Give Counsel to the National Council

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Special Feature

Give Counsel to the National Council

Join the conversation, influence SPS policy


SPS National Office staff with Earl Blodgett, SPS Historian and Professor of Physics at University of Wisconsin—River Falls

Give council to the national councilIn 1999 the Kansas State Department Board of Education voted to strip evolution, the age of the Earth, and big bang cosmology from the public school science curriculum. In response, the Society of Physics Students took action and that year released its first-ever policy statement.1 "Ideas about the structure and evolution of the universe, including Earth and its life forms, are unifying concepts in science,î we proclaimed. ìThe development of studentsí informed views about these concepts is essential to a knowledge of science."

This was a bold and unprecedented step for the society, which had largely stayed out of politics. Some members of the National Council questioned whether SPS had any business getting involved, but the overwhelming majority felt it was appropriate to take a stand.

Building on that first leap, SPS has become a more outspoken voice on issues important to the undergraduate physics community. Since 1999 SPS has released or signed on to policy statements related to increasing investments in education, incorporating discussions of professional conduct into the physics curriculum, encouraging undergraduate research, making physics more accessible to everyone, and most recently, encouraging undergraduates to participate in science outreach. SPS has also sent position letters to national funding agencies, participated in the Science, Engineering, and Technology Congressional Visit Day, and created the American Institute of Physics Mather Public Policy Internship in collaboration with the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts.

As a grassroots organization, SPS’s strength comes from the diverse perspectives of its members. Every September, elected student and faculty representatives from each of the 18 geographic zones of SPS come together to decide on priorities and vote on the actions we should take together. These representatives, along with a small executive committee, make up the SPS National Council. The council continues its work throughout the year, primarily through topical committees, and reconvenes via webinar in April. The National Council represents you and wants to hear from you!

What issues are you passionate about? What problems should we tackle together?

Are you concerned about the state of science funding, like Eric Beier? (See his letter to Congress.) Maybe you want to improve communications between SPS chapters. Or perhaps you are looking for allies as you address difficulties closer to home in your physics department. (See Frisco D’Lozano’s story.)

There are several ways you can reach out and join the discussion:

  • Send an email to the associate zone councilor (a student) or zone councilor (a faculty member) elected to represent your zone, or to the members of the SPS Executive Committee (find contact information at
  • Attend an SPS zone meeting for face-to-face chats with SPS leaders from other schools. Upcoming zone meetings are listed on the SPS online calendar and announced in the biweekly SPS e-newsletter.
  • Run for the SPS National Council! Nominations are due February 15 each year, and all current SPS members are eligible to run. For details, see
  • Contact the SPS National Office with your thoughts and concerns at sps [at] or 301-209-3007.

You can also help us incubate new ideas by attending the next Sigma Pi Sigma Quadrennial Physics Congress, slated for November 3–6, 2016, in San Francisco, California. Congresses are huge, energetic gatherings of undergraduate physics students and alumni that feature talks by world-class scientists, hands-on workshops, and tours of fascinating science locations. Workshops at these meetings have a history of giving rise to powerful discussions. Deliberations at the 2004 Congress led to the formation of a National Council Committee on Diversity that spurred the creation of the Future Faces of Physics (FFP) program. This program has to date provided dozens of FFP kits to zone meetings and funded more than two dozen undergraduate outreach projects. The committee also initiated the 2009 statement on diversity, which articulated the society’s commitment “to providing programs, resources, and opportunities that encourage greater participation in the community of physics from members of all groups.”

Get involved. This is your society, your conversation to have.

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