SPS is Your Village

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SPS is Your Village


Sean Bentley, Director, Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma

Sean Bentley (and his buddy Albert) pose for a photo in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of Sean Bentley.

While the idea of the lone scientist has long been popularized, odds are you won’t solve the problems of 21st-century physics by sitting in an orchard and waiting for inspiration (in the form of an apple, perhaps) to strike. The recent 5,000+ author paper from the CERN Collaboration is an extreme example of a simple truth: most scientific advances are made by teams of researchers.

This need for a network goes far beyond research. To make the most of any effort, it indeed takes a village.

A strong community is often founded around a shared purpose. The thousands of undergraduates in physics and astronomy that make up the SPS community are united by the common goal of obtaining personal and professional enrichment that goes beyond traditional curricular training.

That starts at our 750 college and university chapters, where many strong connections are built and active programs are implemented. As a chapter advisor, I spent my first few years working in isolation with my students.

Then I realized how much the larger SPS organization had to offer. It was not until we connected to SPS at the national level that our chapter truly thrived. With programs to support outreach, research, interactions with alumni, career training, inclusiveness, and more, the SPS National Office helps chapters to best serve their members.

The most prestigious and transformative experience available to SPS members is the internship program. Each summer it brings members to our nation’s capital to work in science policy, fundamental research, science history, and educational outreach. The interns become a community in their own right, building lifelong friendships and valuable professional connections.

The SPS National Office also creates opportunities for members to interact with each other and the larger scientific community. SPS organizes events at national scientific meetings of other societies, including the American Physical Society (APS), the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), The Optical Society (OSA), and the American Crystallographic Association (ACA). We provide SPS members with funding to attend these meetings. Zone meetings, which bring together members regionally, can receive financial and programmatic support from SPS National. (See "In the Zone" for stories from recent zone meetings.) The SPS National Council, made up of student and faculty representatives from each of the 18 regional zones, meets each year to plan the future of your society.

Every four years, SPS and its associated honor society, Sigma Pi Sigma, hosts the largest gathering of undergraduate physics students in the world. With 1,200 of your peers expected at the next Quadrennial Physics Congress to be held in San Francisco in November 2016, you will not want to miss it! (See Brittney Hauke’s story on page 26.)

Able to open doors to a much larger world, SPS truly is your village. //

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