Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century and Beyond

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Message from the President

Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century and Beyond


Professor James D. Borgardt, Sigma Pi Sigma President

 Photo courtesy of James D. Borgardt.Being a college student, especially in the fields of physics or astronomy, has been tough over the past couple of years. COVID has hampered many of the support systems that we all rely upon—innately or overtly—for our sense of purpose and community. It has been a challenge to maintain Society of Physics Students (SPS) on-campus activities and outreach events, have in-person Sigma Pi Sigma inductions, and otherwise engage with others in our discipline in the ways we were accustomed to.

Serving as your Sigma Pi Sigma president during the pandemic has limited my ability to interact with individual chapters and travel to help facilitate honor society inductions. Yet, this has been my favorite part of serving in this role—visiting chapters across the country and experiencing the unique and vibrant ecosystems that reside within them.

Fortunately, we’ve adapted and discovered new ways to maintain these relationships that have sustained us over this time (Zoom!). We’ve also been expertly supported by our amazing and dynamic National Office, which has steadfastly maintained contact, developed new initiatives, buoyed our regional zone councilors (ZCs) and associate zone councilors (AZCs), and helped us all weather this difficult time.

While we’ve experienced varying degrees of fatigue during the pandemic, we collectively owe a huge debt of gratitude to each and every member of the team at the National Office and the National Council (including AZCs and ZCs), for not only sustaining our community but also for growing it by developing novel initiatives to help students in key areas. These initiatives include the AIP-SPS Undergraduate Education Pandemic Assistance program and the Food for Hungry Physics and Astronomy Students program, efforts to promote diversity, and many others. Continuing our momentum and focusing on the future has helped individual students and chapters alike, and positioned us well for the future.

Speaking of...What are you doing October 6th–8th? I’m looking forward to gathering for the upcoming Physics Congress, or PhysCon, in our nation’s capital to not only “Celebrate 100 Years of Momentum,” the meeting’s theme, but to also join as a community and carry this work forward into the next century of SPS. PhysCon is open to undergraduates with an interest in physics and astronomy, SPS advisors, SPS alumni, and Sigma Pi Sigma members, and is the largest undergraduate gathering of physics and astronomy students in the country. This will be one phantastic and phun event, with opportunities to hear and meet luminaries in our fields, visit campuses and labs in the DC area, and interact with students and chapters from across the country. So be sure to join us in celebrating Sigma Pi Sigma’s centennial birthday and setting the course for our next century of supporting all of those who study physics and astronomy.

As I come to the end of my time as your Sigma Pi Sigma president, I’m also psyched that COVID restrictions are relaxing and campuses are again able to have functions and outside visitors. If you are interested in establishing an SPS or Sigma Pi Sigma chapter in advance of PhysCon, or resuming interrupted in-person Sigma Pi Sigma inductions for physics and astronomy students, the National Office and I stand ready to help. I’d love to complete my term by visiting some campuses to assist in this effort. Thanks for the opportunity to serve in this role, and I hope to see each of you at PhysCon in Washington, DC, come October!

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