Making a Global Connection

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Special Feature

Connecting Worlds: The 2012 Quadrennial Physics Congress

Making a Global Connection


Toni Sauncy

For Earl Blodgett, SPS Advisor at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, the PhysCon 2012 “Workshop Wizard” hat is just one of many he dons. He's also Sigma Pi Sigma/SPS Historian, Professor of Physics, and Assistant Dean, College of Arts  and Sciences.  Photo by Ken Cole.

One of the very real benefits of attending a gathering of SPS or Sigma Pi Sigma chapters is the opportunity to make personal connections outside your own group. This happens at SPS zone meetings around the country, even at smaller meetings where only a handful of chapters gather. These zone-level connections are important to both faculty and students. But then consider the possibilities for networking at PhysCon 2012! The opportunities were almost overwhelming. Many people at the Congress made new friends that they would never have met otherwise. There is no way to predict what those new connections might lead to over the years.

For University of Wisconsin – River Falls professor Earl Blodgett, a connection was made during the three-day conference that recently took him around the world and back. At PhysCon, Dr. Blodgett had the opportunity to meet and get to know the students and faculty mentor from the newly formed SPS chapter at Southeast University in Nanjing, China. The international SPS students were so excited to be participating in PhysCon 2012, one could not help but share their enthusiasm. While enjoying dinner and a talk by Jocelyn Bell Burnell at the closing banquet, Blodgett was honored and surprised when asked by Zhou Zhiyong, the students’ SPS chapter advisor, if he would be interested in visiting their department in Nanjing. Dr. Zhou explained that the campus had a program to bring in guest faculty to teach a short course or even a semester-long course. The Congress ended, but that was just the beginning of Dr. Blodgett’s adventure.

Dr. Blodgett travelled to Nanjing on May 20 to spend four weeks with the Southeast University physics department. While there, he taught a short course on introductory electromagnetism to a group of students eager to sample an American-style physics course. In addition to the physics, he also led discussions about undergraduate physics education, especially undergraduate advanced labs. Dr. Blodgett thoroughly enjoyed meeting the SPS members again and having the time to get to know them better. We look forward to a full report and photos of his adventures that will appear in the next issue of Radiations.

Perhaps the connections made by most students and their mentors at a zone meeting or even a conference as grand as PhysCon 2012 will not lead to such a large-scale adventure as Dr. Blodgett’s, and it may take years before some of the connections lead to a new opportunity. But no matter how tangible the reward may be that comes directly from participation in SPS or Sigma Pi Sigma meeting, your life will undoubtedly be enriched by the connections and friendships you make. And that may be the most important benefit of all.

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