The University of Dallas was proud to have Sophia Andaloro, a senior Physics major at the University of Dallas, recently present at the Fall Meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society in Hawaii. Andaloro’s submission to the conference was based on her research at the Cyclotron Institute at Texas A & Mrom the previous summer.
The conference had a selective acceptance process that narrowed applicants to 110 undergraduates, choosing only very involved applicants who had made an impactful contribution to research. Andaloro’s independent research project on machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, entailed the examination of neutron-gamma discrimination in their detectors. She investigated the best ways to use machine learning to improve current methods of this discrimination.
Andaloro described the Division of Nuclear Physics Meeting as a great learning experience. She enjoyed a two hour poster session, in which she conducted discussions and interacted with professors and experts in the physics community. Discussing her research and the physics behind it taught her a lot about her own project. The best thing, Andaloro said, was finding out “how and in what way my research was failing, and what I could do to improve.” Andaloro stated that she was encouraged her to consider it her duty to publish this for the rest of the scientific community in order to make her contribution to scientific progress.
Spending five days in a community that has the same enthusiasm for physics and is very supportive of undergraduate physics research was eye-opening and rewarding, according to Andaloro. She said this conference gave her perspective on how undergraduate research can have a big impact and is a great opportunity. “It is a chance to do something important,” she said. “The resources available to us as undergrads were surprising.”
Conferences provide students the opportunity to meet and connect with others who have similar interests. Although Andaloro said she hadn’t known anyone in the physics field before the conference, she now has contact with professors she would be excited to work with. While conferences can be a considerable commitment of time and money, it is always worth looking into whether there is funding available.
Andaloro had several pieces of advice for other undergraduates looking to attend a conference: “If you go to a conference, especially one in a field of science, have materials that supplement your presentation, have business cards, have a personal summary. Don’t be afraid to network and give people your name.” Andaloro also recommended that “the best way to prepare for a conference, especially one that is hard to get into, is to give it your all in your research project, admit your mistakes, and be honest.” After the Meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics, Andaloro said she is thinking more seriously about her career, and is especially interested in one in nuclear physics. She is currently applying to graduate school and for external fellowships.
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