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Advice: what to do with the SPS chapter?

  1. Dec 14, 2015 #1
    Somehow I recently got myself elected to be in charge of my college's Society of Physics Students chapter. I want to start having regular meetings (weekly or every other week) but I'm having a lot of trouble convincing people to show up. It's not a club meeting if it's just two or three of us looking over homework in the study lounge.

    If anyone even shows up at all, that is. It's actually very disheartening, like I can't even get anyone to respond to emails about meeting times.

    I need help coming up with ideas about what we can do as a group that would be interesting enough to encourage regular participation. I thought about study groups or doing demonstrations, but then I felt like I didn't want to just inflict something that would seem like more homework or lab work on them. I want things to be interesting and fun, but also relevant and helpful for classes.

    If you're a Society of Physics Students member, what do you do at your club meetings?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2015 #2


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    I think we'd need to know more about your school and/or have some data about its Physics students. I know this may be hard, given the conditions you just described, but , can you at least motivate them into responding to a questionnaire that you can send out?
  4. Dec 14, 2015 #3
    Yeah, I'd agree with that. What kind of college has no one interested in a physics club? I went to Sonoma State University (SSU) in northern California in the 90's and majored in Biology with a minor in Astronomy. For my Astronomy minor I was required to attend the weekly SPS meetings. These were almost invariably guest lectures, with notables either within the SSU physics department discussing their research or visiting professors discussing their research. Initially, I was pissed off that I had to attend these physics talks because I was a Biology guy. However, after the first couple meetings, I was hooked. The SPS lectures were actually one of the highlights of my week.

    So that's what I would suggest; call some of the physics professors at the local universities and invite them to come give a talk on their research. Everyone likes to be on stage and add something to their CV, so I don't think you'll get many declines. Yu might even start by asking the profs in your own college to get started. Good luck!
  5. Dec 14, 2015 #4


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    Maybe his school is a commuter school and people just want to head out after classes. Was yours a commuter school?
  6. Dec 14, 2015 #5
    I'm not sure what a commuter school is but I'm guessing it's a junior or community college. Even so, I can't imagine the OP can't encourage physics profs from the local community to give guest lectures.

    Not even close. SSU is a small drive north from San Francisco but far enough that the vast majority of students lived very close to campus, either in Rohnert Park or the surrounding Santa Rosa area. It's not a community college, it's part of the CSU system.

    Which reminds me, I don't know if anyone on this site has been to SSU, but at least when I attended they used to have the school football field cut out on a desolate portion of the property whereby, at night, the entire field was pitch black. In fact, they had the SSU astronomy "observatory" just adjacent to the football field, as in about 10 meters off the jogging lanes. I actually befriended one of my astronomy professors on the campus and as extra credit for one of her classes I was taking I had to "man" the observatory one night a week through the semester. The observatory amounted to a small shack with a fairly large telescope poking out of the roof. I have no knowledge of the specifics of a telescope but from my recollection it was about a half a meter wide and about 5 meters long. Not the mirror, but the whole contraption.

    I'll tell you, though, these nights, along with the SPS lectures, were another highlight of my week. Just being able to look at celestial objects through that scope was very moving, and most of the time I was singularly alone at the far end of that football field for pretty much the entirely of the night. Good times. In rememberance, I did have some job to do, but I couldn't tell you what it was; measuring something. All I remember was the spiritual sense of awe that accompanies looking at the cosmos through a professional scope, which I haven't done in 20 years and which I miss.
  7. Dec 14, 2015 #6


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    Don't feel like you have to make the group week on a weekly basis. If they want to, that's great. But if they don't, there really isn't any way to force it.

    One thing that might generate some interest is if you organize some talks from your professors. Perhaps you could set up a series of talks aimed at undergraduate students, with a spin on what's "hot" or "current" in the field. One of the issues with regular departmental colloquia is that they are aimed at peers - others who already have PhDs in physics. Aiming a talk at undergraduates allows the speaker to take some time to explain fundamental concepts in the field that would normally be closed over. You may want to target professors that you know will be looking for graduate students in the coming year - that way they get some recruitment out of it.

    Another option might be to host a "meet the professor" night - have a wine and cheese (or beer and pizza) event where the faculty come out and the students can mingle and talk with them informally.

    Or perhaps you could have a "career" night where you invite in a few alumni from the program to talk about where they've gone on to after graduation. You could do either those in career positions, or those who've gone on to graduate schools.

    Or what about a physics GRE prep group?

    You could also look into providing a service like recruiting senior undergrads to help all the premed students prepare for the physics component of the MCAT. This is the kind of thing that could work as a fundraiser, and could give physics students a reason to participate because it would put something on their CV.
  8. Dec 14, 2015 #7


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    When I was in college, our SPS group would have colloquiums with interesting Physics topics.
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