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By Gabriel Popkin
Eighty-one undergraduates and at least one high school student gave talks, presented posters, and mingled with physicists and graduate students at this year’s APS April Meeting in Denver, Colorado, as part of the second Future Physicists Days program. Two sessions of talks were devoted to undergraduate research, and the participants also attended a special luncheon as well as an awards ceremony that included a round of the Society of Physics Students’ (SPS) Physics Jeopardy.
Dominick Rocco, a junior from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, won an award for his poster on the “Seasonal Variations of the Atmospheric Muon Flux in IceCube,” a neutrino telescope under construction at the South Pole. “I love the talks, and the maximum exposure to professional physicists,” said Rocco, who was inspired to go into physics by his high school teacher.
Junior Mallory Kay Young, of Hendrix College in Arkansas, said her favorite session was the networking luncheon for women in physics. Young won an award for her talk on “Neutrino-Stimulated Pair-Creation in Supernovae.” She said she was inspired to come to the meeting by her advisor, Todd Tinsley, who brought a total of six Hendrix students to the meeting. Tinsley said that all Hendrix undergraduates do a “capstone” project, and the April Meeting provides a venue where they can present their research to a nationwide audience. “Without the [$200] travel stipends APS provided I could not have brought all the students who wanted to come,” said Tinsley.
Future Physicists Days were jointly sponsored by APS, SPS, and the Council on Undergraduate Research, in order to provide undergraduates with early exposure to the scientific conference culture.
According to Cathy Mader, a Hope College professor who coordinated the students’ activities, this year’s program evolved as a result of students’ feedback from last year. Mader said “We changed the format to allow undergraduates to participate in more of the meeting activities. We found they really appreciated the chance to go to sessions and meet professionals in the field.”
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