Building a Community, One Interaction at a Time

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The Director's Space

Building a Community, One Interaction at a Time


Brad R. Conrad

Brad R. ConradSigma Pi Sigma has the potential to shape the physics community in ways no other society can. We, collectively, form a scientific community that spans nearly a century. We trace our roots back to 1921 and, over the course of our history, have inducted over 100,000 members from more than 569 chapters across the United States. Most of us were inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma early in our careers, and many of us went on to careers with job titles other than “physicist.” We occupy an exceptionally large phase space of professions, disciplines, and experiences.

It’s this superposition of diversity and breadth of experiences that makes us formidable. We are uniquely situated to guide the development of the next generation of physicists, one interaction at a time. Every year we induct new members into our ranks, mentor students around the globe through the Adopt-a-Physicist program, and work toward hosting the largest single gathering of physics- and astronomy-interested students in the United States: the Quadrennial Physics Congress.

In the coming months and years, one of my main initiatives as director is to create new ways for Sigma Pi Sigma members to connect to each other, members of the Society of Physics Students, and our home communities. Our collective knowledge and experiences offer us a unique opportunity to have a meaningful and real impact on the surrounding world.

All of us have studied physics and no matter where we might be today or what we may do, we can all call ourselves physicists. Our education and background have helped to shape us. We have learned how to approach the unapproachable problems, and we have come to embrace “physicist” as more than a job title. We are instead known by our desire to know and learn, and it’s that pervasive curiosity that helps define us as physicists. For me, the persona of the inventor, the tinkerer, and the explorer are all wrapped up into what it means to be a physicist. I like to think that the need to build, know, fix, and understand are some of the most deep-seated drives in our community. These ideals are not transmitted to the public or the community through textbooks, problems, or even power series solutions (they don’t converge): They must come from us. We need to help transmit the excitement and wonder of discovery. We are a society of tinkerers and problem solvers. The universe is our laboratory, and we must encourage and stimulate each other in our endeavors to bring those interested in physics into a closer association. This organization is really ours and what we make it. The only reason I’m here today is because people cared and helped me. It is my hope that Sigma Pi Sigma can help you find a way to help your fellow physics enthusiasts. Together, let’s engage and energize the Sigma Pi Sigma community and the next generation of physicists.

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