Preparations for APS March Meeting Underway!

The APS March and April meetings offer every APS member the chance to give a 15 minute talk about, well, just about anything they want. Ok, it’s usually on research, but can also be essays on the history of science, science and society, science education, or a number of other sub groups. You do have to submit an abstract describing your talk, and over 6,000 abstracts have been submitted this year! Do the math…a 5 day conference, with 8 hours a day, with 6,000 abstracts…thats 1200 talks a day, and over 150 talks per hour! Assuming 15 minutes per abstract, that means about 40 separate sessions have to be going on simultaneously all day long.

To organize the jumble of electronically submitted abstracts, physicists from all over the country fly or drive into College Park, Maryland for a day of free food and physics talk. It’s fun for employees of APS because there are people running through the building all day. Here’s some pic’s from the front lines.

I asked Dr. Ted Einstein from the University of Maryland why he keeps coming back as a volunteer sorter. He answered, “We like to see the sessions well organized at the meetings. It’s sort of a civic duty.” It’s not a great effort for Dr. Einstein to make it to the APS building (he’s less than 2 miles away), but some volunteers come thousands of miles. I told Dr. Einstein, “I saw your name and thought you’d be the one to talk to. Do you get that a lot?” He replied, “No, this is the first time that’s happened.”

To keep the abstracts organized, volunteer sorters try to break them into smaller groups, to make up sessions on particular topics. They have to figure out where to place every single abstract (see the big board in the top picture). Plus, the sorters try to judge which abstracts might be particularly important or groundbreaking, so they can put those in popular sessions. Because of how many abstracts there are, the sessions can get VERY specific, like Neutrino Detection in the Antarctic, or Electron Structure in Reduced Dimensions.

To cushion the blow, APS divides the meetings up in to March (the larger of the two, by far) and the smaller April meeting which is for particle, nuclear and astrophysicists. The April meeting gets around 1,200 abstract submissions.

The APS March meeting will be held in New Orleans this year, and the April meeting will be in St. Louis.

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