Atlantic Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Conference Hosted Online

A highlight of many science students’ year is the chance to go to conferences. Conferences offer undergraduate students the opportunity to mingle with peers from all across the country– sometimes even from all across the world– and share their passions and research. Beyond networking, conferences allow students to stretch their wings in the realm of applicable research and explore labs, science institutes, and new cities. Unfortunately, COVID put a halt to the normal conference circuit this year, but that didn’t stop conferences from happening, or Mount Allison students from excelling.

Instead of early morning flights and cramped hotel rooms, this year most students attended conferences from the comfort of their own desks, complete with sleeping in and homemade coffee. Huddled around computer screens, students from across Canada adapted to the online format that has become normal for many people. For physics students one of the most exciting annual conferences is the Atlantic Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Conference (AUPAC),that was hosted online by Dalhousie University at the beginning of February.

By all accounts, the conference was well organized and fun to attend, in spite of the new format. But most excitingly, three Mt. A students walked away with awards for presenting their research! Jenna Chisholm, Isabelle Dolan, and Padraic Odesse all presented their undergraduate honours projects during the online conference. Dolan and Odesse walked away with honorable mentions (runner up) in the experimental/applied physics and computational/modeling categories respectively, while Chisholm left with first place in the experimental/applied subject. 

Jenna and I spoke about her research in the fall when she was profiled for the Honours Spots highlighting graduating science students research projects. Her research for Dr. David Hornidge focuses on subatomic nuclear physics. Specifically, she looks at the cross section of Neutral Pion particles scattered off of Helium 4. Isabelle is also working with Dr. Hornidge, though on a different piece of the project. Both areas of the study are a part of the A2 project, a collaboration with Guttenberg University that measures the polarizability of scattered subatomic particles. Isabelle is currently designing and modeling an internal detector for this project with the intention of increasing the accuracy and reach of the current external detectors. Isabelle will be sitting down for an Honours Spot next week for those who want to learn more about her project. 

Padraic researches for Dr. Catherine Lovekin, therefore specializing in astronomy and astrophysics. Odesse presented his work on Three Kepler Binary Star Systems, where he uses Monte-Carlo analysis to mathematically model the complex orbits of the stars in these systems. Triple binary stars, though not uncommon, are still a relatively new area of study, as the mathematical modeling necessary to predict their chaotic orbits has only recently been applied to astronomy. Padraic’s work employs virtual stellar modeling software to calculate and predict orbital patterns in triple binaries. The researchers hope to further astrophysics knowledge of how to detect, map, and understand such systems.

The Argosy would like to congratulate all three of these astounding students for their contributions to Mt. A’s physics department and scientific departments as a whole, as well as their incredible presentations to physics students and professionals from across the maritimes. Chisholm, Dolan, and Odesse highlight the strength of Mt. A’s small (but powerful) physics department, and their recognition at AUPAC is an incredible and well deserved accomplishment. 

Zoë Wright
Zoë is a contributor to the Argosy.