A Letter from the SPS President

Letter from the Director

A Letter from the SPS President

by Alina Gearba-Sell, US Air Force Academy (USAFA)

 Alina Gearba-Sell  Photo courtesy of SPS National Office.The Society of Physics Students is a professional organization “that exists to help students transform themselves into contributing members of the professional community.” At the core of its mission stands the firm belief that involvement in a research project cultivates a distinct set of skills that will enhance an undergraduate’s experience and better prepare them for the challenges that they will encounter in their professional careers.

According to the Council of Undergraduate Research, undergraduate research refers to “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline,” and the benefits of undergraduate research are far-reaching.

As such, SPS has developed a variety of programs and initiatives designed to take an undergraduate through the entire research process, from the formulation of a problem, to the development of the solution, and through to the dissemination of the results.

The SPS Chapter Research Award provides research grants to support chapter research projects led by undergraduates under the supervision of a faculty mentor. This program is designed to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, teamwork, as well as oral and written communication skills. In addition, it could serve as a foundation for how to address complex problems in the future, whether in graduate school or the workforce. A successful proposal requires undergraduates to present a clear statement of the problem and its significance, perform a thorough literature search, lay out a well-thought-out plan for conducting the proposed research with milestones set along the way, and prepare a research budget. Performing the actual research will instill a sense of ownership in undergraduates, while enhancing their leadership and project management skills at the same time. Communicating with the research mentor on a regular basis will bolster confidence in their ability to bring the project to completion and demonstrate the benefits of networking and collaborative research. Submitting a final report at the conclusion of the project will provide an opportunity to reflect on the research accomplishments and contemplate future avenues to be pursued, while emphasizing the importance of belonging to a professional community.

The SPS Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research recognizes individual undergraduates who made significant research contributions to any physics-related field. SPS provides additional opportunities in travel and reporter awards for undergraduates to present their research at professional conferences and connect with the community. SPS also offers a summer internship program in research, education and policy with emphasis in building a strong community.

The Journal of Undergraduate Reports in Physics (JURP) provides a forum for undergraduates to disseminate their research outcomes in a peer-reviewed journal designed to highlight undergraduate work. Supported and hosted by AIP Publishing, AIP Publishing.
We hope this summer will be a great one, you will have the opportunity to participate in a research internship and next academic year you will engage in a face-to-face research project with a faculty member. We also hope you will consider publishing your research findings or chapter projects in JURP, take advantage of the multitude of opportunities SPS has to offer and engage with the professional community. 

Sigma Pi Sigma (ΣΠΣ), the national physics honor society, was founded in 1921 by students at Davidson College. It exists to honor outstanding scholarship in physics, to encourage interest in physics among students at all levels, to promote an attitude of service, and to provide fellowship for those excelling in physics. While its “linked but distinct” counterpart, the Society of Physics Students (SPS), is an organization that helps students transform themselves into contributing members of the professional community, Sigma Pi Sigma serves to provide a lifelong framework through which to advance its mission and provide opportunities to support future physicists.

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) generously underwrites Sigma Pi Sigma programs, including awards for chapter projects, outstanding service, and lifelong commitment to the organization’s objectives of SPS and ΣΠΣ. Sigma Pi Sigma also hosts the Physics Congress, or PhysCon, an inclusive conference for undergraduate physics students. We are looking forward with great excitement to the upcoming Physics Congress in Washington, DC, and will mark the centennial celebration of the founding of ΣΠΣ!