Physics Department Helps Relaunch Prairie Section of American Physical Society, Hosts Fall Meeting


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The Department of Physics at Illinois Institute of Technology has helped relaunch the Prairie Section of the American Physical Society and hosted the first virtual Fall Meeting of the Section from November 13–15, 2020.

The Prairie Section exists to represent the regional voices of physicists from Indiana westward through the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas, and brings together physics departments, national labs, and industry from around the region to promote and build on local strengths.

“Illinois Tech has historically played a significant leadership role in the Prairie Section, and we are leading the rebirth of this section after a three-year hiatus,” says Professor of Physics Zack Sullivan, who chaired the fall meeting and is also now serving as chair of the revitalized Prairie Section.

More than 85 members and several students from every state in the region attended the fall meeting. Fifty-three talks and 16 posters covered all aspects of physics: quantum information science, material science, particle physics, accelerators, biophysics, astrophysics, and a special session on diversity and inclusion that spawned important conversations regarding what scientists can do to encourage measurable progress in these areas.

The Prairie Section presented its first cash awards for best poster presentations to Laura Weiler (University of Iowa) for “Using Gaussian Process Regression to Integrate the Transition Structure Factor Curve for the Many-Body Correlation Energy” and to physics Ph.D. candidate Daniel Bafia (Illinois Tech) for “Record Gradients of 50 MV/m in TESLA SRF Cavities via Modified Low T Bake.”

Several Department of Physics members helped organize the fall meeting, including Assistant Professor Rakshya Khatiwada, Associate Professor and Associate Chair Pavel Snopok, professors Jeff Terry and John Zasadzinski, Associate Professor Yagmur Torun, and Ph.D. student Pedro Rivero. Associate professors David Gidalevitz and Jeff Wereszczynski and Senior Lecturer Yurii Shylnov chaired scientific sessions.

Discussing the future of the Prairie Section, Sullivan says the coming year will “focus on increasing membership and inclusiveness.”

“Leading up to the next fall meeting, in late 2021, the Prairie Section will host a new series of seminars that highlight unique research contributions from each of the 10 states in the region,” Sullivan says.

Photo: Professor of Physics Zack Sullivan