Coming from Underground: Interview with the PsiCo Founders

by Folke Eikmeier

Feeling that science was underrepresented on campus, third years Piotr Sokól (Neuroscience/Math) and Joris de Vries (Physics/Math) set up ΨCo/PsiCo. An interview with the chair and vice chair of the UCSA’s youngest committee.

What motivated you to set up ΨCo?

Joris: “Piotr already had the idea two years ago. We all went on exchange and when we came back this semester we decided to finally carry it out.”

Piotr: “We’re all science majors and we don’t really have a representation on campus. Social Science majors have LawCo or PoliticsCo that organize events for them. The idea is that ΨCo does the same for the Science Department.”

Why do you think Science students are not represented on campus?

Joris: “There used to be the Asklepian Committee for the PreMed majors, but there is not that much for physics and math majors. This is a very select group. You can find politics majors everywhere on campus. Science majors are more underground and there are fewer of them.”

“The difference is that science topics can be quite abstract. You can’t simply give a lecture on quantum mechanics because you need a whole course to understand that topic. It’s easier for politics events. For me as a science major, politics is less abstract than science is for a politics major.”

Do you think students on campus are interested in science events?

Joris: “There has always been this fascination with science, for example with space and astrophysics. It is a more prominent topic in the media now. There are more documentaries and The Big Bang Theory is a sitcom about scientists.”

“It will be our job to show people this is interesting. We want to organize screenings of BBC documentaries that are open for everyone.  There is a very good one about the Large Hadron Collider nearGeneva. Everyone has heard that they are looking for the God-particle there but nobody knows what that really is. These documentaries are aimed at people without much scientific knowledge.”

Piotr: “We also want to organize fun experiments. The Cavendish experiment for example, you can demonstrate in an afternoon how they found out about gravity. This can show people that science is not that abstract.”

Couldn’t you have organized these events through an already existing committee?

Piotr: “There is MedCo, but that is really for medicine, biology and chemistry.”

Joris: “Pre-med and hard sciences are very different things. We want to organize more specific representation for mathematics, physics and neuroscience. Another aim is to help science students at UCU, for example by telling them how they can build a career, how they can get an edge. I found out about an off-campus course in my last semester. It would be great if I had known about it in my first semester.”

What does the name ΨCo mean?

Piotr: “It happens to be a terrible pun.”

Joris: “The Ψ symbol represents a wave function in physics. It sounds like psi, which sounds like psychology and represents the mind part of neuroscience. So it’s not like we want to steal the name of a future psychology committee.”

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