Society of Physics Students

March 16, 2015
UR's Society of Physics Students is recognized as an Outstanding Chapter

By Anna Allen, '16

No matter what your interest is, at UR there’s probably a student organization for it. One such group gaining recognition both on campus and in the community is the Society of Physics Students. The group hosts events and activities designed to demonstrate how physics plays a role in our everyday lives.

“We host what we call deconstruction night, where we get a bunch old electronic appliances and we take them apart and see what they look like on the inside and how they work,” says chapter president Isaac Rohrer, ‘15.

Vice president Logan Knoerzer, ’15, explains that, “if you put an appliance back together and it works again, you get to keep it.”

The group’s efforts to share their love for physics have not gone unnoticed. UR’s Society of Physics Students was recently recognized by the national organization as an outstanding chapter for the second year in a row. The award means a lot to Rohrer and Knoerzer, as well as secretary Kristen Gell, ’15, who have worked hard to make the group a fun and accessible environment for all.

Membership in the Society of Physics Students is open to all students. “We have a contact list of around 60 or so kids who always get notifications from us about events, and national newsletters about physics-related conferences, jobs, and research opportunities,” says Rohrer. “And then we have a core group of 25 physics majors who run for office and are regular attendees of our events.”

Those events, open to members and nonmembers alike, range from observing astronomical objects using the eight-inch diameter telescope and the observatory on the roof of Gottwald to hosting a puzzle night with mind games.

While the Society of Physics Students focuses mainly on hosting events for their members, they also reach out to share their love of physics with local high school students. Each year they host the Physics Olympics, where local high school students come to campus for competitions created by the physics majors. “We have tasks that we’ve done in the past, but we also create some new ones,” says Knoerzer. “It’s activities like [measuring] who can keep a constant acceleration running across a distance — fun little tasks.”

The group’s main goal is to help everyone realize how they can apply physics to their everyday life. “So much of our modern society is based on really basic physical principles that we learn about in the introductory physics course,” says Knoerzer. “Getting people aware of how applicable physics is — whether it be through making ice cream with liquid nitrogen or getting high school kids to compete in physics-related events — is the key.”

Making physics accessible is important to the group’s members, especially when so many young students are turning away from physics. Knoerzer says it’s usually do to an aversion to math, but Rohrer explains that shouldn’t be a deterrent.

“Even as physics majors, we can both agree that we don’t really like math,” says Rohrer. “We use a different kind of math — we don’t work with numbers, we work with letters and symbols.”

Knoerzer hopes as the group evolves, they’ll have more chances to raise awareness and interest in physics, both on campus and in the community.

“I’d love to continue to include more people in these sort of activities,” Knoerzer says. “The events we host excite people about physics, which is something we’re really passionate about.”