On April 25, one of the first sunny days of spring, 16 City Tech students gathered in the Physics Department to compete in an all-day physics competition sponsored by the Center for Theoretical Physics and organized by professors Roman Kezerashvili, chair of the physics department; Ilya Grigorenko; German Kolmakov; Darya Krym; and Justin Vazquez-Poritz. Early on this Sunday morning, these dedicated professors and eager students met on campus to work out the intricacies of matter, motion, energy and force.
Students chose physics problems from one of two tracks: mechanics or electricity and magnetism. They spent the morning working on theoretical problems such as calculating the geostationary orbit of a GPS satellite or estimating how many helium-filled balloons would be needed to lift one’s weight. After breaking for a lunch of pizza, the afternoon was dedicated to figuring out solutions to experimental problems.
One student participant said the problems are good practice for what they might have to do as part of an internship interview or an interview for a full-time, permanent position in a technical field. He said that he was thankful to be able to put his participation in the competition on his resume.
Krym explained that “the experimental activities are designed so that students cannot simply follow procedure—they must create the procedure. This is their introduction to research.” Kezerashvili agreed and said “research can be very creative work in that we learn to apply our knowledge to something unfamiliar. And these are open-ended problems—we can infinitely improve the results. It’s important for students to learn this.”
Five City Tech students won prizes for their problem-solving skills: Elliot Raskin won first place ($200), Angela Oei and Joshua Grillasca shared second place ($150 each), and Alpha Bah and Mamadou Dione shared third place ($100 each).
“This competition is a new experience for us. We are doing it for the first time today and we hope that it will continue,” said Grigorenko. “Inspired by the success of the competition, we plan to make it CUNY-wide.”
The City Tech Center for Theoretical Physics (CTP) is a subsidiary of the Physics Department and is a unified research and teaching center focused on fundamental physics. The primary mission of the CTP is to foster and promote excellence in theoretical physics research with significant focus on mathematical physics, computational physics, condensed matter physics, particle physics, nuclear physics and astrophysics. The CTP also aims to educate graduate and undergraduate students in theoretical and computational physics and to communicate its activities to the general public through public lectures and other outreach activities.