Awakening the Pi

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Awakening the Pi

Providing scholarships and travel funds to over 200 worthy students


Tara Davis, former Development Manager, American Institute of Physics

Thanks to Sigma Pi Sigma’s compassionate donors, the total of the 2016 Pi Day campaign, “Episode III, The Pi Awakens,” is $39,203.05. These funds will allow Sigma Pi Sigma to provide scholarships and travel funds to over 200 worthy students.

The annual Pi Day campaign is Sigma Pi Sigma’s answer to a growing trend of yearly campaigns where the majority of the funds are raised via online platforms. To date, the 2016 Pi Day campaign is the largest total in the short history of the Sigma Pi Sigma online annual campaign.

New this year (in addition to the Star Wars theme) is the Congress Student Travel Fund.

The 2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress (PhysCon)

The new fund will help students with the cost of traveling to the 2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress (PhysCon), a professional-level conference that is the largest gathering of undergraduate physics students.

During PhysCon, students are given the unique opportunity to gather with their professors, mentors, and current icons in physics.  This exposure to other like-minded students and physics luminaries is invaluable for students planning a career in the physical sciences.

Recognizing that travel is expensive, especially for college students, Sigma Pi Sigma, the Society of Physics Students, and the American Institute of Physics worked to create this fund, which will offer more students travel stipends to help them attend PhysCon. The effort required the support of many, like Thomas Turano, a physicist, attorney, and longtime contributor to AIP’s student programs. He believes physics students need exposure beyond their classrooms and university laboratories.

“Being a physics student is more than being willing to study difficult concepts and investigate phenomena of nature,” Turano said. “To be successful it is necessary, not just desirable, that a student become part of the physics network.  The network provides an opportunity to meet other students from whom the student can learn and to whom the student can teach; to receive support from and provide support to; and above all, to enjoy the companionship of people, both students and teachers, with similar interests.” 

With that philosophy in mind, Turano became the first major donor to the Congress Student Travel Fund. “Unfortunately, not all can afford to attend conferences like the congress, and not all can find other forms of support to be able to attend. Our donations collectively will help additional students attend these events.”

Along with the money raised from the new fund, the money designated through the Pi Day campaign to the Sigma Pi Sigma Annual Fund will also offset students’ travel costs for PhysCon.

“PhysCon is one of the most dynamic meetings an undergraduate student can attend. With the site visits, interactive workshops, plenary speakers, and networking opportunities, students are not only exposed to the full range of the physics and astronomy community, but are also given skills that last a lifetime,” said Dr. Brad R. Conrad, director of the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma.

Bringing as many students as possible to PhysCon is a priority for its planners. “We try to include as many of the physics and astronomy undergraduates in the nation as we can. We hope that by getting them under one roof and sharing in this one monumental experience we can strengthen our community,” Conrad said.

Sigma Pi Sigma donors have embraced the themed Pi Day campaigns to benefit student programs and fuel the future of physics. If you would like to help physics students travel to events or if you are interested in making a gift in general, please contact the AIP Development Office at 301-209-3006 or visit us online.

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