Editor’s Note: This will begin a series of profiles by writers entitled “A Day in the Life”. Our goal is to provide insight for students on the day to day life of their peers in their pursuit of academics, athletics, and extracurriculars at Wittenberg.
This past week from November 8-10, the 2012 Quadrennial Sigma Pi Sigma PhysCon took place in sunny Orlando, Florida. Over 800 physics undergraduate students and faculty from universities across the United States and across the world (one group was from China), as well as physics professionals attended this event to share their passion for physics with their peers.
Throughout the three-day conference, students and faculty listened to several influential and wise orators, participated in helpful workshops to learn applications of important skills for the future, and even had the opportunity to get a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.
Several Wittenberg physics students went on this excursion, including myself, Jeremy Massengale (’13), Lisa Simpson (’14), Susannah Engdahl (’13), Cody Mann (’15), Amanda Fagan (’15), and Peiqian Li (’13).
We had the pleasure of being given an informative tour of the Kennedy Space Center–we saw the crawler which transports the rockets to the launch pads, which we also saw, as well as viewing the countdown clock and the colossal Vehicle Assembly building, which stands 525 feet tall and is one of the largest buildings by volume in the world. It was used to assemble the massive Saturn V rockets. We had time in the expansive visitors’ center to learn some more about the history of space technology and exploration.
The PhysCon officially opened with keynote speaker John Grunsfeld, who was an astronaut who worked on three of the Hubble missions, helping fix the Hubble telescope such that pictures could be taken (the mirror curvature had to be rectified). He was a charismatic speaker who truly taught us much about NASA and the importance of physics (and science in general) in today’s world. Additional speakers included Freeman Dyson and Nobel Laureate John Mather, both of whom are renowned physicists, the former in theoretical physics and the latter in astrophysics, who spoke about what new NASA projects are planned as well as how to be successful as a physics professional.
The theme of this PhysCon was “Connecting Worlds,” focusing on the gap between scientists and the general public. The workshops that people attended included Connecting Scientists and Science Policy, Connecting Academia and Industry, Connecting Science and Technology, and Connecting Physics and the Public. All very informative, they also allowed the participants to work on the skills necessary to succeed as we move on in our careers.
As physicists, the conference attendees were given the collective task of using our skills and knowledge to further crucial research in physical sciences in addition to spreading general understanding of physics ideas to society so they can help face the daunting tasks, such as developing new energy sources, in the future.
The PhysCon was valuable for its knowledge as much as it was for its network building. It gave so many undergraduate students the chance to interact with many of the peers that they could be in the same industry with someday and hear from the physics giants who have so many tips to dispense from countless years of incredible scientific achievements.
Wittenberg physics major Lisa Simpson, Class of 2013 commented, “It was remarkable to see hundreds of people from all over the world come together for one main purpose: to share their love for physics. I have never been so inspired.”