Texas physicists, physics teachers come to UTSA for research conference

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(Oct. 28, 2010)--Physicists from across the state gathered at UTSA Oct. 21-23 for the Joint Fall 2010 Meeting of the Texas Section of the American Physical Society. The conference included an academic track for physics researchers and an education track for physics teachers. The conference was organized by the UTSA and Trinity University physics and astronomy departments.

Participants included members of the Texas section of the American Physical Society, Texas Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Zone 13 of the Society of Physics Students, National Society of Hispanic Physicists, National Society of Black Physicists and Trinity University faculty members.

The research track featured presentations in atomic, molecular and optical physics; astrophysics, astronomy and space science; biological and chemical physics; high-energy/nuclear physics; and condensed matter and nanoscience.

Key speakers and their topics included:

  • Pedro Montano, Department of Energy, "Basic Energy Sciences: A Perspective"
  • Isaac Sanchez, University of Texas at Austin, "Toward a Model of Cold Denaturation of Proteins"
  • Carlos Ordonez, University of Houston, "Latest Developments in Conformal Quantum Mechanics and Black Hole Thermodynamics"
  • Ron Elber, University of Texas at Austin, "Computer Simulations of Molecular Machines"
  • Xomalin Peralta, University of Texas at San Antonio, "Standing-wave Plasmon Resonances in THz Metamaterials Fabricated on Thin Silicon Nitride Membranes"
  • Marilia Samara, Southwest Research Institute, "Ground-based Optical Observations of Geophysical Phenomena: Aurora and Meteors"

The high school physics teachers attended workshops to inspire new classroom activities. Topics included new ideas for teaching physics, centripetal force, pre-lab and lab activities in Newtonian mechanics, telecommunications and sound, teaching about magnets and magnetism, building an electric guitar from PVC, and innovative resources and emerging ideas in nuclear physics.

UTSA is the only academic institution in San Antonio to offer a doctoral program in physics. Offered jointly with Southwest Research Institute and in partnership with UT Brownsville, the five-year-old program has grown to become the sixth largest in Texas according to the American Physical Society and the second-largest doctoral program in the UTSA College of Sciences.