Highlights of the April American Physical Society meeting

Pushpalatha Bhat

Pushpalatha Bhat

The recent American Physical Society meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, which took place from April 16-19, was a star-studded affair as physics meetings go.

Nobel laureates Arthur McDonald and Takaaki Kajita, along with renowned scientist Neta Bahcall (wife of late John Bahcall), were speakers for the Kavli keynote plenary session on neutrinos commemorating the 60th anniversary of the detection of the neutrino by Cowan and Reines. Famed string theorist Edward Witten, winner of the first APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research last year, commemorated, along with speakers Gerald Gabrielse and Xiaochao Zheng, the 60th anniversary of the proposal of parity violation by T.D. Lee and C.N. Yang and the Wu experiment. There was a celebration of the discovery of gravitational waves with LIGO@Lunch featuring talks by David Reitze, the executive director of the LIGO project and Vicky Kalogera, this year’s APS Hans Bethe prize winner and a LIGO collaborator. (Kalogera gave a colloquium at Fermilab on the LIGO discovery last month.)

Lisa Randall — Harvard physicist, noted author and one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2007 — gave a public lecture titled “Dark Matter and Dinosaurs.” Former Congressman Rush Holt, a physicist and now CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, spoke about risks and costs of politicizing science and public appreciation of science. In a plenary session devoted to Physics and Society, Helen Quinn discussed physics and education, Marcel Demarteau talked about tools of particle physics and their impact on society, and Mai Bei presented a talk on particle accelerators for America’s future.

Apart from the fact that the theme for this meeting was “neutrinos” and that particle physics was celebrated in many plenary sessions, the Division of Particles and Fields (DPF) had organized a very strong program with 22 invited sessions and 23 contributed sessions.

DPF is one of the major units that participates in APS April meetings, along with the Divisions of Physics of Beams (DPB), Astrophysics (DAP), Computational Physics, Nuclear Physics (DNP) and several topical groups and forums, a total of 19 APS units. In an effort to promote diversity, many of the invited sessions featured talks by women physicists and physicists from abroad.

Nearly 20 Fermilab scientists also attended, including Deputy Director Joe Lykken, who chaired meeting sessions. Roni Harnik, Welsey Ketchum, Ashutosh Kotwal, Martina Martinello and Vladimir Shiltsev of Fermilab gave invited talks. Fermilab’s Andreas Kronfeld chaired a DPF prize session featuring talks by the J.J. Sakurai and Henry Primakoff awardees.

Pushpa Bhat, left, stands with the Kavli keynote speakers: 2015 physics Nobel laureates Arthur McDonald and Takaaki Kajita, and Neta Bahcall of Princeton (second from right). Photo courtesy of Pushpa Bhat

Pushpa Bhat, left, stands with the Kavli keynote speakers: 2015 physics Nobel laureates Arthur McDonald and Takaaki Kajita, and Neta Bahcall of Princeton (second from right). Photo courtesy of Pushpa Bhat

Topics related to the Fermilab scientific mission were very well covered: neutrinos, collider physics, astronomy and astrophysics and projects, detector technology, as well as accelerator physics and technology. A session titled Big International Neutrino Projects and Collaborations, co-sponsored by DPF and FIP, chaired by Maria Spiropulu of Caltech, featured invited talks by David Wark of STFC, UK, DUNE collaboration’s co-spokesperson Mark Thomson of the University of Cambridge, UK, and Marco Zito of CEA, France. Muon g-2 was also featured in several talks at the meeting. Attendees also heard about the Fermilab Test Beam Facility upgrades, which benefit our users.

One of the two major annual gatherings of the physical society — with participation of forums on physics and society, education, international physics, outreach and engaging the public, and history of physics — the meeting also gave participants a chance to discuss matters where physics intersects societal concerns: fracking, modernizing nuclear weapons, international partnerships, outreach, diversity and inclusion, and science and public policy.

As an APS councilor, I also attended the APS Council Meeting, in which we approved the creation of an APS Division of Gravitational Physics. We also approved a new topical group on medical physics. A number of other items, including reports from various committees and recommendations, were on the agenda and were dealt with.

Another very nice outcome of the meeting for Fermilab is that both Kajita and McDonald — who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for the discovery of neutrino oscillations — agreed to speak at Fermilab colloquia this year. Neta Bahcall and Rush Holt have also accepted invitations to give colloquia at Fermilab. Stay tuned for more on that front.

The APS meeting is a wonderful opportunity to connect with and learn how our partners at other institutions — many of whom have worked at Fermilab — are advancing research in all physics fields, both in and outside academia. The APS April program committee chaired by our colleague and former DPF Chair Ian Shipsey and the APS staff have to be commended for an excellent meeting.

I’m pleased to be a part of this important organization whose core mission is the advancement of physics, and to bring you a glimpse of the meeting.

Pushpa Bhat is a member of the APS Council of Representatives. She is a scientist in the Particle Physics Division and deputy head of the Fermilab Office of Program Planning. She is also an adjunct professor at Northern Illinois University.