We Make SPS Each Day

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We Make SPS Each Day


Brad Conrad, Director, SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma

One hundred years ago this year, physics students and faculty at Davidson College came together to form a new organization. While the details have evolved, the mission of what they created has remained the same: support all undergraduate students with an interest in physics and astronomy. We’re in the midst of one of the hardest times in a generation to be a physics or astronomy major, but this clear and focused purpose helps us respond to the trials and tribulations of a new era. We will persevere the way we always have—by encouraging one another and supporting a wide variety of activities.

Just as each department is different, each physics and astronomy major may benefit from a different set of activities in pursuit of their dreams. This issue of the SPS Observer will touch on just some of the inventive, awesome, and impactful activities chapters are doing to support their members and communities in the areas of community-building, research, professional development, and outreach. If you’ve ever wanted to know why SPS is special, this is the issue for you.

Physics and astronomy departments are built on a foundation of students and faculty. The glue that keeps us all together is tradition and a sense of shared belonging. Ideally, each new major should say to themselves, “These are my people. They get me.” As a first-generation college student hundreds of miles from where I grew up and with no backup plan, having an SPS community to call home kept me in college. That was where I could explore who I might want to be and escape from the million other stresses I had.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s SPS chapter builds community one hand at a time. All photos courtesy of the corresponding chapter’s  2020–21 SPS chapter report.

Members of the Augustana Physics and Engineering Society construct a cardboard regatta.

Physics is an experimental science, and no matter whether you plan to go into industry or graduate school, or take a different path upon graduation, research is invaluable. And research is a place where some SPS chapters really shine. Undergraduate research in physics and astronomy takes many forms, but it helps to prepare us all for the challenges that lie ahead
—problem solving when there is no answer to look up!

Marshall University’s SPS chapter hosts an ongoing virtual speaker series.

It was through SPS that I gave my first talk, led my first meeting, and learned what it meant to be a physicist and astronomer. During most of college, I felt like I had gotten in by accident because I had NO CLUE what was expected of me. I wasn’t prepared for all of the situations in which I was being asked to excel. Yet the skills I learned during our colloquium series, SPS professional development events, and as a club officer gave me the foundation I needed to stop feeling like an outsider.

Members of Colorado Mesa University’s SPS chapter prepare for an outreach event.

The vast majority of physics and astronomy departments serve their local communities through outreach events or other activities. SPS chapters host high school boot camps, K-12 demo days, food drives, and holiday-themed events to help get others as excited as they are about science. And their events make a lasting impact in the lives of students, teachers, and parents.

One of the best ways to experience what makes SPS special is through the chapter showcase at the 2022 Physics Congress. During the showcase, chapters can put on display all the awesome things they’ve worked on, accomplished, and cultivated that make their chapter unique. The first showcase was at the 2019 Physics Congress—I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was magical!

Join us for the 2022 showcase at the upcoming Physics Congress to be inspired by creative ideas, see awesome demos, show off nerdy T-shirts and stickers, and see real-life examples of how chapters build community, connect to alumni, and help their members succeed beyond the classroom. You don’t want to miss this. Check out sigmapisigma.org/sigmapisigma/congress/2022 for details.

In the meantime, enjoy this chapter showcase issue, highlighting activities from the 2020–21 SPS chapter reports. I hope it inspires you to get out and try out something new this year! 

The SPS Observer wants to showcase your chapter!
Reflect on your SPS year, invest in the future of your chapter, and let us know what you’ve been up to by submitting your 2021–22 SPS chapter report by June 15. For details visit spsnational.org/resources/chapters/annual-chapter-reports.

Register for the 2022 Physics
Congress Today!
Early bird prices end September 6, 2022.
For more information, visit sigmapisigma.org/congress/2022.

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