National physics meeting goes online and free to join

Assistant professor Marie-Cécile Piro organized video streaming particle physics sessions for CAP Congress and invites virtual attendees.

Suzette Chan - 05 June 2020

The week-long Canadian Association of Physicists' annual congress normally takes place at a different post-secondary institution each summer. But 2020 is not a normal year, so CAP Congress will be held online from June 8 to 12. 

Marie-Cécile Piro, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Alberta, is chair of the particle physics division of CAP and is heavily involved as an organizer of this year's CAP Congress. While her role during the event "is to make sure everything is working fine", planning began far in advance. "It was a good six months of preparation with the vice-chair of the particle physics division, Matthias Danninger, to build diverse sessions to reflect as much as possible the particle physics activities and research in Canada," she says.

Piro has concentrated on promoting student talks at CAP Congress. "I was particularly interested in putting the students' research at the front of the scene for them to have recognition with the best oral and poster presentation prizes, and to have fewer invited speakers to give them a better chance to participate."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, particle physics experimentalists have not been able to travel to big experiment sites like SNOLAB in Sudbury, IceCube in the Antarctic, or CERN in Geneva. 

"We have been working at home via Zoom to do things like operating detectors remotely or working on the new design for future experiments," says Piro. "We are also using this time to work on design or physics processes and mount a plan for resuming experiments once we will have access."

CAP Congress has always been an opportunity for researchers to connect with colleagues working on different experiments in their focus area and in other fields of physics research. However, participation was always limited due to the physical realities of any given host site and the cost of travel, accommodations, and food. Virtual meetings won't replace everything offered at an in-person conference, but CAP may keep some online components.

"We are certainly considering for the future offering remotely some of the sessions to give more students the chance to participate if they are not able to travel," says Piro. She added that a record 200 people have registered for the particle physics sessions, which run in four-hour blocks on both  June 8 and 9.

The particle physics talks are open to everyone, Attendance is free, but you must register to receive the links

Information about other programming at CAP Congress is available on the Canadian Association of Physicists website.