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Physicists Set Regional Meeting In Socorro

SOCORRO, N.M. September 13, 2012 – New Mexico Tech will host the regional conference of the American Physical Society in October for the first time.

“The conference being held here is a result of a few years of increasing engagement with the regional section of APS,” local organizing committee chair Dr. Richard Sonnenfeld said. “As a result we hope students from the Four Corners region to become more aware of Tech when it comes to making plans for graduate work.”

The two-day conference will be Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26 and 27. The event consists of six half-hour keynote talks featuring top scientists from universities and national labs, parallel sessions, a banquet and optional tours of the Very Large Array.

“We have a great set of plenary speakers in several areas ranging from the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson to quantum computing,” Sonnenfeld said. “I had hoped that we would get good participation from Los Alamos and Sandia, and the results are even better than I'd hoped.”

Dr. Kerry Emanuel of M.I.T. will deliver the keynote address at the banquet, discussing “Hurricane Science.” Other major topics include “APS goes to Comic Con and Related Tales,” magnetism, material science and solar system evolution. Some of the institutions represented include Arizona, Arizona State, University of Denver, Colorado State, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, University of New Mexico and the University of Utah. New Mexico Tech speakers include professors Dr. Michelle Creech-Eakman and Dr. Lisa Young.

"I'm really excited about the diversity of scientists that will be represented at this meeting,” committee member Dr. Sharon Sessions said. “This conference not only opens up the possibility of interdisciplinary collaborations, but also provides an excellent opportunity for students to engage in a conference at a scale that fosters scientific discussions with some of the top researchers in the region."

The conference will also have parallel sessions on sub-topics, including particle physics, condensed matter physics, dark matter, the Kepler Mission, instrumentation and other topics. The parallel sessions typically feature 20-minute talk by a distinguished speaker, with other 10-minute talks from graduate students and faculty. Conference organizers are accepting abstracts through Friday, September 21.

“First and foremost, the conference is about keeping up to date with the latest developments in the broader field of physics,” Sonnenfeld said. “The Physics Department at Tech is world-class in its specialty areas – astrophysics and atmospheric physics; however, Tech faculty members generally are not able to provide students with the latest developments in other sub-fields, like particle physics or solid state physics.

This conference presents an inexpensive way for Tech students to get a good snapshot of the entire breadth of physics in two days. Conferences are also about the accidental discussions that happen over lunch or in the halls.”

Organizer Dr. Raul Morales-Juberias emphasized the uncommon opportunity that Tech students can experience by having the conference in Socorro.

“This is beneficial to students, especially the undergraduates,” said Morales-Juberias. “It’s not common for undergraduates to go to these conferences. So, to have this in their back yard is great for them. They get to see the front-end of science from top-notch physicists.”

Registration is available online. The cost is $80 through September 21 and $95 after that date. Registration for students, retirees and high school teachers is $40 through September 21 and $55 after that date.

In addition to the Physics Department personnel, Tech faculty from Materials Engineering and Electrical Engineering are helping plan and organize the event, as well as scientists from the NRAO in Socorro.

Major sponsors of the event include Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, NIST/JILA and Aerojet Corp. Local sponsors include the President's Office, the Office of Academic Affairs, the R&ED Office, the Graduate Studies Office and the City of Socorro. The Student Government Association is also sponsoring the event, offering to pay half the registration fee for Tech students.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech