Physics Department Cookout: Students, professors meet and greet over food

Melissa Rollins, Staff Writer

Physics and Astronomy students took a break from the beginning of the new fall semester at Francis Marion University to enjoy a cookout on Tuesday, Aug. 30 on the patio of the Smith University Center.

The cookout started at 5 p.m. and was a drop-in event. Physics and Astronomy majors, students currently enrolled in those classes and those simply interested in these disciplines were invited by their professors to attend the cookout.

Associate Professor of Physics and FMU alumnus Dr. Philip Fulmer proposed holding the cookout because he has fond memories of similar events from his time in graduate school.

“It was a fun experience in grad school at Texas A&M,” Fulmer said. “It was a good way to get to know incoming students and introduce them to returning … students.”

Fulmer said that he hoped that the cookout had a good enough turnout that it would have the support of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and become an annual fall event.

Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Todd Vaccaro said that he believed that events like the cookout are a good way for students to get to know teachers outside of the classroom environment.

“Students don’t always feel comfortable one-on-one with professors, but at events like this I have discussions with students I have known for years,” Vaccaro said.

Many of the students who attended the cookout also said that they think events like this are a good way to catch up with friends and meet new students and faculty members.

Freshman physics major Tiffany Prosser said she thought that the cookout was a way to get to know other physics majors and the professors that she will have during her time at FMU.

Dr. David Peterson, Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, acted as host while Fulmer manned the grill. Peterson welcomed the students to the cookout and then introduced the two new faculty members to the department: Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Jacob Moldenhauer and Adjunct Instructor of Physics Stephen Thomas.

Peterson said that the Department of Physics and Astronomy will be taking students to conferences later this year, as they have in the past. Senior computational physics major Zach Wilson said that he thinks that these conferences are always an enjoyable experience.

“A lot of the talks are really beneficial,” Wilson said. “As you progress, you understand more. We even have study groups at night.”

By taking time to get to know students on a personal level at events like the cookout and conferences, the professors of the Department of Physics and Astronomy try to help their students to learn all they can during their time at FMU.