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Wheaton College Physics Students Attend PhysCon, the Nation’s Largest Gathering of Undergraduate Students in Physics

The Wheaton College chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) sent eight students to PhysCon, the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Congress, in November 2019. Over a thousand undergraduate students in physics and astronomy gathered in Providence, Rhode Island to explore how they can “Make Waves & Break Boundaries,” the theme of the conference. The students enjoyed talks by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, John Mather, Jim Gates, and other well-regarded physicists. They also attended breakout sessions on topics such as “Physics Careers – NOT Just for Academics!”, “Physics of Jazz”, and “Thriving Physics Departments: Effective Practices, Tools, and Tips.”

Three students from Wheaton (Rachel Barron ’21, Jodie McLennan ’21, and Stephen McKay ’21) presented posters from their undergraduate research experiences at Wheaton College.

Three other students (Ahnika Boring ’22, Genevieve Nelson ’22, and Daniel Wilson ’21) interviewed attendees on their perspectives on the nature of physics in the liberal arts as a part of the SPS Reporter Award they applied for support for their travel.

In addition to the SPS Reporter Award, the students were supported by Wheaton College Student Government Travel Awards to present research or attend a conference, donations to the Wheaton College Physics Student Researcher fund, and fundraising efforts by SPS.

“I am so proud of our students for identifying the goal of attending PhysCon2019 and working hard towards making it happen. I am also grateful for the support the students received from student government and our physics student research fund,” said Dr. Heather Whitney, Associate Professor of Physics and Faculty Advisor to SPS at Wheaton. “The students returned with some expected outcomes of learning more about the wide world of physics. But to my delight, they also returned with strengthened community and a heightened sense of the unique nature of Christian liberal arts education in physics.”

SPS looks forward to planning to send students to the next PhysCon, in 2021.