Historical Highlights

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1928: First National Convention

Held on the campus of the founding chapter, Davidson College, NC. Six chapters were represented, national officers were elected, and life-long leader Marsh White became Secretary/Treasurer.

1931: Third National Convention

Held at Purdue University, where Sigma Pi Sigma was changed from a fraternity to an honor society, removing all elements of secrecy. Meeting attendance was opened to non-members as well. The society had chapters on 19 campuses.

1967: Special Convocation

Held at Purdue University, where delegates from ninety chapters voted on the merger between AIP and Sigma Pi Sigma. Society of Physics Students (SPS) formed as a result of these discussions.

1992: First Modern Congress

Held in Dayton, OH, SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma collaborations, membership databases, and membership lists were addressed. Attendees also discussed employment, education, and social issues related to physics.

1996: Diamond Jubilee

Sigma Pi Sigma's 75th anniversary was celebrated in Atlanta, GA, with the theme "Looking Back, Looking Forward." Allan Lightman, author of "Einstein's Dreams," and Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreckage of the Titanic, were two of the distinguished guest speakers.

2000 Congress

Held at the Sigma Pi Sigma headquarters in College Park, MD, this congress focused on career diversity, undergraduate education reform, and hidden physicists. A keynote speaker was Physics Nobel Laureate William Phillips.

2004: Heritage and Promise

Held in Albuquerque, NM, 400 attendees heard from Carl Wieman, Jocelyn Bell-Burnell and many other distinguished speakers and panelists. Students and faculty still speak warmly of the gathering. In addition to scientific talks, ethical issues arising in the profession were discussed, and several student-led recommendations were developed. Attendees toured the Trinity test site and McDonald Ranch House at White Sands Missile Range.

2008: Scientific Citizenship—Connecting Physics and Society

More than 600 physics students, faculty, and Sigma Pi Sigma alumni gathered at Fermilab in Batavia, IL, for the 2008 Quadrennial Congress. They spent a packed weekend making new connections, interacting with Fermilab scientists and distinguished speakers, debating common concerns for the discipline and society, and touring Fermilab's unique experiments and grounds.

2012: Connecting Worlds through Science and Service

Held in Orlando, FL, the 2012 congress was the largest gathering of undergraduate physics students in history. More than 800 attendees heard from distinguished speakers including Physics Nobel Laureate John Mather, Freeman Dyson, and Dr. John Grunsfeld, an astronaut with a PhD in Physics.  Attendees toured NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, and participated in several dynamic workshops.

2016: Unifying Fields

Now more commonly known by its nickname, PhysCon, the 2016 congress welcomed over 1,100 attendees to San Francisco, CA. Plenary talks included Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Nobel Laureate Eric Cornell, Persis Drell, Patrick Brady, and James S. Gates. Sites like SLAC, Google X, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Computer History Museum welcomed undergraduates and their mentors for tours.