Virtual Sigma Pi Sigma Inductions: Where Tradition Meets Opportunity

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Chapter Profile

Virtual Sigma Pi Sigma Inductions: Where Tradition Meets Opportunity


Kendra Redmond, Editor

 Attendees pose for a group “photo” during the University of Washington Bothell’s 2020 Sigma Pi Sigma induction. Image courtesy of Joey Shapiro Key.When I signed my name in the red book, becoming an inaugural member of the Carthage College Sigma Pi Sigma chapter in 2007, the feeling of comradery was visceral. I thought of all those who had signed their names in red books before me and all of those who would sign after me. So many physicists that I would never meet—could never meet—but that I was now connected to through this fellowship.

Ritual and tradition are woven into the fabric of Sigma Pi Sigma. In its first decade of existence, Sigma Pi Sigma was a fraternity. Symbolism and secrets were important parts of its identity. In 1931 the society dropped the secret elements and transitioned to an honor society, but traditions like the red books live on. Many chapters have cultivated and passed down their own traditions.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ΣΠΣ National Office is encouraging chapters to honor student achievement safely by moving induction ceremonies online. The move has inherent losses: inductees can’t physically sign their chapter’s red book during the ceremony, feel the weight of honor cords as they are bestowed, shake hands with school administrators, or participate in their local traditions.

But Sigma Pi Sigma is not a collection of red books—it’s a fellowship of people. Inductions aren’t a collection of traditions—they’re an opportunity to embrace new members who love physics and share the same commitment to academic achievement, service, and outreach.

Physicists excel at identifying the essence of a situation and applying the same principles to a new environment. Virtual inductions are an opportunity to do just that—examine the essence of ΣΠΣ traditions and apply them in a virtual setting. By doing so we have the opportunity to strengthen and engage our long-standing community in new ways, even as we celebrate the hope and promise of our newest members.

Chapter president Kavitha Arur opens Texas Tech University’s 2020 Sigma Pi Sigma induction. Image courtesy of Andrew Whitbeck.

Seize the Opportunity

Get resources for planning a virtual induction, request a personalized message from Sigma Pi Sigma leadership for your ceremony, and invite chapter alumni at
Join the Alumni Engagement Program at
Share your ideas for virtual community building by emailing us at sps [at]

Attendees show off the right-hand rule during the 2020 Sigma Pi Sigma induction at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Roberto Ramos.

Physics Nobel laureate William Phillips gives a talk during the University of the Sciences virtual induction last spring. Image courtesy of Roberto Ramos.

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