PhysCon 2019 Highlights

Share This:




PhysCon 2019 Highlights



Kendra Redmond, Contributing Editor

Whether you’re already planning your route or are new to this PhysCon thing, here’s a roundup of highlights that will have you counting down until November for the 2019 Physics Congress.

1.  A Prime Location

PhysCon attendees will gather in the heart of downtown Providence, Rhode Island—a location with big-city amenities and a small-town feel. Physicists will fit in well here, as eight college and university campuses are located in the city, along with a natural history museum, plenty of outdoor recreation space, and many historic attractions that reflect its manufacturing roots. Today, Providence’s economy is largely based on health care, education, and finance, and there’s a growing culture of artists and foodies. There are several world-class labs nearby, some of which PhysCon attendees will have a chance to visit.

Chapter Spotlight: Brown University

Located a mile from the PhysCon 2019 home base (the Rhode Island Convention Center and Omni Hotel), Brown University’s SPS chapter is a local host of PhysCon. An active group known for their weekly “high energy chocolate” events and custom physics monopoly game, the chapter is looking forward to sharing the progress they’ve made in fostering a positive, healthy environment for physics students, says SPS chapter president Jacob Jackson. While in town, Jackson encourages PhysCon attendees to experience Blueno in person, chill on the main green, check out the ridiculous rock tree, dance with the tinfoil people, and get breakfast at Louie’s at 5 a.m. If you’re not sure what any of that means, just ask the local hosts when you arrive!

2. Unique, Inspiring Tours

Physics students have a wide range of interests, from science research to communication and history, and PhysCon tours are unique ways to explore these interests in and around Providence. More tour sites will be released soon, and the details of many of them are difficult to set too far in advance, given the nature of research, but you won’t be disappointed.

Tour Spotlight: Naval Submarine Base New London

Home to the US Navy’s submarine force, Naval Submarine Base New London is about 60 miles southwest of Providence, situated near the coast and along the Thames River. It is home port to 15 attack submarines and hosts the primary training facility for submariners and a medical research lab. The USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, is moored near the main gate and open to visitors of the adjacent Submarine Force Museum. The base is also located near General Dynamics Electric Boat’s main construction yard, where most of the US Navy submarines are built. U.S. Navy photo. Public domain.USS Nautilus (SS-571), the US Navy’s first nuclear-powered submarine, on its initial sea trials, 10 January 1955. Public domain.

Tour Spotlight: Ladd Observatory

Founded in 1891, Brown University’s Ladd Observatory offers visitors a unique view of the evolution of astronomy and its role in society. It also offers great views of the skies. The observatory’s historic 12” refracting telescope is still operational and features its original mount and counterweight-driven gear drive. Other observatory highlights include a transit room and a historic collection of astronomical instruments and timekeeping devices. A vibration-free, temperature-stable clock vault built into the refracting telescope’s support base houses three clocks once used for precision timekeeping. The Parkinson & Frodsham transit instrument, Liverpool, circa 1838, from the Ladd Observatory history of science collection.  Photo by Mike Umbricht / Ladd Observatory. Observer Frederick Slocum using a spectroscope on the 12” refractor at Ladd Observatory, March 15, 1905.  Photo courtesy of Department of Physics, Brown University.

3. Honest, Relevant Resource Panels

What’s it really like in physics graduate school? What should you look for in a thesis advisor? Where can you get support as an LGBT+ scientist? What’s the best way to handle harassment in the lab? Can you get a good job with a bachelor’s degree in physics? What if you bomb the physics GRE? Is there room in the lab for mothers of young children? These are just some of the questions that swirl around the anxious minds of physics majors. PhysCon panels are a chance to voice these questions and have them and others addressed by real people sharing real experiences.

4. SPS Chapter Showcase

Each SPS chapter is unique—whether yours has found its niche on campus or is still looking, the SPS chapter showcase will be full of inspiration. From research posters to t-shirts and favorite demos, each chapter will have a space to fill with materials that represent their chapter and reflect its unique culture. Chapters will also be encouraged to bring items to share: demo instructions, fundraising guides, stickers, posters, and nerdy giveaways.

5. Engaging Workshops on Real Issues

Have you ever attended a conference and spent the entire time listening to what other people have to say? That doesn’t happen at PhysCon. PhysCon features an array of hands-on workshops designed to engage attendees in exploring meaningful issues and developing concrete skills. You’ll be able to choose the workshops that interest you most from among a range of topics such as political advocacy, entrepreneurship, and how to get a job with a bachelor’s degree in physics.

Workshop Spotlight: Food, Energy Efficiency, and You
Carla Ramsdell is a mechanical engineer, physicist, environmental steward, and food enthusiast. In a word, her interests are linked together by thermodynamics. Through interactive, hands-on workshops, Ramsdell will take PhysCon attendees on a journey to address the energy impacts of our food choices. Is chowing down on frozen pizza or carryout more energy efficient? What role does food play in climate change, and can your personal habits really make a difference? From conductivity to emissivity and cast iron skillets to Instant Pots, these research-based workshops will put your physics and cooking skills to the test and transform your home kitchen into a science laboratory.

6. An Incredible Demo Show

You’ve probably attended a physics demo show. You may have even helped orchestrate one. But you’ve never seen one like this. PhysCon will bring together legendary physics demo expert Stanley Micklavzina from the University of Oregon and others for a fantastic show, fueled by an audience of 1,500 enthusiastic physicists.

7. Lunch with a Side of Inspiration

How often do you get to ask a professional physicist to pass the ketchup? During “Lunch with the Scientists,” a special meal at PhysCon 2019, each table will be hosted by a physical scientist eager to get to know the next generation of physicists, share their story, and give advice. This is an intentional but relaxed opportunity to network with a professional physicist outside of your department—maybe even outside of academia. Regardless of the food, this lunch is likely to be one of the highlights of your entire PhysCon experience. (Although the food should be good too!)

8. Grad School and Career Fair

Your next step awaits, and Sigma Pi Sigma is here to help you figure out what to do. A favorite PhysCon event, the joint grad school and career fair will include representatives from physics and physics-related graduate programs, internship sites, and employers around the country. You’ll get to talk to recruiters and representatives face-to-face about what they’re looking for and see whether you’d be a good fit. If you already have a plan in place, you’ll still enjoy collecting pencils, Frisbees, and the other freebies that fill the exhibit hall. 

See more at

More from this department