I recently traveled with four of our REU 2022 alumnae to the American Physical Society Meeting in Las Vegas! I arrived a day later than planned and running low on sleep, so I was rather overwhelmed by the whole atmosphere at the Flamingo casino and hotel where we were staying. Even finding my way out of the casino to find the convention center was a challenge. I finally resorted to asking a random pair of women with March Meeting badges on! I know that the casinos don’t really want you to find your way out of the casino, but this was a bit ridiculous.
One thing I really liked about the conference this year was the ribbons you could stick onto your badge for your pronouns and other fun labels or statements. I went with Trouble Maker and No Whining! One of the ribbons said “Runs with Scissors”, which I thought was funny, but I just couldn’t endorse that behavior.
I found it exciting to be back at the March Meeting in person. Last year’s hybrid in-person/virtual meeting did not work well for virtual participants, so even though I technically attended in 2022, in practice, this was my first meeting since Boston 2019. It was great to be back surrounded by physicists. There are a lot of aspects of physics culture that are not welcoming to different kinds of people, but at the same time, for me there is something just wonderful about being in a huge group of physicists, talking excitedly about science and focusing so intently on trying to figure things out. Just sitting in a hallway working on my talk on my computer, listening to other snippets of conversation as people walk by — I almost wanted to record a long audio file that I could listen to on headphones as background noise when I need to concentrate once I’m back home.
Overall, I was not a fan of the conference being in Vegas, but there were some cool aspects. The conference center was right by an enormous Ferris wheel, the High Roller, which had a lot of visual appeal. You can see the High Roller in the background of my picture of the flamingos above, as well. The temperature was also nice for a conference so that we didn’t have to cart around winter coats. Otherwise, it was expensive and totally not a great place for anyone prone to overstimulation. And that’s before you consider all the outdated gender roles and expectations for women. Inside the convention center, we have our pronoun ribbons and the Code of Conduct, but to get there we had to walk past billboards, flyers, and other ads featuring outdated gender stereotypes, like the one I saw daily showcasing three barely-dressed sexy waitresses. Is this really the right place for the APS to meet and show that they are creating a welcoming environment for women and the LGBTQ+ community?
On the plus side, I will say that I have never seen so many strollers and babies at the meeting! It was exciting. I have vivid recollections of taking my one-year-old to the Denver March Meeting in 2007 and having no non-public place that I could sit with him or nurse him. I actually had to get an APS staffer to let me sit behind part of one of the APS barricades, and I remember talking to them about how important providing some parent spaces would be. Now there are more resources, and I saw both men and women attendees taking care of their children. Progress!
Overall it was an excellent meeting. Kyla, Olivia, and Karmellah each had good conversations with their poster presentations, and Mahala did a great job with her oral presentation. My oral presentation went well, also, and I met and talked to a good number of colleagues, which is really the best part of any scientific meeting.