2018–19 SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma Year in Review

Year in Review

2018–19 SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma Year in Review

Kayla Stephens, SPS Programs Manager

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” –Isaac Newton

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) and Sigma Pi Sigma (ΣΠΣ) have had another productive, impactful year ensuring that opportunities for undergraduates interested in physics and astronomy are plentiful and accessible. With research, scholarship, outreach, leadership, and advocacy at the forefront, there has not been a dull moment in 2018–19.

The year started off by welcoming a new National Council eager to serve all 18 zones by supporting chapter growth, providing access to resources, and promoting local and national initiatives, as well as seeking to improve inclusiveness and diversity within the physics and astronomy community. To this end, the following committees were formed within the National Council: Centennial Recognition, Strategic Communications, Sigma Pi Sigma Engagement, Governance, PhysCon, and Outreach.

The committee work resulted in many notable items. The Governance Committee wrote two SPS statements that were approved for general dissemination by the National Council. These statements support diversity and inclusivity as well as undergraduate spaces that encourage a student-led sense of community. The SPS Statement on Diversity, Inclusion, Ethics, and Responsibility and The SPS Statement on Common Rooms, Department Health, and Identity are now available to view on the SPS National website (www.spsnational.org/about/governance/statements). Later this fall, departments will receive a printed copy of the diversity statement to display in their lounge or student space.

Effective communication among the National Office, National Council, and chapters is fundamental to our success but challenging to achieve; therefore, the Strategic Communications Committee developed a communications survey that will be sent out to members later this year. This will help us assess the best ways to communicate resources and ensure we have the most updated contact information for all chapters.

With PhysCon 2019 coming this November, the largest gathering of undergraduate physics students in the United States, the National Council’s PhysCon Committee had much work to do! The committee developed campaigns to encourage chapters to fundraise so that every student has the opportunity to attend this year’s congress, which will be held November 14–16 in Providence, Rhode Island.

The National Council also had the pleasure of welcoming new SPS and ΣΠΣ chapters in the 2018–19 year.

New SPS Chapters

#2929 Howard Community College (Zone 4)
#6388 Santa Rosa Junior College (Zone 18)
#3616 LaGuardia Community College/CUNY (Zone 2)
#3291 Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez (Zone 6)
#3667 University of La Verne (Zone 18)
#3140 Institute of Engineering & Management (Zone 18)
#6757 CUNY of Staten Island (Zone 2)

New Sigma Pi Sigma Chapters

#581 University of Wisconsin-Parkside (Zone 9)
#582 New College of Florida (Zone 6)

As of May 15, 2019, we have 5,935 national members in over 548 chapters or in at-large status. This is a significant increase from last year, largely due to our new chapter membership program that allows an unlimited number of members from a chapter to join at one flat rate. We also are proud to report that a zone meeting was successfully held in all 18 zones this year. Zone meetings are crucial to the life of SPS and healthy chapters. This success would not have been possible without the 18 volunteer host institutions!

Of the 50 applications submitted by chapters for fall awards, including the Marsh White, Future Faces of Physics, Chapter Research, and Sigma Pi Sigma Awards, 36 chapters received support. A total of $24,935.91 was granted to the fall awardees.
The SPS internship program continues to be a touchstone for our society. This year we had 76 applications and placed 16 interns with the American Institute of Physics (AIP), NASA, NIST, Capitol Hill, and various AIP Member Societies in the Washington, DC, area.

Spring brought another opportunity for awards and recognition with SPS scholarships, Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards, and the Outstanding Chapter Advisor Award. We granted $37,000 in total for our spring awards.

Throughout the year, chapters are able to request Science Outreach Catalyst Kits (SOCKs), at no cost, which they can use during outreach events for local K–12 students. The 2018–19 SOCKs explored the physics of sound through a Chladni plate—
a metal plate vibrating on a speaker. There were 78 kits distributed across the nation this year!

ΣΠΣ continues to honor outstanding scholarship in physics and service, cutting across generational and professional lines and encouraging connection and excellence in the physics community. This year, hardly a week passed without an induction ceremony occurring somewhere in our network of chapters. A total of 1,669 new members were inducted into the lifelong membership of ΣΠΣ across 285 chapters.

SPS and ΣΠΣ continue to value the professional development of their members and help students effectively navigate their career options. We have a suite of career resources online as well as the Careers Toolbox, which serves students who are entering the workforce following a bachelor’s degree. Chapters also have taken advantage of our newly launched Alumni Engagement Program to connect with SPS alumni and ΣΠΣ members and learn about
their careers.

For our students pursuing graduate school, we provide not only advice but also the most comprehensive directory of graduate programs in the physical sciences through GradSchoolShopper (GSS). This year, staff enhanced the SPS National website and GradSchoolShopper.com to provide students with even more resources to help bring the future into focus.

Members of the SPS team were engaged in many national meetings this year, including meetings of the AMS, AAS, AAPT, and APS, as well as CUWiPs, PhysTEC, and the Emerging Researchers National Conference. Summer meetings include ACA, AAPM, AAPT, and OSA/FIO. Through financial aid, SPS provided students with opportunities to travel to these meetings and present their research or write about their experiences. Thanks to the contributions of ΣΠΣ alumni and other SPS supporters,
a total of $13,800 in financial aid was awarded this year.

This also has been a great year of disseminating the research and programmatic activities of our members, enabling them to share their voice within the physics community through our publications. We published four issues of the SPS Observer (including JURP) and two issues of Radiations.

SPS Observer

Fall 2018: “Finding Equilibrium”Winter 2019: “Get Ready to Make Waves at PhysCon”
Spring 2019: “Big Labs: Impacting the World in Big Ways”
Summer 2019: “Journal of Undergraduate Reports in Physics (JURP)”


Fall 2018: “Nobel Prizes in Physics”
Spring 2019: “PhysCon Preview”

The 2018–19 year of SPS and ΣΠΣ embodied the mission of enriching the lives of students locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Through providing tools to allow members to flourish professionally, fostering connections through a diverse network of physicists, and impacting lives through outreach services, SPS and ΣΠΣ have worked to transform the future of physics and astronomy. We are looking forward to what 2019–20 brings! If you are interested in continuing this legacy of opportunity and would like to donate, please visit donate.aip.org. And, of course, we hope to see you in Providence in November for PhysCon 2019!

The 2018-19 National Council. This elected board comes from all across the US Photo Courtesy of SPS National Office.