2017–18 SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma Year in Review

Year in Review

2017–18 SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma Year in Review

SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma Staff

From research to outreach, fellowship to scholarship, and leadership to advocacy, the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma made big strides in 2017–18 toward providing opportunities for all students interested in physics and astronomy. As the only organization dedicated to undergraduate students interested in physics and astronomy, SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma seek to encourage the diverse interests of our community and find ways to channel the energy and enthusiasm into programs and resources that are impactful.

We kicked off the year with a new National Council, inspired by the success of the 2016 Physics Congress and eager to sustain the momentum for a larger conference in Providence, RI, November 14–16, 2019. The council formed committees to focus on topics including professional community engagement, governance, PhysCon 2019, career pathways, zones, and chapter health and outreach. The committees met throughout the year and developed useful tools such as an effective practices for chapters guide and an alumni engagement website among other resources.
The council also welcomed several new chapters:


#1523 Del Mar College (Zone 13)
#6101 Saint Anselm College (Zone 1)
#7059 University of Tampa (Zone 6)

Sigma Pi Sigma

#577 University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Zone 18)
#578 Wofford College (Zone 5)
#579 High Point University (Zone 5)
#580 Saint Anselm College (Zone 1)

As of June 4, 2018, we have 4,127 national members in over 527 chapters or in at-large status.

Programmatically, the year got off to a strong start with the Great American Eclipse. SPS provided over 6,000 pairs of viewing glasses to 37 chapters to host outreach events in their local communities and/or the path of totality. Chapters submitted 43 applications for Fall Awards, including Marsh White, Future Faces of Physics, Chapter Research, and Sigma Pi Sigma, and we distributed 31 grants.

A record 79 students applied for the SPS Summer Internship program, with 15 students accepted for placements with AIP, NASA, NIST, Member Societies, and on Capitol Hill. The National Office also expanded the SPS Congressional Visits Day program to chapter officers and accepted five students for a rigorous two-day program of training and meetings with senators, representatives, and their staffers.

Spring brought applications for scholarships (38), Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards (15), and the Outstanding Chapter Advisor Award (9), as well as zone meetings in all 18 zones. Many chapters took advantage of new funding offered by the National Office to ensure that as many chapters as possible have the opportunity to travel to their zone meeting and connect with their peers.

Sigma Pi Sigma had another strong year of inductions, with 1,691 inductees at 286 chapters. Lifelong members continued their commitment to honor, scholarship, fellowship, and service through participation in opportunities like Adopt-a-Physicist, Hidden Physicist profiles, and induction ceremonies at their alma maters or local chapters.

Outreach was a theme throughout the year with the resurgence of the Science Outreach Catalyst Kit (SOCK) as developed by the Summer 2017 SPS Interns. In a dramatic expansion from past years, SPS distributed 77 of these kits to allow more chapters to share the wonders of the Fabric of the Universe1 demonstration. The support of interns also allowed the creation of 20 new demonstration guides to support chapters providing outreach to their local communities. SPS also supported the coordination of the Everyday Physics booths at the USA Science and Engineering Festival held in Washington, DC, April 7–8.

SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma continue to support the career aspirations of all students through the Careers Toolbox, SPS Jobs website, and, as of Fall 2017, the GradSchoolShopper printed guide and website. These resources provide a comprehensive suite of tools for students considering industry or graduate study after completing their bachelor’s degrees. SPS released a newly revised Toolbox in early 2018, including updated statistics from the AIP Statistical Research Center and additional tools to support students with their job search. The SPS Jobs website (http://jobs.spsnational.org) grew in scope in 2017–18 and is quickly becoming the home for universities and other organizations to post internships and research opportunities of interest to undergraduates.

SPS staff, leaders, and members also made themselves known at national and regional physics meetings with exhibits or sessions at SACNAS, CU2MiP, NSBP Annual Conference, AMS Student Conference, AAS Winter Meeting, AAPT Winter Meeting, CUWiPs, APS March Meeting, APS April Meeting, PhysTEC, Building Thriving Undergraduate Programs, ACA, AAPM, AAPT Summer Meeting, SOR, and the Emerging Researchers National Conference. Students received over $19,700 in financial support to attend these meetings and present their research or write about their experience. Much of that support came directly from the generous contributions of Sigma Pi Sigma alumni and SPS supporters through our donation campaigns.

Publications were another high note for the year, with four issues of The SPS Observer (including JURP) and two issues of Sigma Pi Sigma’s Radiations. This year the editorial staff intentionally sought out a broader range of student voices for these magazines and shared relevant topics for our members:

The SPS Observer

Fall 2017: Building Community
Winter 2018: Career Pathways
Spring 2018: Communicating Science
Summer 2018: Journal of Undergraduate Reports in Physics


Fall 2017: Today’s Physics Education
Spring 2018: Science Tourism

Administratively, SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma staff continue to work behind the scenes to ensure that systems and processes are efficient and effective in meeting the needs of our members and chapters. Highlights in this area from the year include the launching of our new Single Sign-On (SSO) for the awards application system, partnering with a fulfillment provider for Sigma Pi Sigma who reduced turnaround times and provided improved shipment tracking data, providing Google Group mailing lists for all chapter officers and advisors by zone, streamlining the chapter report submission process, and developing the ability to accept automatically recurring donations through http://donate.aip.org.

The staff and volunteer leadership of SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma are proud of what we have accomplished this year and are eager to take on the new challenges that 2018–19 will bring. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with our members, advisors, and chapters to achieve our collective goals. Together we are building a stronger physical sciences community.

1. See https://www.spsnational.org/programs/outreach/fabric-universe and https://www.spsnational.org/programs/outreach/fabric-universe-part-2.


2018– 2019 SPS Executive Committee.