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Lycoming College hosts physics society conference for undergrads and professionals

Lycoming College hosts physics society conference for undergrads and professionals

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Lycoming College was honored to host the Society of Physics Students’ (SPS) annual Zone 3 Meeting on Saturday, Feb. 25, welcoming nearly 70 students from 12 different colleges and universities. This meeting functions as a type of mini conference, providing undergraduate students the opportunity to meet and discuss physics with peers and professionals in their fields.

SPS is an organization of professionals and associations in the physics world. Originally founded in 1968, its goal has always been to uplift undergraduate students with a passion for physics, and help them build a network of connections with those that have come before them while developing research and scholarly experience. Zone 3 consists of most of Pennsylvania and the entirety of New Jersey and Delaware. This year’s Zone 3 meeting was organized by student members of Lycoming’s own SPS chapter.

The event featured several segments, beginning with a lecture on the history of the SPS by Andrew Zeidell, Ph.D., the assistant director of Sigma Pi Sigma, the national honors society for physics and astronomy. After the opening came the main event with a talk by Jim Gates, Ph.D., a decorated scientist in the field of theoretical physics with expertise in supergravity, superstring theory, and supersymmetry. Gates currently works for the University of Maryland, previously serving on the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under President Barack Obama.

Following Gates’ talk was a virtual panel featuring other professionals in the field, including K. Renee Horton, Ph.D., Sarah Horst, Ph.D., and 2014 Lyco alum David Kenward, Ph.D.; followed by student poster and paper presentations on research they’ve conducted during the past year. The conference also featured a Shark Tank themed workshop, where groups were tasked to come up with themed inventions to pitch to a panel of student judges, making the event entertaining as well as informative.

“Setting this whole thing up was very hard, but it was a really rewarding experience,” said Kaitlyn Sheriff ’24, an astrophysics major and computational science minor who is also the current president of Lycoming’s SPS. “I think it’s really cool that we had the opportunity to meet these incredibly smart people and talk with them like this, in a professional and personal way.”

The Lycoming Chapter of SPS is open to any student with an interest in physics and astronomy. There are more than 820 chapters nationwide that help students transform into contributing members of the professional physics community. More information can be found at