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Meetings  
[an error occurred while processing this directive] Joint AAPT/AAS Winter Meeting in Seattle, WA
January 5-10, 2007

> Photo Album from the AAPT/AAS Joint Meeting & SPS Zone 17 Meeting
> SPS Travel & SPS Reporter Award Recipients

By Ann Deml & Matthew Blodgett, SPS Reporters, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

 

SPS Reporter Matthew Blodgett (left) with AAS President, Dr. Craig Wheeler (center) and SPS Report Ann Deml (right).

 

Recently, we (University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UW-RF) students Matt Blodgett and Ann Deml) attended the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Joint 2006 Winter Meeting in Seattle, WA. We served as the Society of Physics Students (SPS) Reporters for the meeting and each presented our recent outreach & educational projects, earning several travel vouchers.  We also received a grant from the UW-RF College of Arts and Sciences to aid with the associated costs.  Here is an overview of our experiences and reactions to the meeting. 

 
Left to right: SPS President & UW-RF SPS Advisor Earl Blodgett with SPS Reporter Matthew Blodgett.  

We arrived in Seattle on Saturday evening after spending the entire day traveling.  As expected, it was raining a little, but the remainder of the week was relatively dry.  Matt attended the Undergraduate Welcome Reception that night, and due to some confusion over the starting time, there was nothing but a little exotic cheese and a cracker remaining when he arrived.  Ann, on the other hand, was able to reunite with three of her fellow interns from the 2006 SPS Summer Internship program and walked through part of the city, stopping to have dinner at a Thai restaurant near Pike’s Place, the public market. 

On Sunday morning, we partook in the Multicultural Luncheon.  There, Ann was able to meet with one of the advisors she had worked with during her internship with the American Physical Society (APS).  After finishing our repasts, we listened to Ben Franklin speak of his life and of the advantages of being a minority that can provide a perspective the majority does not have. 

 
SPS Reporter Ann Deml (right) with Benjamin Franklin.  

In the afternoon, Matt presented his talk, “Crafting a Gauss Gun Demonstration,” to a very full room of listeners.  Although the SPS oral presentations were originally scheduled for this same session, he found himself in a session focused on teaching methods and interactive labs, a surprisingly appropriate category as well. The talk was a success, with the audience asking many questions, and several teachers were persuaded to build their own gauss guns in the future.

The evening concluded with the SPS Poster Session, complete with more food.  Nearly fifty posters were displayed by primarily undergraduate astronomy students.  Attendance was also very high at this event, and three guest speakers regaled the audience with anecdotes of their transitions into astronomy careers.  Dr. Gary White, the Director of SPS, also shared his advice for those considering graduate school:  visit the school; talk to its graduate students and not just the professors; and ask for a summer job at the institution. 

 
Left to right: 2006 SPS Interns Erin McCamish, Kristen Greenholt, Katherine Zaunbracher and Ann Deml gave oral presentations about their internships at the AAPT/AAS Joint Meeting.  

On Monday, the SPS Oral Session included presentations by 2006 interns, Katherine Zaunbracher and Kristen Greenholt.  Afterwards, Ann attended the ComPADRE session to become updated on the status of the digital library collections which she worked with during the internship.  It was especially nice to reconnect with these people, going out to lunch together and letting them know what she has been doing this semester.  In the afternoon, we were able to watch the SPS President, Dr. Earl Blodgett, who is also our UW-RF Chapter Advisor, present the award for the SPS Advisor of the Year. 

Afterwards we met with the AAS President, Dr. Craig Wheeler from the University of Texas, who is currently about a fourth of the way into his two year term.  Dr. Wheeler says that he is particularly interested in supernovae and how recent observations, like our Universe’s acceleration, have drawn more researchers to the field.  Dr. Wheeler says that one of his primary goals and his biggest challenge during his term is to work with congress to increase the science budget.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA, where many astronomers receive their funding, are under constrained budgets; therefore, the AAS is seeking increased funding for specific research projects as well as for science as a whole.  The AAS provides a welcoming opportunity for undergraduate students to become involved with the organization by providing a venue to present scientific research and results at the national meetings.  This was evident in the hundreds of posters presented throughout the week, and it was very interesting to see the range of projects that our fellow undergraduate students are working on.  Dr. Wheeler was quite personable, and we thank him for taking the time to speak with us and wish him success throughout the remainder of his term. 

 
SPS Reporter Matthew Blodgett with his chapter advisor and father Earl Blodgett on a tour of The Underground.  

Ann presented her poster, “A 2006 SPS Interns’ Experiences, Reflections, and Future Ambitions” in the exhibit hall on Tuesday.  A variety of people walked through asking questions, and she was able to promote the internship as well as her project, the Physics to Go website.  In the afternoon, we went on a tour of The Underground with our advisor, Dr. Blodgett.  When tickets were sold out for the one o’clock tour, we took the opportunity to walk along the Waterfront again, stopping at a few shops and looking out over the piers, before our tour began at three.  The tour was unique, and it was very interesting to learn about part of Seattle’s history.  That evening was more relaxing, and Ann visited the extravagantly designed public library before returning to the hotel.  Once there, however, she realized she was locked out because her key had been erased by the magnetic name tags. 

Wednesday was our last day in Seattle, and we awoke to a bare ground despite the night forecast for snow.  The morning’s SPS outreach program, however, had to be canceled because the participating school’s neighborhood had received an inch or two of snow. This was a source of much amusement to us as Wisconsinites. We took the time instead to view more of the displays in the exhibit hall and attend a few last oral sessions.  We went out for lunch one last time before heading to the airport and then flying back to Wisconsin. 

 
SPS Reporter Ann Deml presented a poster about her SPS Summer Internship with the American Physical Society (APS).  

The trip as a whole was an exciting and educational experience.  We were able to meet and talk to many other undergraduate and graduate students and see the amazing work being conducted by our peers throughout the country.  It was also a great opportunity for Ann to meet with many of the people she had worked with and come to know over the previous summer.  Matt found it a great opportunity to try to survive off of the free fruit provided every morning at 9 a.m. - oh, and hone his presentation skills, of course.

Lastly, we want to thank the Society of Physics Students and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for providing the necessary funding to allow us to participate in this meeting.  We especially thank our advisor, Dr. Earl Blodgett, for encouraging us to attend and helping us plan the trip.   It was excellent! 

The 209th AAS Meeting

By Kasandra Jorgensen, SPS Reporter, University of Colorado, Boulder


Kasandra JorgensenImagine a space the size of two large gym courts filled wall to wall with scientific posters, giant booths handing out paraphernalia promoting various space missions, and hundreds, if not thousands of suave astronomy geeks filling your head with knowledge at what is the largest gathering of astronomers in the country. 

This year’s American Astronomical Society Meeting, held in Seattle, WA, January 5-10, 2007, was kicked off by a talk given by astronaut Kathryn Thornton. This woman had flown three different space missions, including the first service mission to HST (the Hubble Space Telescope). 

From that point for the next four days we were ushered on to choose from lectures, discussion panels, receptions, poster presentations, talks and yes, club parties, with topics varying from black holes to astrobiology.

At the AAS meeting there were a couple of special events for SPS members.  There was a science evening where students had the chance to present their posters to each other as well as to some faculty from graduate schools.  Along with a fully catered meal, the night featured two talks by astronomers to give students a perspective on what the life as an astronomer entails.  This night gave students the opportunity to practice presenting their posters to a friendly atmosphere of colleagues, but also to impress representatives from graduate schools.

The other SPS featured event was a session featuring research presentations by some brilliant SPS undergraduates.  Ranging from sonoluminescence to studying quantum ‘bounces’, these presentations were at the same level those given by the professionals in the adjoining rooms.  In recognition of their excellence, the chair of the session, and president of SPS, Gary White, presented these students with SPS achievement awards.    

Learning about the myriad of different fields available to them, networking with all of the professionals and attendees from graduate schools or potential employers, and learning what new and exciting discoveries are happening in the field of astronomy is what makes this meeting an ideal environment for SPS members.  This was just about the best meeting that I’ve attended, and though I’ve not attended many, it was pretty clear that AAS did the best that they could when putting this meeting together. 

The members of the AAS also have full time jobs and it is very impressive how they can juggle their professional jobs and also run such a successful society.  For instance, the president of the society, Dr. Craig Wheeler, is also a full time professor at the University of Texas.  He not only has to juggle work with the society and teaching, but also doing his own research as well.  While he enjoys studying exploding stars and their remnants he admits the balance between teaching, AAS, and research is difficult and takes “continuous effort”.  Kudos to these professionals who make this society, and its gatherings, such a tremendous success.

While there was inevitably always some fascinating session or lecture going on, from 8:00 in the morning until 9:30 at night, I did find some time to sneak away to enjoy some of the sites that Seattle has to offer.  Of course I had to visit the Space Needle, have a cup of joe at the original Starbucks and see fish get thrown at the famous Pike Street Market.  As I flew back over the city on my way home my thoughts dwelled over the plethora of discussions, lectures, the famous scientists, aspiring cosmonauts and young astronomers like myself.  Even now thinking back on it, I can’t help but wait for next years meeting in Austin.

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