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For the second year running, the fall meeting of the APS Division of Nuclear Physics (DNP) - to be held later this month in Asilomar California - will feature a special program of events designed specifically for undergraduates. The Conference Experience for Undergraduates (CEU) program is sponsored by the NSF and several DOE laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Its purpose is to provide a "capstone" conference experience for undergraduates who have conducted research in nuclear physics, by providing them with the opportunity to present their research to the larger professional community and to one another. CEU also enables the students to converse with faculty and senior scientists from graduate institutions about graduate school opportunities.
The program is the brainchild of Warren Rogers, associate professor of physics at Westmont College. An active DNP member, he noted the lack of undergraduates at DNP meetings and decided to do something about it: he wrote a grant proposal to the NSF outlining the project, and received enthusiastic approval. Qualified students for the CEU program are those with former participation in experimental or theoretical nuclear physics research. Travel and lodging awards are presented to the top qualifying applicants, based on their submission of a research abstract and brief summary of the student's individual contribution to a larger group effort. But thanks to donations from the national laboratories and individual schools, all 60 of last year's applicants were able to attend, and Rogers is confident that all 61 of this year's applicants will be able to attend as well.
The week's CEU-related events will kick off with a welcoming reception on Wednesday evening to allow the undergraduates to meet members of the DNP, followed by a keynote address by one of the luminaries in nuclear physics, outlining the current status of the field. This will be followed by a general DNP reception, and an hour-long undergraduate poster session, during which students will be able to share their research with the professional nuclear physicists in attendance. A special CEU seminar will be held Thursday afternoon, covering a more specific topic in nuclear physics.
On Friday, the students will attend a special luncheon, during which representatives from various graduate schools will present information about their respective programs, followed by a tour of the Monterey Bay aquarium. "Half of the reason for doing this is to create these sorts of ties," says Rogers. "There's a general lack of students going into these graduate programs, and this helps foster a pipeline." Students are also encouraged to participate in the regularly scheduled meeting events, particularly the plenary lectures.
Rogers is optimistic that student reactions to this year's event will match the enthusiastic response of those who participated last year. "They really enjoyed meeting each other and comparing their research experiences," he said. "I think many found it very inspiring to learn of the research being done by their peers around the country."
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