Justin Partyka ’16 has been named the winner of the Physics Department’s 2014 Albert Holland Physics Lecture Competition, following his engaging delivery of a presentation titled, “Check Your Watch! The Theory of Time Dilation.”
Partyka, also the recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Book Prize, was awarded a cash prize for taking top honors in the competition. The science-focused competition invites HWS students to conduct a 15-minute lecture in which some significant principle or application of physics is derived and explained. Contestants are evaluated for their scientific and oratorical excellence. Associate Professor of Physics Ted Allen describes the competition as “physics oratory,” an event akin to pianists playing piano pieces in a competition, with the lectures sometimes called “physics etudes.”
Throughout his presentation, Partyka utilized the chalkboard first to illustrate and explain basic concepts that would be covered in his lecture. Making sure to ask audience members questions to gauge their understanding, Partyka analyzed the concept of time and its relative usefulness as a scientific constant. Checkering the chalkboard with both equations and helpful diagrams, Partyka proved to judges, students and fellow contestants that time could not be considered a constant relative to the concept of the speed of light.
“The complexities of physics can be challenging. For me, the Holland Prize competition served as an opportunity to demonstrate that these complexities, when effectively communicated, can inspire people to realize the underlying beauty and power in physics,” Partyka explained following the contest. “Ever since the faculty in the HWS physics department had inspired me to study physics as one of my own majors, speaking at the Holland Prize competition was a way for me to share my passion for physics with my peers – and with any luck, inspire them to take a physics course as well!”
The evening’s competition and prize were endowed by the late Professor of Physics Allan M. Russell P’81, P’86, for the purpose of encouraging physics discourse. The prize is named in honor and memory of past HWS President Albert Edward Holland. After the presentations, the spectators and participants moved to Eaton 114 for refreshments and discussion while the judges convened to determine a winner. Following the break, Partyka was declared the evening’s winner.
This year’s panel of judges included Assistant Professor of Physics Leslie Hebb, Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Alla Ivanchikova and Professor of Chemistry Erin Pelkey. The panel of judges is comprised of one professor from the Physics Department, one from the English Department, and one representing any other discipline.
Other students’ contributions to the contest were as follows:
Matthew Church ’14: “Deriving the Energy Spectrum of the Quantum Harmonic Oscillator”
Christopher Demas ’17: “Light, Spectroscopy and Diffraction Gratings”
Lisa Ditchek ’15: “Capacitors and Cells”
Josh Moss ’14: “How is Physics Able to Balance?”
Jose Muniz ’16: “Cricket and Baseball: A Bat and Ball War”
Chris Wilson ’16: “Gravity’s Effects on Time & How GPS Works”