Physics and Pizza: Joining a Global Community of Scientists

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Physics and Pizza: Joining a Global Community of Scientists


 Jacob Robertson, SPS Member, Austin Peay State University

Jacob Robertson, SPS Member, Austin Peay State UniversityI attended my first SPS chapter meeting only because there was free pizza. Little did I know how that meeting would lead to so many important aspects of my undergraduate experience. Not only did I join a social network within my department with Bad Physics Movie Nights (Gravity never gets old), Wednesday Mexican food outings, and Friday beer and hot wings, but my involvement also connected me to a larger community.

I started participating in campus events with my department, which opened doors for even more opportunities. For example, I worked with student government to provide solar eclipse glasses to students. Collaborating with other student organizations, especially ones outside of STEM, showed that our chapter is invested in campus life.

Becoming our chapter’s public outreach director led me to interact with educators and community leaders at local schools and libraries. We even created a partnership with a local distillery to promote the recent total solar eclipse. This partnership provided our chapter a new outlet for outreach and also brought in extra funds for us to expand our outreach programs.

Being active in my local physics community led to greater opportunities to connect with a national community of physicists. When presenting my research with the Dark Energy Survey at an American Astronomical Society (AAS) conference, I attended an SPS poster practice session. Not only was this a great chance to work out my pre-presentation nerves, but I also met other SPS members from across the country and had the opportunity to discuss and share our chapter’s activities. I also met SPS director Brad Conrad, who encouraged me to apply for an SPS internship. At this point I was unsure whether to apply, but Brad’s encouragement convinced me to submit the application. I was accepted to the program and spent an amazing 10 weeks in Washington, DC, developing outreach resources for chapters. During this opportunity I met countless people at my own work site, the American Institute of Physics, and also at NASA, at NIST, and on Capitol Hill. These meetings led to valuable career advice and another DC internship.

SPS is not only its own community of physicists, but for many undergraduates like me, it is the first step into joining the global community of scientists. Looking back, it is hard to imagine my first step into this vast community of scientists was motivated by free food. From that first slice of pizza, my undergraduate experience has been enriched beyond imagining. Get involved and stick with it—you have so much to gain. Including free food.

Robertson speaking to a room of students at an on-campus STEM night. Photo by Dominic Critchlow.

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