Introducing Some of the Newest Sigma Pi Sigma Chapters

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Chapter Profile

Introducing Some of the Newest Sigma Pi Sigma Chapters


Kendra Redmond, Contributing Writer

Berry College

Members of the Berry College SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma chapters show off science demonstrations at the science magic show. Photo by Andrew Lockhart.

After a decade of inactivity, Berry College recently resurrected its SPS chapter. “Our students were interested in strengthening our physics/engineering community and saw SPS as a chance to do that,” says advisor Shawn Hilbert. Two years in, they added Sigma Pi Sigma. “Sigma Pi Sigma is a great way to come together as a community to collectively say thank you to our student leaders both inside and outside the classroom.”

The department graduates an average of four physics majors a year and supports about 80 physics/dual degree engineering majors at any given time. The faculty strongly emphasize active learning with techniques grounded in physics education research, encouraging technical reading, strong problem solving, self-learning, and research.

The SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma chapters at Berry College host an annual physics magic show for their local community of Mount Berry, Georgia. They also host star parties at the campus observatory, giving community members the opportunity to explore the cosmos. In the future, the chapters plan to host a monthly science café series.

University of the Sciences

SPS director Brad Conrad presents the Sigma Pi Sigma charter to professor Elia Eschenazi, department chair at the University of the Sciences, as university president Professor Paul Katz and SPS president Katee O’Malley watch. Photo courtesy of Brad Conrad.

Roberto Ramos, advisor of the new chapter at University of the Sciences, describes the physics department as small and very tight-knit. SPS students participate in several outreach events in the Philadelphia area each year, developing leadership and teaching skills early in their education. With Sigma Pi Sigma, Ramos aims to honor outstanding scholarship and connect students to the broader community of physicists.

The chapter’s inaugural induction ceremony included talks by three physics professionals—a food scientist, medical physicist, and high school physics teacher. “These speakers from different walks of life gave personal testimonies of excellence as they practiced physics in their respective spheres of influence,” said Ramos.

Moving forward, the chapter plans to continue inviting professionals from diverse fields to be part of their induction ceremony. “Through this process, we want to facilitate the connection between students, faculty, administration, and these professionals—and even stimulate collaborations,” says Ramos. They also plan to invite local K-12 students who are impacted by SPS physics outreach activities.

University of Washington Bothell

L-Holly Gummelt during the University of Washington Bothell graduation, proudly wearing her Sigma Pi Sigma honor cords. R-Katherine Reyes signs her name in the red book during the University of Washington Bothell inaugural Sigma Pi Sigma induction.

This is an exciting time for physics at the University of Washington Bothell. “We have a new physics degree program, with the first students declaring their physics major in 2016 and graduating in 2017,” said Joey Shapiro Key, Sigma Pi Sigma advisor of the new chapter. There are currently about 35 physics majors.

The Sigma Pi Sigma chapter was founded by Holly Gummelt, the first student to declare a physics major on campus. “Our physics department is very new and small, but we have a wonderful group of dedicated professors who are incredibly involved in our education, both in and out of the classroom,” she says.

Gummelt was inspired to start SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma as another way “to create a fuller experience for the students and commend them on the enormous amount of effort they put into their schoolwork.” This past spring, she was among the first group of students inducted into the chapter and one of the first to graduate with a physics degree from the university.

West Virginia Wesleyan

Summer research students pose with their faculty advisors at West Virginia Wesleyan.  Photo by Mark Loudin.

“With about 100 physics majors, we have the largest undergraduate physics program in West Virginia,” says Albert Popson, Sigma Pi Sigma co-advisor of the chapter recently established at West Virginia Wesleyan in Buckhannon. The physics program emphasizes a hands-on approach with several advanced labs and research opportunities.

The department is also home to a space club and a science public outreach team. Popson hopes that the addition of Sigma Pi Sigma will help students become contributing members of the professional community of physicists by engaging in service, building professional skills, and presenting scholarly work at professional meetings and in journals. Chapter highlights so far include colloquia on topics ranging from NASA’s planned mission to Mars to medical physics, bridge design, and gravitational waves. Several students have given research talks at recent conferences, and many chapter members participated in SPACE Day, a public outreach event that included student presentations and competitions on drone flying, cryptography, and designing paper airplanes and hydrofoils.

For chapter induction resources, visit

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