Students Explore Boston and the Cosmos at Annual Workshop
A group of four physics and astrophysics students capped off a summer of research by presenting their findings at the Annual Undergraduate Cosmology Workshop in Boston.
Though the universe is infinitely expansive, a nationwide collection of some of its leading undergraduate researchers can comfortably fit in one standard-sized conference room—a fact now known by a small group of Haverford students. Following the conclusion of their summer research, conducted under the guidance of Assistant Professor Daniel Grin, the group of physics and astrophysics majors took their findings to the Annual Undergraduate Cosmology Workshop held in Boston last month.
The workshop proved to be a fertile ground for discussing the intricacies of cosmology, the study of the origin and development of the universe, and the focus of the students’ summer research.
“We went for the students to get practice speaking to an audience of peers and experts in their specific field of study,” Grin said. “Hopefully this will help our students build a cohort of colleagues on and off campus working on related topics in their research, who they can bounce ideas off of.”
Haverford’s four attendees—Patrick Adams ’19, Jack Morgan ’20, Sam Ditkovsky ’20, and Tana Na Nakorn ’23—engaged in a range of activities, from sight-seeing to presenting their work, with their counterparts from Swarthmore, Kenyon, MIT, Dartmouth, and Brown. During the conference, the participants were able to familiarize themselves with the other schools’ students and professors, some of whom are famous in the world of cosmology.
“[At dinner] the students and professors from all schools sat intermixed, so it was a great opportunity to learn about physics academia from professors outside Haverford,” said Morgan, a physics major with a minor in astrophysics. “Tana and I walked over with Alan Guth, who is a superstar in cosmology, and it was very cool as an undergrad to be having a casual conversation with such a famous cosmologist.”
For Adams, a physics major, Guth’s presence was particularly exciting since the cosmologist created the theory of cosmic inflation, what Adams describes as “a period of exponential expansion early in the universe,” that was the focal point of his summer research and presentation.
“Much of the work I did for the project involved directly solving for the equations that describe what's happening to the universe during inflation,” Adams said.
As they got to know the layout of Boston with trips to the aquarium and several historical sites, the attendees were also able to learn more about their own field of study. The two days of presentations organized by the conference allowed them to contextualize their own research with the projects of their peers.
“Attending this conference really helped me gain a better understanding of my own work and its relation to the work of others,” said Adams, a physics major. “Seeing other people's talks helped put my own work in a better perspective.”
In addition to taking them to one of the nation’s most historic cities, the conference has given the students hands-on experience with the effects research has on the greater academic community outside of Haverford—a well-earned reward following a summer of hard work.
“This workshop was a great opportunity for participants to get a broader sense of the field of cosmology, share the challenges and rewards of research, and meet some pretty exciting luminaries,” said Grin.