CAM2013, Canadian-American-Mexican Graduate Students Conference

Laura Boon

The Canadian-American-Mexican Graduate Students Conference (CAM) is held biennially, rotating between the three participant countries. This year the conference was at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada from August 15th -18th 2013. CAM is a unique conference because it is organized by graduate students for graduate students and encompasses all areas of physics research. The physics program consisted of plenary sessions and panel discussions in addition to the student parallel talks and poster session. The plenary sessions and panel discussions featured well-known scientists representing all three countries. However the graduate students were still the focus of the conference, presenting their work in both parallel talks and a poster session Saturday evening.

Students arriving Wednesday evening quickly bonded over flat pillows and a lack of hot water. But as the conference started the next day the conversations quickly turned to physics research and our individual projects.

The conference started with an opening reception at Communitech, a company designed to assist high tech start-up companies make connections. With almost half of Physics Ph.D. graduates going into private sector jobs, it was good to see a focus on high-tech companies. It was also a great experience as a graduate student to get to talk to scientists who are not following the academia track in their career.

The talks began the next morning with a plenary session on Space Physics; Dr. Jaime Urrutia Fucugauchi discussed impact cratering on planetary surfaces. He did a great job describing the cratering on our moon and planets in our solar system, including meteorites on Earth.

CAM2013 panel discussion
CAM2013. Panel discussion 'Doing Physics in Times of Austerity'. The panelists include (from left to right) Marc Garneau (Canada), Fernando Mendoza Santoyo (Mexico), John Dutcher (Canada) and Kate Kirby (United States). Photo credit: Robert Henderson.

CAM2013 group photo
CAM2013. Canadian-American-Mexican Graduate Student Conference, full conference picture. Photo credit: Robert Henderson.

The conference banquet Saturday evening featured a talk by Marc Garneau, the first Canadian Astronaut and a Member of Parliament. Marc spoke on Big Science, and International Collaborations. Although he focused on the International Space Station, Marc also talked about the collaboration effort needed to design and build other big science projects such as the Large Hadron Collider and various Mars rovers. All the attendees were glad Marc Garneau was able to take the time out of his busy schedule to join us.

CAM2013 was the first year to feature a plenary talk on accelerator physics. Dr. James Safranek of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, gave a plenary talk on the uses and production of synchrotron radiation, and ended with a quick overview on the parts of a synchrotron light source. Synchrotron light sources have become a widely used tool in many areas of research, from pharmaceuticals to materials and many areas in-between. James was joined by a few students who also gave accelerator physics related talks in the parallel session.

The local organizing committee took advantage of the visiting scientists to organize a public lecture. Dr. Miguel Albubierre, a theoretical physicist from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, gave the lecture. The talk was titled ‘Faster than the Speed of Light’, and he discussed special relativity, faster than light travel and its implications on time travel. With the talk open to the public there were a few school-aged kids who attended and asked great questions. They are physicists in the making.

Throughout the conference, parallel sessions highlighted the work of the graduate students attending. Although I was unable to listen to all the talks, the sessions I attended had great speakers and a variety of projects. As a participant at CAM2013, I was able to make connections and friendships with other graduate students in both Canada and Mexico that will stay with me throughout my career in physics. The conference was a great experience and I was glad to be a part of it.

Laura Boon is the Chair of the APS FGSA, the Forum on Graduate Student Affairs. She is a Ph.D. student at Purdue University, working on accelerator physics at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source.

Disclaimer - The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on International Physics Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.