By Students For Students: SPS Events Broaden Horizons

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SPS Chapters on Professional Development

By Students For Students: SPS Events Broaden Horizons


Noah Johnson, SPS Chapter Co-President, New York University

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SPS member Aashish Khubchandani explains latitude and longitude during a PhedEx on map projections. Photo by Noah Johnson.

Imagine that you’re a first-year physics major standing in front of a room full of other physics majors with a PowerPoint slide behind you that reads “How Humans Can Go to Venus.” You’re excited but also nervous. This room is full of really smart people you look up to. How will they react to this little presentation on Venus? 

Now imagine how you’d feel if, at the end of the talk, you got a lot of good questions, insightful comments, and a round of applause. What an overwhelming sense of support, confidence, and community you’d feel. Well, I am that student, and since that first talk I’ve participated in three more Physics Education Experience (PhedEx) events.

What makes our SPS chapter at New York University (NYU) so special is our strong community and our focus on providing a high-quality undergraduate physics experience. We help students explore opportunities open to them as undergraduates and professionals via events such as PhedEx and our annual Industry Panel.

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The NYU SPS chapter offers professional development and community-building opportunities in many formats and on many topics to keep their members engaged. Photo courtesy of the chapter.

A PhedEx is not an ordinary research seminar. The talks are given by students for students. SPS members who sign up give their talk during a weekly meeting. They can present on any topic they're interested in, from their research to a passion or side project. During a PhedEx, a speaker might play the guitar while talking about acoustics, solve an economics problem with help from the audience, talk about research on optical trapping with lasers, or discuss the convoluted nature of English grammar (“Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a grammatically correct sentence). These talks give students the opportunity to practice both presenting and boiling down information to an understandable level for nonexperts.

The Industry Panel is one of SPS’s newest but most successful events. Our chapter leadership recognized that many physics students thought pursuing a PhD and going into academia was their only option after graduation, although in reality there are a plethora of other career paths. We sought to remedy this limited view by hosting a panel of NYU physics alums who didn’t pursue careers in academia. The panelists included a high school physics teacher, a few people who work at engineering companies, and one who works in business. SPS members moderated the discussion and fielded questions from undergraduate students interested in the many possibilities on display.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of what NYU SPS does. For example, our Undergraduate Physics Seminars bring in professors from various departments at NYU to talk about their research. This helps students connect with professors for research projects. It also exposes students to a vast array of projects outside of their specific areas of interest, and even outside of physics. The seminars give attendees an opportunity to make interdisciplinary connections that they might not have considered otherwise. We care deeply about ensuring that SPS members have the best opportunities to further their careers in a safe, community-driven environment.


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