APS March Meeting 2011 in Dallas
by Jose Amaral, SPS Reporter, California State University, Fresno
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Jose Amaral (the author) presenting research on the synthesis of magnetic nanoparticles during one of the many massive poster sessions. Jose Amaral (the author) presenting research on the synthesis of magnetic nanoparticles during one of the many massive poster sessions.
Photo courtesy of Jose Amaral.

The American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting took place in Dallas, Texas. The warm wind and gray sky seemed perfect for a scientific gathering of massive proportions. The Dallas Convention Center easily handled the 8000 or so physicists and the transportation to and from the Hyatt Regency Reunion Hotel was convenient and quick. The restaurants in the West End represented Texas well, with big steaks, fried foods, and massive proportions (I will note that when preparing a rare steak, they apparently just wave it by a grill).

APS did an excellent job providing a vast amount of diverse sessions. The March Meeting focused on some of the following areas of physics: condensed matter, materials, fluids, lasers, and chemical, biological, atomic, computational and applied physics. Since there were approximately 7,500 papers being presented, I focused on magnetic nanoparticles, superconductors, and graphene.

My trusty band of companions consisted of my advisor from California State University, Fresno, and a handful of University of California, Merced (UCM) students and advisors. I presented a poster on the synthesis of magnetic nanoparticles. The UCM students presented their work with liquid crystals embedded with quantum dots, and other projects. Attending each other’s presentations proved difficult, however, because there were so many different, appealing options at any given time. I have no idea how anyone navigated the previous March Meetings without the iPhone app containing the full program of talks and their locations.

  Andre Rodarte, graduate student from University of California, Merced, presenting her research on quantum dots in liquid crystals.Andre Rodarte, graduate student from University of California, Merced, presenting her research on quantum dots in liquid crystals.
Photo courtesy of Jose Amaral


The APS March Meeting always highlights the pursuit of new, exciting physics, whether the research is fundamental in nature, or practical with immediate application. The buzz behind certain fields was magnetic, in particular behind the centenary of superconductivity and the Nobel Prize winning work on graphene, a material often mentioned during water cooler discussions of solid state physics. Talks at the March Meeting are not limited to strictly research and application, the meeting is an excellent place to increase general understanding in a particular field by networking, politely asking questions, and attending more general talks about the background of a field.

One such talk was given by George Crabtree, Ph.D, about the history of superconductivity, from its discovery by Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911 to the present. Superconductivity is the tendency of a material’s resistance to drop to zero below a certain temperature, and only happens in certain materials. Superconductors can produce magnetic fields up to 30T. There are endless possible combinations of elements that might be superconducting, so researchers explore them by following intuitions, like using elements with similar physical properties. The somewhat recent discovery of cuprate superconductors, which operate at much higher temperatures than other superconductors, is a good example of an extremely important discovery.

One of the hot topics was the sale of 3,000,000 meters of superconducting wires by American Superconductor to Seoul, South Korea last year for use in electrical power grids. Power grids would be significantly more efficient with zero resistance wires. If Seoul successfully implements the technology and can provide power to more people with greater efficiency, hopefully an American city might follow in their footsteps. When asked, Alex Malozemoff, Ph.D., confidently indicated that America is not far behind Seoul.

Left to right: George Crabtree (Argonne National Lab), Oleg Mukhanov (Hypres Inc.), Alex Malozemoff (American Superconductor).  Left to right: George Crabtree (Argonne National Lab), Oleg Mukhanov (Hypres Inc.), Alex Malozemoff (American Superconductor).
Photo courtesy of Jose Amaral

For students interested in being involved with industry physics, Kathleen Amm, Ph.D., informed me that companies like General Electric (which is working on integrating superconductors) hire physics students at all levels. Hands-on experience is second to none, and GE offers internships to students that are interested in working in the field. The GE website might help you get started.

The March Meeting was also rich with graphene discussions. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel Prize in  Physics in 2010 for their research on graphene, an exciting material which is a one-atom-thick film of carbon that is very strong and has high electrical conductivity. Graphene has opened up doors for new physics and high-tech applications. Dr. Novoselov was an invited speaker and discussed graphene advancements in the last year.  Jens Martin, Ph.D., and Amir Yacoby, Ph.D., from Harvard are experimenting with bilayer graphene, which have enabled the observation of broken-symmetry states and the fractional quantum Hall effect. Not only does bilayer graphene provide insight into some fundamental quantum physics, it also might allow for the creation and tuning of an artificial band gap that would cause the bilayer graphene to behave like a semiconductor.

  Left to right: Konstantin Novoselov, Sankar Das Sarma, Amir Yacoby.Left to right: Konstantin Novoselov, Sankar Das Sarma, Amir Yacoby.
Photo courtesy of Jose Amaral


As a final note, I recommend to SPS students attending an APS March Meeting that you start with the history, or general discussion, of a field you might be interested in. These talks will happen early on, will pique your interest, and may increase confidence. Afterwards, communicate with fellow students and faculty about other noteworthy talks that day. Try to attend a combination of research, experimental, and applied talks. I think the March Meeting is perfect for making students more complete, aware, and interested. SPS students—please attend at least one March Meeting, especially as an undergraduate. With all the support from SPS, missing the chance makes no sense. Talk to other students who have received funding before you, and apply through the same channels they did.

See you next year at the 2012 APS March Meeting.

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