Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Hosts An Annual Physics Conference

A busy fall break for physics faculty and students

While the already calm Prescott campus became more vacant as some students left to enjoy a four day weekend, people stormed the campus with one common interest – broadening their knowledge of physics through conferences. These conferences can cover a range of topics from research to outreach, astrophysics to biophysics. The ultimate goal is for undergraduate and graduate students as well as professionals to share their interests and knowledge.

The national organization, American Physical Society (APS), puts together several conferences across the continental United States with regional conferences to reach the most audiences. The conference, held on campus through Oct. 11 and 12, was a part of the Four Corners Section which catered to members in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. This APS conference had multiple research presentations in plenary sessions, parallel sessions, and poster presentations, along with having a workshop focused on developing skills in professional communication and negotiation, networking, and communicating their findings to all levels and backgrounds. There was also a banquet, offered to attendees, with keynote speaker Dr. Rana Adhikari who spoke about black hole cosmography.

The plenary sessions consisted of six speakers from within the region, one of them being David Giltner. He gave a talk on pursuing a physics career in industry which is vital for physics majors who choose not to pursue graduate-level degrees when they complete their undergraduate degrees. Giltner discussed different career paths that physicists can do, some of which don’t cross most people’s minds very often, such as a project manager or a system engineer. Project managers fit the physicist skillset as it requires them to be organized, be able to think differently, and make things more efficient. A system engineer fits the skill set due to the ability of being able to provide a unique mindset and another way of looking at a problem. Giltner’s speech gave undergraduate students listening to him hope that there is another path after graduation besides going into graduate studies.

Another plenary speaker was Dr. Richard Van De Water from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. His talk was on the Coherent Captain Mills project (CCM). The project uses a 10-ton liquid argon detector to search for sterile neutrinos, which is a theoretical 4th neutrino. This theoretical particle would change our understanding of the universe and change the standard model of elementary particles.

The parallel sessions happened at the same time, in various locations, over differing topics where speakers gave a presentation on their research and then allowed for questions from their audience. The covered topics were Astrophysics, Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics, Biophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, General Physics, Materials Science, Nuclear Physics, Particle Physics, Physics Education, Plasma Physics, Polymer Physics, and Quantum Information.

Undergraduates and even some high school students presented their research. There was a presentation on X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy about how to decrease the amount of blood having to be taken during blood analysis, to prevent illness and death of those who can’t afford to lose that much blood each time. This theory uses new techniques and new methods working at the atomic level to increase the longevity of blood. Embry-Riddle students also took part in presenting. Ashley Elliott and Jonah Greenwood gave a poster presentation over their research with Dr. Darrel Smith and Dr. Richard Van De Water’s CCM team at Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

Not only were there Embry-Riddle students out on the floor presenting, there were also volunteers from the ERAU Society of Physics Students club on campus. They worked early in the mornings and late into the night all weekend to make everything go as smoothly as possible.

Together, faculty and students, added another successful APS conference under their belts over a brief fall break.