Physics Minor Earns First-Place Poster Award at National Conference

Group of Physics students pose for a photo
December 21, 2023

A St. John’s University student who minors in Physics recently won a top prize at a poster competition held during the 2023 National Society of Black Physicists Conference at the Knoxville Convention Center in Knoxville, TN.

Lucas Shears, who is majoring in Environmental Sustainability and Decision-Making at the St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, took home a first-place Optica Poster Award for his poster, “A Thorough Approach to a Better Solar Panel,” which focused on ways solar panel design can be improved. The theme for this year’s conference, held November 9–12, was “Frontiers in Physics: from Quantum to Materials to the Cosmos.”

“Attending the conference made me feel very confident about my career plans,” Lucas said. “I learned that there are many different worlds within the realm of physics. My focus is on renewable energy; there is a huge market for it, and it’s on the rise. Seeing my poster win made me feel like there is room for sustainability in the world of physics.”

Lucas was among seven St. John’s students who attended the conference. Four other Johnnies presented posters that focused on solar panels and renewable energy. In addition to Lucas, the presenting students and their fields of study were Adam Choudhry, Physics; Matteo Filiberti, Environmental Sustainability and Decision-Making, Physics minor;Daniel Orozco, Physical Science, and Crystal Pierre, Physics. Two other St. John’s students who attended the conference were Veronica Janucik, Mathematical Physics, and Tasneem Oishi, Physics

Lucas Shears posing next to poster at 2023 National Society of Black Physicists Conference
Lucas Shears

The National Society of Black Physicists is the largest and most recognizable organization devoted to the African American physics community’s growth, development, and advancement. Founded in 1977 at Morgan State University, its mission is to promote the professional well-being of African American physicists and physics students within the international scientific community and society at large.

“All of our students represented St. John’s University very well,” said Malek Abunaemeh, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Physics, who secured $14,000 in funding from the society that enabled all seven students to attend the conference. “They were the top participating students at the conference. They impressed many people, including the President of the organization, Hakeem Oluseyi.” Mostafa Sadoqi, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Physics, assisted in preparing the students for the conference. 

Dr. Abunaemeh said the students’ participation in the conference was fueled by desire to establish a relationship between the St. John’s physics community and the National Society of Black Physicists. “We also wanted the students to expand their horizons and understanding of the type of research that is out there.”

He added, “They also learned about opportunities for graduate school and the funding associated with that from different universities, and how can they get the ball rolling to develop a plan for their goals and careers after they graduate from St. John’s.”  

“Participating in this conference made me appreciate the physics department at St. John’s,” said Lucas. “There were universities there that only funded one student. However, Dr. Abunaemeh got funding for all seven of us.”