My Piece of the Pi(e)

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My Piece of the Pi(e)

Students and physicists celebrate Pi Day by giving back


Tara Davis, Development Manager, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD

March 14 is always a great occasion to pay homage to the mathematical constant approximated as 3.14. But this year students and professional physicists celebrated Pi Day in an entirely new way. They used it as an opportunity to support Sigma Pi Sigma and the Society of Physics Students (SPS), organizations that have helped many physicists throughout their educations and well into their careers.

To raise awareness of and support for their programs, SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma, in collaboration with the American Institute of Physics Development Office, collaborated on a website that encouraged visitors to donate in increments of pi. The site also featured short videos and photos of students, faculty, and Sigma Pi Sigma alumni talking about the “piece of the pi(e)” they received from SPS or Sigma Pi Sigma. Homemade pies and pie servers were given away to provide extra incentive to donate. In total to date, Pi Day efforts have raised $28,104.

“I would like to give ☑ $3.14159265358979323846264338327950…”

“I just thought it was really important to give back, and I thought it was important for me to encourage others to give,” said donor Beth Cunningham, who is the executive officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers. “I thought it was a really clever idea.”

Cunningham earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees in physics from Kansas State University in Manhattan. As she worked her way through tenure and prestigious positions teaching physics at universities, she realized she wanted to help others on a broader scale. “I knew I wanted to do something to help people on the national level, something to help faculty and physics educators.”

Cunningham isn’t the only physics-student-turned-physics-professional who had this realization. Philip “Bo” Hammer currently serves as the associate vice president of physics resources for the American Institute of Physics. Hammer was the director of Sigma Pi Sigma and the Society of Physics Students from 1996 until 2000, and believes the groups are important because they “honor scholarship, service, and commitment to the field and have the potential to build long-lasting affinity to physics.”

Sigma Pi Sigma president Willie Rockward created a video for the Pi Day site in which he describes how he received his first “piece of pi(e)” in 1987 when he was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma at Grambling State University in Louisiana. Rockward, who is also chair and associate professor of physics at the department of physics at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, said he found even bigger pieces of the pi(e) by serving on the SPS National Council and by becoming an SPS advisor at Morehouse, where he has had the pleasure of inducting into the honor society his own students.

Like Rockward, undergraduate Robyn Smith also said she has received several pieces of pi(e) thanks to her active membership in SPS. “My local chapter [at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] receives a piece of the pi(e) every time we succeed and our proposal is awarded a grant that allows us to bring our excitement for physics to local middle and high school classrooms,” she said. “I personally received my own piece of the pi(e) when I was nominated and elected as zone 3’s associate councilor. As an AZC, I’ve been able to directly participate in the governance of SPS National, as well as meet other inspirational student SPS leaders from across the country.”

Help us put the pi in Sigma Pi Sigma! Donate today at

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