Ideas Worth Stealing

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Chapter Shorts

Ideas Worth Stealing

Duke University:

To stay engaged with our community of alumni, every year we collect contact information and postgraduation plans from graduating seniors via a Google form. The responses are accessible to current members for networking or mentorship purposes.

University of North Carolina at Asheville:

Our chapter made it a goal to become more involved in department retention. Every time a new student declares a physics or astronomy major or minor, the department chair or the student’s advisor now sends an email introducing them to SPS. We then add them to our mailing list and invite them to upcoming events. We’ve seen a significant number of people we’ve reached out to in this way become part of SPS.

University of Washington Bothell:

Campus life suffered during the pandemic, but our SPS chapter was determined to stay connected. SPS exists to encourage interest in physics among students at all levels, and we took this intention to heart. We decided we needed a social media and marketing officer, so we advertised the position to marketing majors and welcomed a candidate to our team. We also created our first ever weekly newsletter. In addition to promoting events and campus resources, we featured club members and highlighted faculty and nonphysics students. Over the course of the year our chapter grew from 15 to 70 members, with many joining us from across a variety of different degree programs.

A preview of one of the University of Washington Bothell SPS chapter’s weekly newsletters.

Quirky and Creative 

University of Northern Iowa:

During the summer of 2020, we helped run a virtual summer camp for elementary school students called Beyond Frozen: The Science, Math, and Art of Fractals. Attendees spent a week learning about fractals and creating physical and digital fractal art. They also found fractals in nature and submitted photos to an online fractal gallery.

Luther College:

One of the ways we maintained a sense of community this year was through our physics T-shirt design contest. Each fall members submit ideas, and in spring we finalize the designs and vote. This year the two runners-up included a cat composed entirely of equations and a funny test filled with inside jokes from the department. The winner, by a large margin, featured an integral showing that the expectation value of the Spanish Inquisition is zero (because, according to Monty Python, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition). The design owed its success to the impassioned lobbying of a few senior members who had seen the design fail to win over the previous three years. We even extended apparel orders to Luther physics alumni, many of whom were supporters of the design.

University of Maryland (UMD) & Harvard University:

In the fall of 2020, our SPS chapter at UMD was invited by Harvard SPS to participate in their undergraduate “Chilloquium” series. We eagerly accepted. These weekly talks introduced prominent physicists as people, presenting their work at a level accessible to undergraduates.

A flyer for a Chilloquium talk featuring Dr. Jim Gates.


Howard University:

Along with a friend, SPS member Christina McBean collected and distributed Amazon Fire tablets to students in rural areas of Jamaica to use for online learning.

Students from the community of Burnt Savannah in Westmoreland, Jamaica, pose with tablets that will be used for online learning. Photos and images are courtesy of the corresponding chapter.


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