Community Shows Up in Droves for Astronomy Lecture

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SPS Chapters on Building Community

Community Shows Up in Droves for Astronomy Lecture


Lori Porter, Former SPS Chapter President, University of Louisville


The University of Louisville SPS chapter poses for a photo. Photos courtesy of the UofL SPS chapter.

On a fall day in 2022, our SPS chapter was working hard on last-minute preparations for the annual Bullitt Lecture in Astronomy—the University of Louisville’s largest annual astronomy event and one of the best opportunities for our chapter to fundraise and share science with the community. This year’s event was particularly important. It was the second in-person Bullitt lecture since COVID-19 closures, and attendance at the first one had been lower than normal. We were determined to bring it back in full force, advertising in local newspapers, at schools, and elsewhere. 

Still uncertain if our efforts would pay off, SPS volunteers set up the planetarium and prepared T-shirts and 3D-printed items for sale. Minutes later, we were beyond shocked to see people stream into the planetarium ready to hear the lecture, stopping to buy our merchandise on the way. The line of people waiting to sign our guest book extended all the way to the street!

When it was time for the lecture to begin, we gazed around the planetarium. The room was packed, and some attendees were standing. We had nearly reached capacity with more than one hundred people!


Some of the 3D-printed merch created by the UofL SPS chapter.

The lecture was given by Karan Jani, a Vanderbilt University professor who works on LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). The talk covered gravitational waves, their discovery, and their importance to physics and astronomy. Attendees were filled with wonder, and we enjoyed hearing their thoughtful whispers when new images appeared on the planetarium’s dome. 

One of my favorite parts of the evening was when a large group of students from a nearby high school approached Professor Jani after his lecture. The students identified themselves as Indian, like Professor Jani, and flooded him with questions about what it was like to succeed in the field. Later, one of the students told us that they rarely meet physicists who look like them in Kentucky. Connecting the students with a scientist they related to in this way was a fantastic experience.

Overall, the 2022 Bullitt Lecture in Astronomy at the University of Louisville (UofL), partly funded and hosted by the Society of Physics Students, was a huge success. We raised over $200 by selling merchandise at the event and had a record-breaking attendance. It was an experience we will carry with us—a reminder of the importance of outreach, science, and hard work!

Need Speakers for an Event?

Check out the SPS Alumni Engagement Program—a database of participants willing to be speakers, panelists, tour guides, and mentors for SPS chapters. Learn more at

Get Money for Chapter Outreach Events

Marsh White Awards of up to $600 are available for chapter programs or events that promote an interest in physics or astronomy among students or the general public. Applications are due November 15 each year.

Learn more at


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SPS Chapters on Building Community