A Longstanding Tradition of Fun at Student-Prof Night

At 5:30 pm on November 24th, only two weeks before the exam period, a handful of students stood huddled around a table in the front of the Pool Room at Uptown Waterloo’s Huether Hotel. The hall was empty, and the only noises came from the PhysClub and Materials and Nanoscience Society (MNS) executives frantically discussing logistics. Where would the pizza go? Is the sign-up sheet pulled up on the correct laptop? How do we properly check IDs?  How many tickets were reserved for professors again? The conversation had only just finished when the first students entered the hall, with many more trailing behind. Suddenly, the Fall 2023 Physics x MNS Student-Prof Night was in full swing.

Within 10 minutes, the pool hall was swarming with students looking for a drink, their friends, available tables, and a chance to unwind before another harrowing exam season. Professors began to arrive, and were immediately greeted by adoring fans (or at least students hoping to weasel some test answers out of them). The previously-silent hall was filled with chatter, the clack of pool balls (sometimes) going into pockets, and accompanying cheers when they did. Throughout it all, the joint forces of MNS’ and PhysClub’s exec teams diligently took attendance, handed out drink tickets, and made sure to only look a little bit self-satisfied at continuing the tradition of Student-Prof Night.

I wish I could tell you when this tradition started. Unfortunately, digital records only go back so far, and PhysClub’s lore is shrouded in mystery. Dark Matter editions from 1992 show no indication that a Student-Prof night ever existed beforehand, and the earliest mention of SPN is on the PhysClub Twitter in Fall of 2012. A 20-year period where there may or may not have been a Student-Prof Night may seem like a large gap (especially to the quantum mechanics among you), but it’s important to remember that on a cosmological time scale, it’s barely a blink. In any case, I’ll give you the best historical account I can. If you have fond memories of a Student-Prof Night that was lost in that gap, send our communications team an email so we can reminisce.

The first Student-Prof Night I found recorded was on October 16, 2012, located at McGinnis pub, and it advertised free food and drinks to those above age. This pub has since shut down or rebranded and the location is now home to Molly Bloom’s Irish Pub, a favoured haunt of Physics students at Waterloo. The term after, it was hosted at Happy Valley Congee & Bar with more free food and drinks. This place also shut down and has since been replaced with a Korean fusion restaurant. June 2013 saw another SPN, this time hosted at the Bomb Shelter (AKA the Bomber) the dearly beloved on-campus pub run by FEDS (now WUSA). The Bomber, as you may have guessed, also shut down in 2018. It’s still named the Bomber, but it’s now an open space for renting.

This of course raises the question of whether or not there is a correlation between the business shutting down and the hosting of SPN, or if it’s all a simple coincidence. There’s remarkably little literature surrounding the situation (for any grad students reading, this could be an excellent thesis topic) and I’ve failed to find a system of equations that can solve this conundrum. Perhaps PhysClub drank these establishments dry or destroyed the buildings in their revelry. Maybe the restaurant owners went mad after finding the nth ħ graffitied onto an improbable location. Perhaps it was all bad luck, but that’s not as funny as the other options. Regardless, it appeared Student-Prof Night was cursed.

Despite the curse, a clear contender for its permanent location came forward from 2014-2016: the Huether Hotel. Like its predecessors, these events came with a free drink and food, and most importantly, pool. Students loved it - a chance to practice their classical mechanics skills in real time! Huether’s proximity to Uptown Waterloo also allowed students to partake in post-event food, which is always a must after a long night of socialization.

Huether Hotel continued to be the favoured location for SPN, and it defended its title until Winter of 2020 (with a brief return to the Bomber in Fall of 2018). Winter 2020 brought plague, and for a while Student-Prof Night appeared to be a thing of the past. However, PhysClub’s resourceful executive team managed to run a virtual game night in Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 to a remarkable degree of success, and an even more remarkable amount of questionable Jackbox answers. In Winter of 2022, the event morphed into a student-only social, again held at Huether, followed by a Student-Prof BBQ held on the Minota Hagey residence green in Spring 2022. These two events set the executive team up for a successful and triumphant return to  a full Student-Prof Night at Huether Hotel on December 4, 2022. The event has been hosted there ever since.

Returning to present time, the Fall 2023 Student-Prof Night was filled with students and profs alike. Drink tickets had run out and pizza had been served. The pool tables were full, and Dr. Richard Epp was demolishing any challengers. I had heard tale of Dr. Epp’s pool skills, but this was the first time since I had arrived at the university that I saw them in action - and wow, the rumours weren’t wrong. A few tables down, students gathered to watch a chess match. Scattered through the room, profs conversed with students about research, future plans, and a multitude of other topics, connecting in a way that’s often not possible in the classroom. In total, 12 professors joined in on the night’s festivities, including department chair Dr. Brian McNamara and associate chair Dr. Brenda Lee.

I had the chance to speak with Kat Bogopolskaya, a Co-President of PhysClub about the success of the event. “Student Prof Night is one of my favourite events to organize; it’s always the biggest event of the year and I love seeing the combination of new and returning faces. As PhysClub execs, we love being able to carry on the tradition and hope to keep doing it for as long as possible!”

Even after MNS and PhysClub’s booked time ran out, many students stayed behind to continue chatting with profs and one another- certainly a welcome reprieve from the chaos of the end of the term. According to the executives of PhysClub, Student-Prof Night boasts the highest attendance of any event and has always been a staple in the school year. Student Prof Night connects students with their peers, shows them that profs are people, and gives them a time and place to wind down, so it’s no wonder that it’s a longstanding PhysClub tradition.  With any luck, it will continue for many, many more years to come. Assuming Huether doesn’t get shut down first.

A note from the author: after writing this, we found printed photos of what might be a Student-Prof night, but the photos aren’t dated. It’s definitely before 2013, though. If you were around when the PhysClub photo album was a thing, please reach out and help us label stuff. More throwback photos to come in future articles!