SPS Zone Meeting
October 24, 2019 to October 26, 2019
Lubbock, TX 79409Meeting host: By:
Andrew HowellSPS Chapter:
Our start to the SPS meeting was a stressful one. It was a Friday, so students were not allowed to park on campus, but we needed to pick up food for the attendees. To help in this situation, Dr. Maccarone handed over his car keys to an officer in our chapter and they drove his car to pick up the food. They were driving a car they had never driven before and parts of town had frozen over the night before. While this situation is quite comical now, at the time it stressed out almost everyone involved. However, they managed to drive safely and delivered the food with no trouble other than nerves.
After this fiasco, we set up the food and drinks and people began to trickle in. Dr. Sauncy of Texas Lutheran University was the speaker for our meeting. We had planned on her giving her presentation before serving food as to not intrude into her presentation time, but she decided to take pity on the attending students as the smell of pizza wafted down the hall and suggested that we eat before she began her presentation. While this may seem like a simple gesture on the surface level, her demeanor when suggesting the attendees eat before her presentation showed her true, deep care for students.
This level of care and personal attention to students did not only present itself in the allowance of food, but also showed during her entire presentation. Every slide was geared toward something beneficial for students. She covered topics that would not only interest most physics students, but also introduced us to some internship opportunities through more focused organizations such as the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) available through the American Institute of Physics (AIS). Dr. Sauncy even dedicated a large portion of her presentation to information that would be beneficial to officers of SPS chapters. This was primarily in outreach regarding applying for the Science Outreach Catalyst Kits (SOCKs). She pressed that outreach to the public schools in all of our areas is an amazing opportunity that many want to do, but fall short on completing due to the resources needed to do so. She informed us that SOCKs is an amazing starting point and suggested that we all at least look into it. Beyond outreach, Dr. Sauncy also informed us about the many ways that individual SPS chapters can apply for grants to assist them financially in their endeavors as many chapters may not try some ideas due to a lack of funding. She advised us to look into not only the SPS scholarships, but also chapter awards and SPS service awards as well.
From this presentation, we had three main takeaways. The first takeaway was to go to conferences. Dr. Sauncy told us all that conferences are where connections are made and that connections can be major stepping stones in a physics career. The second major takeaway of the presentation was to apply for grants through SPS. The grant programs are not always well advertised and many chapters may be unaware that they even exist. Due to Dr. Sauncy’s presentation we will be looking into scholarships, chapter awards, and SPS service awards for our chapter to apply to every semester. And the third and, to us, most important takeaway was both the importance of outreach as well as the tools we can receive to help us with outreach. Physics programs can be dauting and intimidating, so we need to go to the local high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools to talk to younger students to show them that a career in physics is possible and to hopefully give at least a spark of interest into a younger crowd of minds. To help us achieve this we have access to the SOCKs program that Dr. Sauncy informed us about, which we will definitely use to help us in the future.
Aside from these main takeaways, the general reaction to the presentation was completely positive. For future meetings, we will give this section a three-hour allotment rather than the hour and a half we had it scheduled for this semester. Many students were engaged and asking relevant questions. In fact, the request we had the most from other students and chapters was to have access to Dr. Sauncy’s presentation so they could look into all of the many opportunities that she had information over in it.
To wrap up this conference into a few statements it would be to make connections, go to conferences, and be active. Make connections wherever you can, whether it is at conferences, other schools, or even within your own department. Making connections can get you research, internship, graduate school, and even job opportunities. Many students are nervous to take the first step in talking to professors, but doing so can lead to many great opportunities. Going to conferences is a great opportunity as it allows you to see many fields of research presented from many points of view. On top of building general physics knowledge, conferences are also great places to make the aforementioned important connections. Staying active in your chapter is important as it helps you interact with your department and your local community. Having an active chapter also opens you up to receiving SPS awards. Staying active in your zone allows for the building of relationships between chapters and also opens your chapter up to hosting conferences which is always an amazing opportunity as we have learned this semester.