Physics department hosts mini URCAD

In the weeks leading up to URCAD, the well-known undergraduate research day, the physics department had their own symposium — this time, targeted towards graduate students.

The first annual Earth Day research symposium was held on Friday, April 21 on the fourth floor of the physics building.

The symposium featured talks by UMBC faculty as well as affiliates from Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology that connects UMBC with NASA Goddard. JSET affiliates are the middle ground between true faculty at UMBC and civil servants at NASA. Affiliates may teach courses, give seminars and mentor graduate students. They also serve as potential employers for students in the program. Students are encouraged by the department to seek out these faculty members.

“It’s a built-in contact and networking system for graduate students here,” said graduate student Brent McBride.

All students — regardless of their department or intended degree — are welcome to attend. Exposure to specialized research interests helps graduate students in choosing a faculty advisor. Prior to this event, there was not an easy way to get a sense of all the research in the department.

Professionals, faculty and affiliates presented short talks during two sessions. At the end of the day, a poster session highlighted research of some of those same individuals as well as graduate students from departments including physics, environmental engineering, and chemistry.

The event was organized by McBride, Brian Carroll and Lipi Murherjee, all candidates for a Ph.D. in atmospheric physics. The event was jointly sponsored by the physics department and JCET.

The research presented at the symposium focused on atmospheric physics, but all interested parties were encouraged to attend. Atmospheric physics, along with astrophysics, condensed matter physics, physics education and quantum optics and information science are concentrations offered by the physics department.

Graduate student Qianqian Song thought the event was a convenient way to hear about research from around the department. Song attended the lectures throughout the morning and presented some of her own work during the poster session. During her first year in the program, she took general courses. Now that she is entering her second year, she has chosen a specialty.

“I joined atmospheric recently, and before today I didn’t have much idea what [people] were researching,” she said. “All the presentations were good… now I know more about the opportunities in the department.”