Making the Most of PhysCon

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Making the Most of PhysCon


Mary Ann Mort, Tori Eng, and Brittney Hauke, student  members of the PhysCon 2019 Planning Committee

By now you know that PhysCon brings together physics students, faculty, alumni, and other scientists from across the globe for the largest gathering of physics undergraduates in the country. We attended PhysCon in 2016, and it was a life-changing event.

PhysCon 2016 included exciting workshops, talks, and tours (one of our favorites was a visit to Google’s semisecret R&D lab). But some of our best memories, and those of our fellow attendees, came from the “in-between” times.

During meals, we were encouraged to sit with people we had never met before. Mort recalls two of her friends sitting at a table of strangers. There they met Dr. Patrick Brady. His name didn’t mean much to them at the time, but they talked about life and what motivates them. Little did they know he was one of the plenary speakers—he gave a talk on the groundbreaking discovery of gravitational waves later on—and he name-dropped both of them for being stellar young physicists. It made their whole year.

At the poster session, Mort was in deep conversation with a physics major from Oregon State University when she realized his mentor was someone she had met at a different conference. Mort learned a lot about materials science from him, and they exchanged info. After PhysCon, they kept in touch and both ended up being SPS interns in DC together for a summer. This just goes to show that the people you meet at conferences will pop in and out of your life when you are engaged in the physics community.

Just like PhysCon 2016, PhysCon 2019 will offer a diverse group of speakers, a variety of tour sites and workshops, and opportunities to share your research, but it will be even more ambitious! We’re planning on making waves and breaking boundaries with more students, a larger palette of interactive workshops and panels, more networking, and a few new events (see pages 20–23 for a list of highlights). Here are a few pieces of advice to help you get the most out of your experience, during the scheduled and the “in-between” times:

Eat at least one meal with strangers 

Although a bit scary for many people, this is a great way to make new friends from different backgrounds and schools. These random people will broaden your network and may be your future colleagues and friends. Photo courtesy of AIP.Photo courtesy of AIP.

Bring business cards and keep them in your lanyard

By doing this you not only look professional, but you make it super easy to establish connections and maintain those relationships after PhysCon. Photo courtesy of AIP. 

Take at least five pictures 

The fun was real, and it was certainly a whirlwind experience, but one thing all previous attendees agree on is that they wish they had more pictures. Snapchat is great, but take some real photos so you can look back on all the good times. Give yourself bonus points if you include students from a different university. Photo courtesy of AIP.Photo courtesy of AIP.

Go to the dance party

Do we really need to explain why? It’s a dance party! We watched the CEO of the American Institute of Physics break it down in 2016—it was awesome! Photo courtesy of AIP. Photo courtesy of AIP.

Plan your schedule 

Some PhysCon events will happen in parallel, so, to keep from feeling overwhelmed, you’ll want to decide which events you want to attend ahead of time. Ideally, you want to go to as many events as possible. PhysCon 2019 will be a very busy conference, but you can always catch up on sleep when it’s over! Photo courtesy of AIP. Photo courtesy of AIP.

Take at least one night to explore Providence (ideally with some new PhysCon friends)

Do you know the next time you will be in Providence? We don’t! So take a night to explore this historic city and get to know some PhysCon attendees better. There will be time to get dinner with new friends on Thursday and Friday. Photo credit: 

Be yourself and have fun

There are thousands of people at PhysCon, and one of them is bound to be a new friend of yours by the time it’s over. At PhysCon 2016 we had a balsa wood plane–throwing competition, laser battles on the ceiling, and accidentally mistook butter balls for white chocolate. PhysCon 2019 is going to be even better. Don’t get too serious, relax a little, be yourself, have fun, and you are bound to have an extremely memorable experience.

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