About six weeks ago I was fortunate to attend the annual Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) Annual Congress. This conference is organized each year at universities across the country and this year it was hosted at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta from June 15-19.
The conference brings together physicists from across the country to share all varieties of research happening right here at home in Canada. Attending this conference really opens your eyes to the breadth of research covered in physics in Canada. I am always amazed at the number of sessions and topics during this annual event! You can be in one session listening to the activities about dark matter, and walk next door and learn all about biomedical physics.
Here I will discuss a few of the highlights from the week. I will only use this post to demonstrate the highlights I experienced and not the details within, although I am happy to discuss any of these if you run into me in the future or through comments on this post.
Herzberg Public Lecture
Every year the Congress hosts a public lecture to bring physics to the host community. This year we were lucky to hear the always popular Dr. Miguel Alcubierre from the National University in Mexico talk about "Warp Drives" or "Warp Bubbles". I had heard this talk two years ago at the Canadian-American-Mexican Graduate Student Conference in Physics and was very excited to hear it again. He always impresses the audience and gives a great public talk that everyone can enjoy. There were more than 500 people in attendance and the lecture was followed by a reception where Dr. Alcubierre was around to answer questions from everyone.
Canadians really do contribute to physics research on the world stage and each year, a select few physicists are selected to be the recipients of the CAP Award Medals. These include categories from teaching, research in various areas, and lifetime achievement.
Science Policy and Careers
I have been involved in the CAP Science Policy Committee for just over a year now and this year was pleased to help organize a session relating to Science Policy in Canada. We also teamed up with the Local Organizing Committee and hosted a back-to-back session on Careers in Physics. The Science Policy session contained a talk from Dr. John Root from the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre about the unfortunate shutdown of the Chalk River Nuclear Reactor in 2018. Unfortunately, it seems as though Canada is going to lose a great research facility. Following this, we heard from Dr. Ted Hsu, MP from Kingston and the Islands. Dr. Hsu explained how we as physicists can become more involved to increase the visibility and importance of science to policy makers at the federal level.
The session then moved into a talk by Dr. Gary Albach about the career possibilities beyond academia when one obtains a physics degree. This included physicists moving into government, industry, and entrepreneurial work. It appears having a physics degree opens many more doors than one may think, although not all will involve physics. The evening concluded with a panel discussion with three members, Dr. Hsu, Dr. Albach and Shalon McFarlane who all went on to careers outside of academia with physics degrees (management, entrepreneurial work, government and more). Many students in the audience benefited from the advice these three panelists were able to offer.
A personal interest of mine is learning how to make physics more
accessible to the public, as well as how to increase the effectiveness
of teaching physics at the university. The CAP Congress had many
sessions and talks on Physics Education which allowed me to get my
fill of ideas to bring to my Teaching Assistant (TA) work as well as possible future teaching. Programs that have been implemented not only in Canada, but the United States, New Zealand and many more were many topics of discussion during these sessions. I was able to meet with a few of the speakers and discuss the different Teaching Excellence programs available across the country. It was so exciting to hear so many professors who are excited to improve their teaching techniques to benefit the many students they will teach in their careers.
The traditional banquet this year was replaced by a Progressive Dinner held at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Throughout the evening hors d'oeuvres were available and at any time the delegates could walk around the gallery and observe the exhibits. The largest exhibit during the time of the Congress was by a Canadian artist Jack Bush!
Also during this evening, the students who had won their divisions in the best student oral presentation and best student poster were announced. The eight top presentations which would be given again on Friday to determine the top three presentations at the CAP 2015 Congress were also announced. It was clear that the students really took this competition seriously as the quality of talks and posters given was quite fantastic.
It was sad to see another annual Congress wrap up and for me, it was a very busy week with many meetings, presentations, sessions, and meeting up with old and new friends. This is the second Congress I have attended and each year leaves me with the satisfaction of the amazing research that is done in Canada. I always leave tired and ready for a few good solid nights of sleep, but I would not trade it for anything.
I am also very excited to see more and more sessions and talks on Quantum Information research as more and more researchers in Canada enter this field. As always, I look forward to the next Congress in 2016 at the University of Ottawa and to hear once again the impact Canadian Physics Research has on the world!