Physics students attend national congress

Twenty Grove City College physics students attended a national physics conference thanks to the Swezey Fund and generous donors.

They, along with Professor of Physics Dr. DJ Wagner, joined over 1,200 undergraduates who traveled to Providence, R.I. to attend PhysCon 2019, the congress of the physics honor society Sigma Pi Sigma, last month.

“PhysCon for me served as a great time for me to remind myself why I love physics, meet other Physics students from across the country and engage in very interesting conversations with them, and a fascinating look at the kinds of research other college students are doing at their respective universities,” Kaleb Slaatthaug ’21 said.

Students had the opportunity to ask Nobel laureates questions about their work and their experiences, present their own work, share ideas with other physics students, tour world-class laboratories, and hear from those pursuing both academic and industrial careers according to Wagner.

Noah Callinan ’22, webmaster of the Physics Club, attended one such presentation by Nobel Laureate Bill Phillips. “Here was a Nobel prize winner as old as my grandfather pouring liquid nitrogen all over the ground as he strolled around talking about the atomic clock business,” Callinan said. “But the greatest thing about him was the passion for learning he displayed as he talked his life’s work.”

The Nobel Laureates were not the only ones presenting their research at the conference.

Fifteen Grove City College Department of Physics students presented a total of eight research posters, seven of which showcased research done on campus. One presented research of a summer off-campus experience.

Other categories were also available for students to enter in besides research presentations. Physics major Brian Ross ’23 won Best of Show and earned a fully-funded trip to PhysCon 2021 for an oil painting he submitted entitled “Radiant Twilight” depicting the Crab Nebula as seen from Saturn. The Grove City College Physics Club also won the T-shirt design contest, receiving a free pizza party courtesy of the Society of Physics Students (SPS).

Caleb Barber ’23, Solomon Fuller ’22 and Caleb Hildbold ’21 served as reporters for the society, interviewing a keynote speaker and writing a report that will appear in SPS publications.

Darin Mumma ’21, secretary of the Physics Club, was skeptical when he heard that PhysCon would be a full of networking opportunities. “But when not one, but two, binary star researchers came to my poster, PhysCon, and its attesters, followed through. We talked excitedly about the field of binary research and even swapped procedural tips. It was a blast!” he said.

“Our students were able to spend a fantastic three days networking and learning all about physics and the opportunities for physicists, with almost no out-of-pocket costs, thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the college and so many donors and patrons,” Wagner said.

Funding for the trip came from the Swezey Fund for Scientific Research and Instrumentation, donations by Physics Club alumni, a corporate donation from a summer internship site and from the patrons who support the Physics Club’s annual Rent-a-Student fundraiser. Additionally, 17 of the attendees received either a Travel Award or Reporter Award from SPS to help offset the cost of registration.

The Swezey Fund helps Grove City College’s Hopeman School of Science, Engineering and Mathematics fund student and faculty research. Since its inception in 2007, the fund has been used to support a wide range of scholarly work, purchase research equipment and provide research stipends to students.

Physics students attend national congress

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