Duke Physics at SESAPS 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society (SESAPS) annual meeting (SESAPS 2011) was held Oct. 19-22 in Roanoke, VA. The meeting was hosted by Virginia Tech and over 295 people attended. Prof. Roxanne Springer was the chair of the program committee as part of her duties as Chair-Elect of SESAPS. The conference was held at an historic hotel, now called the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, which is listed in the  National Register of Historic Places as a favorite 19th and early 20th century meeting place for elegant society. In 1995 it reopened under part ownership of Virginia Tech. This made it a particularly hospitable place for the Virginia Tech local  organizers of SESAPS 2011 to receive the attention they needed. Two sessions were held to celebrate physics milestones: the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity,  and the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the atomic nucleus. SESAPS 2011 was organized so that undergraduates were full  participants in each session. Under this model, the young scientists interacted with graduate students, postdocs, and faculty, creating a more vibrant event for all. Awards were made for the "Best Undergraduate Poster" and the "Best Undergraduate Oral Presentation." Each winner received $100 and is acknowledged on the SESAPS web site.

Our banquet speaker was Ronald E. Michens, Distinguished Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Clark-Atlanta University.  He discussed his book on Edward Bouchet, the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in physics from a US institution (Yale 1876). This had local resonance for our attendees as Lewis Johnson (Duke Ph.D 1997), now a professor at Florida A&M, created Duke's Bouchet Society, an advocacy group with a focus on minority groups in graduate school in the sciences. Other activities included a mentoring workshop at led by Monica Plisch of the APS, and a session featuring a panel discussion on "The Under-represented Majority". The panel members took questions from the audience on topics ranging all the way from how graduate admissions committees can find the best applicants, to how to use humor to deflect inappropriate comments. The audience was very enthusiastic and proposed that such a panel event be continued at future SESAPS meetings. Duke Physics was represented not only in the program committee, but in making presentations: Josh Albert, graduate student, gave an invited talk on recent discoveries at the neutrino T2K experiment; Andriy Badin, postdoc from the Lattice and Effective Field Theory group, talked about his work on dark matter; Prof. Steffen Bass gave an invited talk on the shear viscosity of QCD matter; Prof. Henry Greenside gave an invited talk on songbird vocalization; and Di-lun Yang, graduate student, talked about his work with Prof. Thomas Mehen on charmonium decays. The next SESAPS meeting will be hosted jointly by Florida A&M University and Florida State University. The date will likely be around November of next year, and once again Prof. Springer will be on the organizing committee. After this year's successful showing, we hope to see many Duke colleagues in Tallahassee. Picture:  Josh Albert speaking about his neutrino experiment, while about 10^(12) neutrinos per cm2 per second pass through his body.

Photo: Josh Albert delivers an invited talk on recent discoveries at the neutrino T2K experiment