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USciences Physics Students and Alumni Inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma Honor Society

By Nicole Carrera and Rosie DiGironomo

Published on May 7, 2020

Dr. William PhillipsFive undergraduate students and four USciences alumni were inducted into the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society during a virtual ceremony on April 29, 2020. The event, hosted by Roberto Ramos PhD, featured a number of guest speakers, including atomic physicist and 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics winner Dr. William Phillips.

Other speakers at the event included physics alumnus Christopher Petoukhoff C’11, Phys’11, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Jerome Mlack, PhD, of the Northrop Grumman Corporation, and Society of Physics Students National Director Brad Conrad, PhD. 

Dr. Phillips, who was awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work with “laser cooling,” was the guest of honor at the ceremony. He encouraged the new inductees with one central message, “as a physicist, you can do anything.” Dr. Philips continues by giving examples of physics degree holders who have found successful careers in science, finance, and engineering due to the problem-solving skills they acquired in their physics training.

Dr. Philips explained that the division between fundamental and applied physics is not a sharp line. Many opportunities in physics allow you to learn how to use the fundamental principles of physics to apply them in investigations. The opportunities are endless, he said.

Dr. Philips was also surprised by his ability to travel throughout his career. “One might not think that being a physicist requires much travel, in fact, it is the opposite,” he said. “Prior to graduate school, I hadn’t left the United States, now I have been all over the world and it is because of physics.”

He stressed that traveling for conferences and research evaluation is exciting and provides interaction with peers to elevate your own understanding of physics. Communicating and learning from peers was another experience that Dr. Philips values and encourages others to embrace.

“I thought if you wanted to learn something new, you had to take a class or read a book, but the reality is you just can talk and connect with your colleagues. Someone else will always have a different and new approach that you can learn from,” said Dr. Philips.

Dr. Philips emphasized to USciences students that in today’s world we only understand about five percent of what makes up the universe. The great adventure of being a physicist is learning bits and pieces of how the universe works in ways that range from very practical to the great fundamental new things to learn.

Dr. Philips ended his speech by reiterating what an amazing time it is to go into physics. “It could not be a more exciting time to be a physicist when 95 percent of the universe is made of stuff that we have no idea what it is but that we have a reasonable chance of learning what it is within your lifetime.”

In addition to the other speakers, Shruthika Padhy, a 2019 Physics Wonder Girl camper, spoke about how the camp inspired her to pursue her interest in physics. “Wonder Girls Camp gave me the opportunity to meet others who share my passion for science and to learn and collaborate with them,” Padhy shared. 

The Sigma Pi​ Sigma Induction was supported by a $500 grant from the American​ Institute of Physics awarded to a proposal written by ​Dan Fauni Phys’23 and Dr. Ramos. The event was the third induction at USciences since Sigma Pi Sigma was chartered in 2017. Induction is by invitation and honors high scholarship and service in physics.

A recording of the Sigma Pi Sigma induction ceremony can be found here.

Alumni inductees:

Amanda Huon Phys’12, PhD,(Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Christopher Petoukhoff C’11, Phys’11, PhD (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan)

Oberon Wackwitz Phys’18 (PhD Program at Texas State University)

Caitlyn McConnell BMS’18, Phys’18, PhD’24 (chemistry)

 

Undergraduate inductees:

Keeran Ramanathan Phys’22

Steven Simpkins Phys’21

Matthew Becker Phys’21

Edward McLaughlin Phys’21

Joseph Duffy Phys’22

Categories: News, Misher College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Mathematics Physics and Statistics, Physics, Alumni, Students, Awards and Honors,