APS News | Research

Satellite Events Connect Physicists Around the World to the March Meeting

Sites in seven countries expanded opportunities to participate and collaborate.

Published Apr 12, 2024
Three women hold a certificate
A trio of attendees at the March Meeting satellite site in Islamabad, Pakistan, show off attendance certificates.
Hassan Shahzad/The National Centre for Physics

Many physicists know that the APS March Meeting took place in Minnesota this year. Fewer might have realized that the meeting also took place nearly 8,000 miles away — in the Philippines.

“We rarely get those kinds of collaborations or partnerships internationally,” says Andrea Rose Franco, an undergraduate physics student at the University of the Philippines Diliman and vice president of the UP Physics Association (UPPA). So when she received an email from APS in December asking if UPPA could host a March Meeting event, she was thrilled, she says.

The Philippines was home to one of seven satellite sites in Asia, Africa, and South America that held an event for the local physics community with support from APS. These events help scientists outside of the United States participate, and they strengthen APS’ partnerships abroad, says Michele Irwin, the senior international programs manager at APS.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which curbed travel and in-person gatherings for many, first sparked the idea for satellite events. “We wanted to give people an opportunity to be involved in the March Meeting without having to necessarily travel,” says Irwin.

The 2022 March Meeting, the first meeting with the pilot program, had four satellite sites. That number nearly doubled this year, with sites in the Philippines, Nepal, Cameroon, Brazil, Pakistan, Jordan, and Hong Kong. Each local event looked different.

People look at a presentation on the screen in a lecture hall
Attendees listen to a presentation at the satellite meeting in Hong Kong.
Sunny Xin Wang/Physical Society of Hong Kong

In the Philippines, Franco and her co-organizer Thoreenz Soldevilla arranged a virtual session to introduce UPPA and give two early-career scientists an opportunity to present their undergraduate research. “It’s a way for us undergrad students to demonstrate our skills,” says Soldevilla, an undergraduate in physics at the University of the Philippines Diliman and external affairs associate at UPPA.

In early May, the duo will hold a watch party of some virtual sessions from the March Meeting — with a local physicist present to help explain the science — as part of UPPA’s annual Physics Month events, which aim to make physics more accessible to the public.

Meanwhile, at the three-day, in-person satellite event in Jordan, about 100 researchers from nearly a dozen institutions gathered to watch live-streamed sessions during the March Meeting, says organizer Gihan Kamel, a principal scientist at the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME). But the highlight of the local meeting was a virtual session that spotlighted women in physics.

“I’ve been the only woman scientist at SESAME for something like nine years now,” Kamel says. While another woman recently joined the institution as a researcher, Middle Eastern women face many constraints from family, tradition, culture, and religion, Kamel notes.

But Kamel recognizes that the gender gap in science is an issue worldwide. So she invited women from across the globe, all of whom have ties to SESAME, to discuss their professional paths and research. They have “different perspectives, different issues, different difficulties,” Kamel says. “But at the end, we are all sharing the same problem.” This is the second year Kamel has organized a satellite event in Jordan.

Brazil, too, hosted a March Meeting satellite site for the second year in a row. “It brings people together from the community — from São Paulo and greater São Paulo — to come not just to participate in the APS meeting, but also to talk to each other and collaborate,” says organizer Nathan Berkovits, professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at São Paulo State University and director of ICTP South American Institute for Fundamental Research.

The daylong event, which welcomed around 30 people, featured in-person presentations by students and postdocs and a virtual session where speakers discussed their research on complex systems.

But hosting an event abroad does present challenges. For instance, it’s hard to get people who are watching a session online to be engaged and ask questions, Berkovits says. He proposes hosting a joint virtual session where some talks take place at the satellite site and others occur at the main March Meeting site in the U.S.

The event’s hybrid nature also created some difficulties with engagement for the two-day event in Cameroon, says organizer Paul Woafo, professor of physics at the University of Yaoundé I and founder and past president of the Cameroon Physical Society. Still, five physicists from the country presented research on applied nonlinear dynamics at a virtual session, and more than 40 researchers, many of whom were students, attended an in-person component.

Dozens of people stand outdoors displaying a large APS event banner
Attendees at the satellite meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Paul Waofo/Cameroon Physical Society

Overall, the satellite event organizers say they were excited to collaborate with APS, and Irwin feels the same way. “We have lots of connections and colleagues all around the world,” she says. These satellite sites are “something that’s very simple where we can work together.”

McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie Prillaman is a science writer based in Washington, D.C.

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