Three years ago, a group of students decided to revitalize MCLA's chapter of the Society of Physic Students (SPS). This year, the group was named as one of the outstanding SPS chapters for 2010-11 by the Society's national office.
According to Michael Testa '12 of Altamont, N.Y., he and other physics majors decided to form the MCLA chapter because of the tight-knit and motivated students on campus.
"We wanted an official forum to collaborate with each other and other like-minded groups around the world. We were always hanging around the physics department talking about mind-blowing concepts and our aspirations for the future," Testa said. "That is still what we do, but we are more organized now."
Physics professor Dr. Emily Maher said that the students have worked hard to make SPS a College-recognized club.
Through activities such as attending conferences, going camping to make astronomical observations, and a weekend trip to Boston to visit its Science Museum and the Harvard Natural History Museum, MCLA's physics society fosters community.
"It's also brought awareness of physics outside of the physics department to other MCLA students," Maher said.
Testa said the club's camaraderie, individual research and outreach are reasons why it was recognized as an outstanding chapter.
"Outside of our official meetings we work on homework together, get together to watch science documentaries, attend local physics talks and are constantly planning our next group activity," Testa explained. "Many of our members also work on outside research over the summer that often continues into the school year."
All of seniors also work on individual research for their final project in "Advanced Physics Lab II."
"Many of us hold free tutoring sessions for physics, chemistry and mathematics classes. We have free pizza every Thursday to promote communication among physics majors and to get non-physics majors interested in the field," Testa said.
"The support we get from our professors also encourages us to be better," Testa continued. "They consistently go above and beyond the call of duty, staying up late nights to help us with projects, as well as pro. They provide paid research opportunities and transportation to physics events. Between the professors and students, it is awesome to have such a diverse, yet close-knit group, who all share a love of natural wonder."
According to David Daniels '14 of Pittsfield, Mass., the club's members are working so it will continue to grow so that they can participate in more activities such as the recent trip to Boston.
"It's a great place to discuss science and things such as cutting-edge research you may have heard or read about in the news," Daniels said. "Also, we hold weekly meetings on resume writing and talks about grad school. It's a great place to add to your social network."
As a member of the club, "I am never too far away from 'real' people doing 'real' physics," Testa said. "It makes me realize that these physicists that we view as super-humans were once just like us and that, maybe, with a lot of work and a little luck, I could do something even negligibly as cool and important. That thought gives me a lot of motivation."