Jesia Choity ’27  |  Published January 02, 2024

Physics on the Road

Monmouth group travels to Mizzou, professor Chris Fasano speaks at Fermilab.

FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT: The author is pictured second from the right, next to physics professor Chris Fasano, who led the tri... FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT: The author is pictured second from the right, next to physics professor Chris Fasano, who led the trip.(Editor’s Note: Jesia Choity ’27 of Bangladesh is an intern in the College’s communications and marketing office. She provides a firsthand account of the conference detailed in this story.)

MONMOUTH, Ill. – This year’s American Physical Society regional meeting really opened my eyes. I was inspired to see physics collaborate with so many STEM fields. We can do a lot with physics.

The Prairie Section meeting of the APS was held from Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the University of Missouri. Led by physics professor Chris Fasano, I was one of nine students and three faculty members who traveled four hours to Columbia, Missouri, to find new ideas and, more importantly, to be inspired by them.

Around 140 students attended this year’s conference, which began with an astronomy and cosmology session and progressed to several branches of physics, such as condensed-matter physics, biophysics, atomic/chemical physics, particle physics and, finally, a poster presentation.

Five Monmouth students presented posters of their research: Braeden Brauman ’26 of Palatka, Florida, Victoria Cook ’24 of Joliet, Illinois, Bronte de Zwart ’25 of Ridleyton, Australia, Brianna Kinkaid ’24 of Biggsville, Illinois, and Daniel Lummus ’24 of New Port Richey, Florida.

Tori’s presentation of predicted comet observations with the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile won one of the prizes for student presentations and was the icing on the cake for this year’s participation by the College.

“One thing that I thought was valuable about the conference was it was my first opportunity to present research to an audience outside of Monmouth College.” – Bronte de Zwart


“One thing that I thought was valuable about the conference was it was my first opportunity to present research to an audience outside of Monmouth College,” said Bronte. “Many of us have had the chance to present at SOFIA (Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activities) or Scholars Day, but this was my first time presenting off campus. It gave me more confidence to engage with other students and professionals in the physics field. And attending talks by academic and industry professionals gave me ideas for how to improve my science communication skills.”

APS and other scientific conferences have a significant impact on students’ communication skills. The nicest part about these conferences is that students gain ideas and the confidence to take the first step toward putting those ideas into action.

“Students need to attend academic conferences, workshops, and meetings to present their research in front of people,” said another of the physics professors on the trip, Shahed Enamul Quadir. “That way, the student can exchange their ideas about the research with the scholars and peers.”

Professor Quadir noted that the students met with advanced professionals and professors during the Prairie Section meetings, presented their research works, and gathered information and ideas for future research works, “which is beneficial for their future success.”


Biophysics stood out

Even though I’m a neuroscience major, I thought it would be worthwhile to tag along with all the physics students. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between mathematics and physics in discovering brain function and nervous system processes. The biophysics session clarified a lot of my questions, so I became even more interested in knowing more about that research.

Bronte said she felt the same way.

“Even though I’m a neuroscience major, I thought it would be worthwhile to tag along with all the physics students. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between mathematics and physics in discovering brain function and nervous system processes.” – Jesia Choity

“Another interesting part of the conference was its interdisciplinary nature,” she said. “I found the biophysics talks interesting because it showed just how integral physical concepts and phenomena are to research in other fields.”

Fasano at Fermilab

Physics can be a truly interdisciplinary field. Another example is a Fermilab talk that Professor Fasano presented in October.

During his talk, titled “Thinking About Agriculture While Thinking Like a Physicist,” he spoke about developing data models to better understand food production. Doing so would allow food producers to make better decisions that allow them to enhance profit and output, manage risks and be more ecologically friendly. Making those tools available to farmers everywhere is an important aspect, he said.

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