Unifying Fields: Making Connections

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Unifying Fields: Making Connections

At PhysCon 2016


Bill DeGraffenreid, PhD, and Steve Feller, PhD
Co-Chairs, 2016 Sigma Pi Sigma Quadrennial Physics Congress Planning Committee

Scenes from PhysCon 2016. Photos courtesy of the American Institute of Physics.

“The woman who discovered pulsars knew me by name.” When Kristine Romich of the City Colleges of Chicago arrived at the 2016 Sigma Pi Sigma Quadrennial Physics Congress in San Francisco, CA, she quickly had to shift her mindset from being the only physics major at her school to suddenly being surrounded by 1,200 like-minded individuals who were just as fascinated with the secrets of the universe as she was. Little did she know that by the end of the three-day event, she would also count the honorary conference co-chair, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, as a mentor and a friend.

Kristine’s story is just one of the thousands written November 3–5, 2016, at PhysCon. Over the course of the event, participants were treated to six inspiring plenary talks, three dynamic undergraduate poster sessions, eight interactive workshops, tours of four hotbeds of science and technology, and uncountable opportunities for networking. Plans were hatched to reinvigorate or even launch SPS chapters, and lifelong friendships got their start at the APS Dance Party, during several catered meals, through impromptu study sessions in the hotel atrium, and while watching the Cubs win the World Series. Discussions and presentations intertwined and reached a crescendo at the closing banquet with an outstanding keynote on gravitational waves by Patrick Brady of LIGO.

The following pages provide just a glimpse of some PhysCon 2016 highlights. Over the coming issues of The SPS Observer, we’ll dive deeper into the many elements of PhysCon 2016 and hear from a spectrum of voices reflecting on their transformational experiences. Watch these pages to discover what really happens behind the scenes at SLAC, learn the secrets of the universe from Neil Turok, and find out how more than 1,000 attendees from over 180 colleges and universities came together to prototype innovations that will transform the future. Readers will also be among the first to find out where and when we are headed for the next PhysCon! //

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