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By Leah Poffenberger
This summer, six finalists for the 2018 APS LeRoy Apker Award traveled to Washington, D.C. to present their undergraduate research to a panel of judges (APS News, August/September 2018). Now, the winners of the prestigious award have been announced. This year’s award recipients are: Nicholas Sherman (University of California, Davis) and Eric Cooper (Pomona College).
University of California, Davis
Every year, two awards are presented, one to a student from a PhD granting institution, and one to a student from a non-PhD granting institution. The award is accompanied by a $5,000 prize for each winner and another $5,000 for each of their physics departments. Sherman and Cooper will also both receive funds to travel to Boston for the 2019 March Meeting and present their research in an invited session. Thanks to the Apker selection meeting, they’ve both already gained valuable experience impressing a crowd of physicists.
In August, Sherman and Cooper went before the Apker selection committee, made up of physicists from a variety of backgrounds, for assessments of their research, their presentations, and their ability to field a barrage of questions.
“The questions were the hardest to prepare for—you can prepare for the talk, but you can’t predict what you’ll be asked,” says Sherman. His advice to future presenters: investigate how their research relates to other fields of physics for a mixed-background audience. Sherman detailed his work modeling the dynamics of anyons—weird quasiparticles that might be harnessed to do quantum computations—that served as the subject of his senior thesis.
Cooper, also a recent graduate with a degree in physics, demonstrated the results of his research on the aerodynamics of exploding seed pods, showing how physical concepts impact the biological world.
“This was the longest talk I’ve given, and I learned a lot about the process of presenting detailed research,” says Cooper. “It was interesting to present in front of judges and learn how to be convincing. They asked a lot of questions to make sure I understood the research and that they did as well.”
Sherman and Cooper are continuing their physics careers, now at graduate school: Sherman is attending the University of California, Berkeley, and Cooper is a student at Stanford University. Sherman expects to continue in condensed matter theory, and Cooper has transitioned into atomic and molecular physics.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik