending this year’s physics congress. We are a relatively new chapter, started in spring 2016 just three students, so PhysCon helped put us on the map of the academic physics community. We plan to attend future meetings and hope to represent our college by presenting undergraduate research.