Zone 11 Fosters Connections in Fargo

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SPS Chapters on Building Community

Zone 11 Fosters Connections in Fargo


Jacob Hubbard and Sigurd Saude, SPS Members, and Alan Denton, SPS Chapter Advisor, North Dakota State University 


SPS students participate in the poster session at the Zone 11 meeting. Photos courtesy of the North Dakota State University SPS chapter.

On a dark and stormy spring night in Fargo, North Dakota, we anxiously awaited the arrival of our SPS colleagues, intrepid physics students who were traveling from across the Upper Great Plains to attend the annual SPS Zone 11 meeting, held this time at North Dakota State University (NDSU). We were excited to host our largest event yet, but we were also nervous. We had spent many hours planning, learning, and preparing for this amazing opportunity. In the end, the effort and wait were definitely worthwhile.

Planning had started months ago during weekly chapter meetings. Organizing food, activities, lodging, and a guest speaker presented many logistical puzzles. Our advisor, Professor Alan Denton, was very helpful throughout the process. After numerous meetings and countless texts and emails, we finally made it to the weekend of the big event. 


SPS students attend a talk during the Zone 11 meeting. 

The meeting kicked off Friday night with a hot chocolate gathering. Once all of the students had arrived—some after driving nearly seven hours—we could finally put faces to the names of those we’d been in touch with over the previous months. On Saturday morning, after getting better acquainted over coffee and donuts, a caravan of students headed to NDSU’s Research and Technology Park for a series of lab tours hosted by researchers from the Department of Physics and the Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials. 

We got to view many instruments up close during the tours, and learned about topics ranging from the folding and wrinkling of materials to disease prevention! At NDSU’s high-performance computing center, which supports computational researchers, we even went inside the machine room. It was surprisingly loud because of the powerful industrial fans required to cool thousands of CPU cores.

Our afternoon session featured guest speaker Wayne Barkhouse, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of North Dakota. Barkhouse gave an engaging presentation on his astrophysics research—the specific frequency of globular clusters. We learned that astronomers have observed oddities in the frequencies of these clusters in different types of galaxies, and how the James Webb Space Telescope is providing more detailed images and deeper views into our observable universe than ever before. 

Later Saturday afternoon, we held a poster session that gave attendees the opportunity to mingle and show off their hard work in research. Then, on Sunday, the meeting wrapped up with a fun and friendly egg drop competition. 

Throughout these activities we enjoyed bonding with students in our SPS zone whom we may not have met otherwise. We built valuable friendships and new relationships that will help us grow as individuals, as a chapter, and as a zone. We look forward to staying in contact with the attendees and can’t wait to reunite with them at the next meeting!

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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