Cultivating Service in the Name of Physics

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Chapter Profile

Cultivating Service in the Name of Physics


Natalie Rugg, SPS Chapter Coordinator, Brown University

Undergraduate physics students at Brown University are exactly as you’d expect them to be: passionate about the subject, excelling at what they do, and challenging themselves by tackling advanced material (creating new courses to explore even more).

Of course, physics isn’t an easy path for anyone, even with these aforementioned traits. What really sets Brown and its students apart is that despite challenging courses that endow graduates with a competitive skill set, we don’t compete with each other. There is a pervasive collaborative environment that in no way feels fabricated or circumstantial.

We’ve had something called a Physics DUG (Department Undergraduate Group) for quite a few years now. Through this organization we aim to provide physics students with resources, an inclusive community, and academic, advisory, and social programming. Only recently have we joined the Society of Physics Students, plunging into the national physics scene as the host chapter of PhysCon 2019. Now I believe we’re ready to formally introduce a new aspect of our mission: service.

Brown is creating a Sigma Pi Sigma chapter to recognize academic excellence and perseverance and to reward and encourage service in the name of physics. Already we see students volunteering to lead study groups, working as undergraduate TAs, and meeting with prospective students to answer their questions. On a larger scale, undergraduate physics students recently volunteered for Providence’s second annual Big Bang Science Fair, running educational events aimed at children and the general public. It is this type of service to physics as a discipline that our SPS chapter would like to celebrate and promote through joining the Sigma Pi Sigma national honor society.

Following the Mega High Energy Chocolate event at PhysCon 2019, student volunteers from Brown (pictured here) helped with cleanup—an example of  the community of support cultivated at the university. Image courtesy ofthe Brown University SPS chapter.

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