Within the Society of Physics Students (SPS) is housed Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society, which elects members on the basis of outstanding academic achievement. This unique two-in-one society operates within the American Institute of Physics, an umbrella organization for ten other professional science societies.
Sigma Pi Sigma exists to honor outstanding scholarship in physics; to encourage interest in physics among students at all levels; to promote an attitude of service of its members towards their fellow students, colleagues, and the public; to provide a fellowship of persons who have excelled in physics.
Founded in 1921, Sigma Pi Sigma is a member honor society of the Association of College Honor Societies. The society has some 75,000 historical members. Election to Sigma Pi Sigma is a lifetime membership.
The Society of Physics Students (SPS) was formed in 1968 with the union of Sigma Pi Sigma and the AIP Student Sections. Today Sigma Pi Sigma is housed within the SPS.
Sigma Pi Sigma chapters are restricted to colleges and universities of recognized standing that offer a strong physics major. The chapters receive into membership undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, and a few others in closely related fields. Students elected to membership must attain high standards of general scholarship and outstanding achievement in physics.
Undergraduate candidates must be in the upper one-third of their class in general scholarship to meet the minimum standard that chapters may use. A higher minimum average is often established for physics courses. Undergraduate candidates must have completed at least three semesters of full-time college work and at least three semester courses in physics that can be credited toward a physics major. Graduate students and faculty members may be elected at any time. Students who are not physics majors can be elected, provided that they meet the standards and have demonstrated an interest in physics.
Physicists in industry and government laboratories, as well as secondary school physics teachers, can be elected as honorary members on the basis of their professional record.
What Membership in Sigma Pi Sigma Means
Sigma Pi Sigma is the official honor society of the physics profession. Through election to Sigma Pi Sigma, distinctive achievement and high scholarship in physics is recognized and celebrated.
By honoring high achievement in physics and upholding high standards for election into Sigma Pi Sigma, the Society provides an incentive for all physics students to rise to excellence. The Society also encourages physics interest and science literacy in the general public.
With the recognition of accomplishment comes a responsibility to service. As persons who earned our Sigma Pi Sigma insignia pins by midnight oil, we appreciate the struggles of fellow students and colleagues who are facing similar challenges. When our experience and resources are placed at their service, then Sigma Pi Sigma touches more lives than may be counted by the number of its members. Because we respect the struggle for excellence, we support the generations of students that follow us.
Sigma Pi Sigma members cut across generational lines. The first members were inducted in 1921. New members are added every year. This represents many generations of experience and wisdom that can be brought to bear on matters of common interest to all members.
Sigma Pi Sigma members cut across professional lines. Besides physicists, many members of other professions also enrich our ranks, uniting a diverse group of people who have shared in the culture and traditions of physics, and have demonstrated that they could excel in it.
With this common thread of a shared background in physics running through so rich a diversity of generations and professions, and with the publications and meetings of the Society available for communication instruments, Sigma Pi Sigma nurtures a spirit of professional community among its members, and encourages them to offer their collective wisdom and perspectives in the service of society.
Cost of Membership
Induction into Sigma Pi Sigma is a lifetime membership. Each new member pays to the National Office an entrance fee of $54.00 at the time of their reception into Sigma Pi Sigma. This fee includes a one-year membership in the Society of Physic Students (SPS), or a one-year extension of membership for current SPS members.
The fee includes the cost of the official lapel pin, a certificate of membership, and a membership card. There are no annual dues to Sigma Pi Sigma or special assessment other than the original entrance fee. The entrance fee must be paid prior to reception into membership.
Sigma Pi Sigma fees pay a portion of the cost of operations of the society. The remainder comes from SPS dues, alumni contributions, and AIP funds.
Voluntary contributions of Sigma Pi Sigma members fund three annual programs that support undergraduate physics:
- the SPS Scholarship;
- the Marsh White Awards, given to SPS chapters for science outreach projects to the local community; and
- the Sigma Pi Sigma Undergraduate Research Award, which funds SPS chapter research projects.
Benefits of Membership
In addition to the the official lapel pin, certificate of membership and membership card, all members of Sigma Pi Sigma receive complimentary subscriptions to Radiations magazine, the official publication of Sigma Pi Sigma. Members also receive notice of events through quarterly emails from the Sigma Pi Sigma Director.
Sigma Pi Sigma members also have the opportunity to attend local Sigma Pi Sigma and SPS events as a way to share their experiences with the younger members of the physics community, to network with their peers, to keep up with the latest trends in physics, and to meet new people. Find out what's going on in your region using the contact information in the SPS/Sigma Pi Sigma Directory.
Another benefit available to you as a member of Sigma Pi Sigma is access to the APSIT Group Insurance Program.