Meeting, greeting and getting connected with OSAPSBy Jessica Orwig
The Ohio-Region Section of the American Physical Society (OSAPS) was founded in 1939. For several decades, it was simply the Ohio Section focusing its efforts and outreach on physics faculty and students throughout the state of Ohio. In the early 21st century, however, the section reached out to border states Indiana and Michigan and consequently changed its name to the Ohio-Region Section, which now includes all of Michigan and Ohio and half of Indiana.
An expansion in the Section's geographical reach is just one of the many changes that OSAPS member and webmaster Perry Yaney has witnessed. Yaney first joined the Section when he was a professor at the University of Dayton in the early 1960s. Since its start, OSAPS has held two annual meetings, one in the fall and one in the spring, where students have the opportunity to present their scientific research and listen to guest speakers discuss recent advances in different fields of physics as well as connect with physics faculty from other nearby universities.
In his early days as an OSAPS member, Yaney remembers how students would learn to prepare presentations of their work on single sheets of glass that were then fed through a lantern projector — an early version of today's digital image projectors. Technology has come a long way and today most students who present at the Fall and Spring OSAPS meetings design and print posters of their work.
"The meetings have always been a good teaching opportunity and enable students and faculty to interact and network," Yaney said.
The Fall and Spring OSAPS regional meetings are the primary instruments with which the section fosters a physics community in and around Ohio. Moreover, the attendance rate is relatively small, in the hundreds, compared to national meetings such as the APS March Meeting. This creates an inviting, low-stress atmosphere for undergraduates and first- and second-year graduate students, who may feel intimidated at the prospect of public speaking, to present their work, said the OSAPS Executive Committee Chair Corneliu Rablau of Kettering University in Flint, Michigan.
"What makes the regional section meetings so useful is the fact that they provide a venue and training ground for future physicists," Rablau said. "We offer a very friendly environment in which undergraduate and graduate physics students can present their work without the pressure of presenting in front of the biggest names in the field like they might do at a national meeting."
One such student who has benefitted from the regional meetings is the OSAPS current Student-at-Large (SAL) and University of Cincinnati physics graduate student Masoud Kaveh. Kaveh was elected to the two-year SAL position last April and has since collected a mountain of email addresses as a way to reach fellow physics graduate students across the Midwest. About one third of the roughly 1500 OSAPS members are students.
"As the Student-at-Large, I want to be the voice for fellow students and colleagues and encourage students to become OSAPS members and attend the meetings," Kaveh said. "The meetings have given me a chance to meet with professionals in my area of research that I couldn't have met with, or would have had a harder time meeting, and I feel more confident in myself and [my] capabilities to network now than ever before."
OSAPS also participates in outreach activities, the most prominent being the annual TechFest event, which Yaney, together with the Affiliate Societies Council of Dayton, started in 2003. The family-friendly event features hands-on demonstrations in many scientific disciplines including physical, environmental and life sciences, with the purpose to spark scientific interest in children. Over 50,000 people attended this year's event.
"Our goal is to keep members involved as much as possible," Rablau said. "You cannot emphasize enough the importance of presenting your scientific research. For the future I would like to see our membership grow to include more students who can learn to present their work to the science community as well as the public."
For more information about the Ohio-Region Section, visit their webpage on the APS website.
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Staff Science Writer: Michael Lucibella