March Meeting 2017 — Cool Science Equipment – Guest blog by Zane

Guest Blog by Zane Thornburg ’18

I think besides my presentation, my favorite experience from this year’s APS March Meeting was my interaction with the wonderful scientists from TeachSpin. They had a booth in the Exhibit Hall that was open the whole week. I remember walking up to it on Monday simply because of our school’s use of some of their advanced laboratory apparatuses. The gentleman at the booth Monday evening invited us to breakfast the following morning and gave me the flier for the breakfast. In the morning, I was the only one awake and raring to go at 6:30 AM on Tuesday morning, so I went by myself. I showed up early as I do and got to speak with the gentleman from the night before and another scientist from TeachSpin over some beignets and coffee. Others slowly leaked in and after a small amount of time, I realized that everyone else was either a scientist for TeachSpin or an instructor at a college or university.
I soon discovered that the breakfast was a meeting for the Advanced Laboratory Physics Association (ALPhA). I was asked five or six times how long I’d been teaching at The College of Wooster because I looked like a younger instructor. Each time, this was followed by me saying that I am a student and then being asked what year of my PhD program I am in. To everyone’s surprise I am an undergraduate student who was invited to the breakfast. Everyone there was very kind though, and I even met a friend of College of Wooster President Sarah Bolton from Williams College. At the meeting, TeachSpin unveiled their newest apparatus that can be used for a slew of condensed matter experiments. I was awestruck by the thought and creativity put into the new apparatus. After seeing it used for only a few experiments, I think it should be in every advanced undergraduate laboratory lineup of apparatuses.
Apart from the meeting, my conversations with the scientists from TeachSpin throughout the week were among the most pleasant and thought-provoking. They encouraged me to think about my future in different ways than I have been recently, which has lifted my spirits quite a bit. I also got to have conversations about some very intriguing physics around the new condensed matter apparatus as well as conversations about my own research interests. They also inquired if I was presenting this week and I told them I was to give an oral presentation. They were very encouraging and helped to lift a lot of my fear surrounding my talk. I felt bad that so much of the conversation seemed to be around what I think–I did listen to a lot of their thoughts as well, but I would have liked to hear more about them and what it is like to work at TeachSpin and what the rest of their careers have been like. They have just started a “Food Truck for the Physics Mind”, and I hope they get to bring this truck of experiments to Wooster in the coming year.  I would very much like to speak with them again and hear more about their lives as physicists in laboratory education.