Grow Your Community

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Special Feature

Grow Your Community

A Word From This Issue’s Guest Editor


Karen Williams, Professor of Physics, SPS Advisor, East Central University in Ada, OK

Karen Williams. Photo by Carl Rutledge.Today on Facebook I saw a photo of Dr. Beth Cunningham, executive officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), standing next to a larger-than-life cardboard cutout of Lise Meitner. It isn’t very often you see a cardboard cutout of a famous nuclear physicist, is it? How often is it that you see one of a famous female physicist? How I wish I had a photo of me next to a cardboard cutout of my childhood hero, Marie Curie!

People need other people like themselves in their community. As a physics professor at East Central University (ECU), I am the only female faculty member on my floor. Fortunately, the professional physics organizations I belong to provide me with a diverse community of men and women who share my love of teaching physics.

My physics community also includes my department chair at ECU, many of my former students, the SPS National Office, the SPS officers and councilors I served with on the SPS Council and three Sigma Pi Sigma Congress planning committees, the Arkansas-Oklahoma-Kansas section of AAPT, the Oklahoma Academy of Science, and many contacts from AAPT meetings.

The theme of this issue is the importance of building community. A strong community makes its members more successful and more able to persevere.

How broad is your community? Do you go to scientific conferences? Have you attended an SPS zone meeting to get together with students and professors at other universities in state or out of state? Have you sat down to have a conversation over coffee with a physics “star”? Have you left your comfort zone and gone to one of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in another state or country? Have you applied for an internship, including those offered by SPS?

Communicating on Facebook about cardboard cutouts of female physicists made me excited to engage others and participate in an upcoming photo event. What motivates you to expand your horizons, to meet and share physics with others? What rewards will you get from expanding your community?

Don’t be like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, always sitting in the same spot. Boldly go forth. You might just discover universes previously unknown to you. //

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