Zone 17 Meeting Inspires

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SPS Chapters on Professional Development

Zone 17 Meeting Inspires


Seth Moriarty, SPS Chapter Vice President, Lewis and Clark College

pumpkin launch - Seth Moriarty.jpg

In addition to the Zone 17 meeting trip, the SPS chapter at Lewis and Clark hosted several activities, including a barbeque and pumpkin launch. Photo courtesy of the chapter.

Near the end of the spring 2022 semester, when the weather was finally starting to warm up and the sky was clear more often than rainy, I and five other physics students from Portland, Oregon, made our way to Eugene. We attend Lewis and Clark College, a small liberal arts institution nestled in the woods just south of Portland, and were spending the weekend at the University of Oregon (UO) for the Zone 17 SPS meeting. 

Lewis and Clark has a small physics department, so events like this are great opportunities for us to meet other physics and astronomy students and professors. We’re always eager to expand our circle of connections in order to better support our student body and get ideas for SPS chapter activities. This was the first time any of us had attended a zone meeting. We already had tentative plans to attend the 2022 Physics Congress in the fall, and our experience at the zone meeting only made us more excited about what was in store.

The building that houses the University of Oregon's physics department is a sight to behold, with its beautiful red-brick exterior and large windows and arches. We took time to wander around as soon as we got the chance. Inside is an atrium with a snaking staircase leading to the upper floors. Skylights bring in natural light, and there are metallic art installations and architectural details hanging from the ceiling and dotted around the railings of the upper floors. Throughout the building, there are cozy study spots near windows and blackboards.

barbecue - Seth Moriarty.jpg

In addition to the Zone 17 meeting trip, the SPS chapter at Lewis and Clark hosted several activities, including a barbeque and pumpkin launch. Photo courtesy of the chapter.

The evening of our arrival, Scott Fisher, a very enthusiastic astronomy professor, gave a fantastic talk that included information about the Pine Mountain Observatory, a collection of telescopes in eastern Oregon that are managed remotely by UO. We learned about student involvement in the observatory and looked at photos taken through its telescopes. This was especially inspiring because earlier in the spring, another student and I got keys to the observatory atop the physics building on our campus. The talk helped motivate us to start holding observatory nights for the Lewis and Clark student body. We are also trying to get a camera for our scope so that we can take our own long-exposure photos of the night sky.

On Saturday, after some delicious vegan cinnamon rolls for breakfast, each SPS chapter in attendance gave a small presentation about what they had done in the past year. It was nice to talk about our accomplishments and hear about events other student groups were hosting on their campuses. The meeting especially made us want to start doing outreach in our community. Overall, the trip was an inspiring break from everyday student life and motivated us to do more with our SPS chapter.

SPS Zone Meetings

Zone meetings bring together students from SPS chapters within a geographic region. They’re fun and effective ways for undergraduate physics and astronomy majors to meet other students, present their research, and interact with practicing scientists. SPS has 18 zones, and most hold at least one zone meeting per year. To see which zone you’re in and find a list of upcoming zone meetings, visit



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