International Peers and Where to Find Them: My Experiences at 2018 ICPS

Share This:



Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences

International Peers and Where to Find Them: My Experiences at 2018 ICPS


Samuel Borer, 2017–18 AZC Representative, University of Maine

Walking around the room, I begin to start counting the languages I hear being spoken: Finnish, Norwegian, German, Swedish, Greek, English, French—and the number keeps growing. Through the cacophony of voices, I can make out some common physics words: “quantum,” “atomic,” “quark.” The shared thread intertwining through the hundreds of people in the room is that everyone is a physics student, either undergraduate, master’s, or doctoral. We are all here to take part in an international convention of physics students, to break the borders and share in experiences together. We are the International Association of Physics Students (IAPS), and if you are a member of SPS, then you are also a member of this amazing international organization. In this article, I hope to share with you why you should take advantage of it.

The first International Conference of Physics Students (ICPS) was held in Budapest in the summer of 1986, when a small group of Hungarian physics students wanted to organize a conference to meet other physics students from around the world. Shortly thereafter, the International Association of Physics Students was founded to encourage mutual cooperation and unity between physics students.

Today, IAPS is run by students from all over the world, with its headquarters in Mulhouse, France, with the European Physical Society.

Besides offering some amazing grants and activities, the two defining IAPS events are ICPS and PLANCKS. ICPS serves as the Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the IAPS Executive Committee and the delegates from each member organization. Outside of the AGM, it serves as a multinational assembly of students from around the world to come and socialize together. The Physics League Across Numerous Countries for Kick-Ass Students (PLANCKS) is a newer event, first started in 2014 in the Netherlands, which brings together teams of physics students for a three-day theoretical physics competition. Ideally, each member organization of IAPS has a chance to submit their top team of 3–4 bachelor’s or master’s students.

As your delegate to IAPS, I attended the 2018 ICPS in Helsinki, Finland. It was nine days filled to the brim with social events, five keynote speakers, excursions, general assembly meetings, laboratory tours, research talks and posters, and Finnish cultural events.

During the research symposium, I was given the opportunity to give a talk about the particle-physics work I had done for my undergraduate thesis. Having the symposium placed a few days into the conference was a brilliant idea, because I had developed close friendships with a small group of delegates and we were able to go around to each of our talks and cheer each other on.

I have been very fortunate throughout my undergraduate career to attend a few conferences, but nothing has ever come close to this experience. I was able to make friends from all over the world and discuss what it is like to study physics, or just live, in many other countries. We also were able to explore Finland together and take part in some truly amazing cultural activities, such as a Finnish sitsit (a traditional three-course feast) and a sauna night. I took a cruise around the archipelagos of Helsinki, while others hiked into Nuuksio National Park, took a ferry to the Helsinki Observatory, or visited the Korkeasaari Zoo. On the last day, I was able to take a ferry across the Baltic Sea to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The trip was filled with memories I cherish, with people I will not easily forget.

Next August, everyone will come together in Cologne, Germany, for 2019 ICPS. If you have the means and the interest, I recommend you consider attending. If you are an SPS member, you are eligible to attend. I can promise you that it will be an experience of a lifetime.


Map showcasing all the countries represented in IAPS. Courtesy of Sam Borer.

If you have any questions about  participating  in  IAPS  or  ICPS 2019, please feel free to reach out to Megan Anderson at nc-usa [at] (.)

More from this department

Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences