02/07/07

MORAVIAN STUDENTS BRING PHYSICS TO THE MASSES

Matt Devlin 07, vice-president of the Moravian chapter of the Society of Physics Students, shares some calculations relating to his honors thesis. When he’s not studying the emission and absorbtion of gamma rays, he enjoys bringing physics lessons to school kids.

 "I hear some people say that today’s students aren’t as good as they were twenty years ago," says Ed Roeder, assistant professor of physics. "But I can point to plenty of examples to the contrary."

And many such examples, he tells us, belong to Moravian College’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS). The chapter was recently designated by the SPS director’s office as an Outstanding SPS Chapter for the 2005-2006 school year. According to the SPS national office, the selection is a testament to the chapter’s superior performance in areas such as physics research, hosting and representation at physics meetings, and other factors. Of the 61 collegiate chapters that share Moravian’s geographic zone, which includes most of Pennsylvania as well as Delaware and New Jersey, only three were given outstanding designation.

The Moravian chapter’s emphasis on community outreach doubtlessly played a big part in the decision process, says Roeder, who’s been the Moravian chapter’s advisor since its inception in 1968. (No other college in the area has an SPS chapter with a continuous history of such length.) Chapter members frequently visit local schools to give physics lessons to grade, middle and high school students. "Our members love to do that; we’re never short on volunteers." The group also offers free tutoring to students in intro physics classes, hosts lectures and guest speakers, sponsors field trips and conducts demonstrations for Lehigh Valley physics teachers. A big part of the chapter’s mission, says Roeder, is to make physics accessible. "People sometimes think of physics as a hard science, but we like to show them that it’s related to everyday life."