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Society of Physics Students?

  1. Jul 7, 2009 #1
    My university SPS has gone very inactive recently, I've been trying to track down whoever was responsible for it last. Ultimately my ambition is to turn it into a chapter of sigma pi sigma (which is society of physics students in frat form), mainly because I'm of the nerdy ilk who believe physics is really really cool and deserves drunken frat praise.

    But...uh...what else does a good SPS chapter actually do? I've rallied some brave comrades, like five of them, but I think drinking alcohol and doing problem sets on tuesdays shouldn't be the penultimate goal of our organization. So I guess my question is, what is an average month in the life of an active chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, or even a very vigorous SPS chapter?

    Besides checking out their website contacts, is there anyone else I should contact about this, to get help in this endeavor? I'm from the Southeast if it helps (if you know any regional contacts).
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2009 #2


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    It is commendable that you wish to revive such a thing. Take note of what you did, because you should include this effort as part of your resume or any grad school application.

    When I was part of the SPS way back during the ice age, what we do as part of our normal activities include:

    1. Weekly tutoring for intro physics students
    2. Inviting various faculty members to talk about their research work via an informal sit-down/coffee conversation, i.e. not as a presentation/seminar but more of an informal discussion.
    3. Visit various facilities - Fermilab was a frequent target facility because UW-Madison had quite a big presence there and we could always find someone to give us a very good tour. If you have a US Nat'l Lab nearby, you could turn this into a once-a-year trip to the facility.
    4. Arrange a few social events such as picnics, etc. where people can just hang out and bring their other friends, significant others, etc.

  4. Jul 8, 2009 #3
    What ZapperZ said pretty much. Unless you have a frat house, I wouldn't expect to do much with SPS other than tutoring and research talks. Traditionally, 'frats' without houses get along fine but I wouldn't expect to make some sort of huge deal of it outside of the department.
  5. Jul 8, 2009 #4


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    Some of the things we did:
    - social mixer with professors and graduate students that allows undergrads to informally meet the professors, talk about research, opportunities, careers, and personal interests
    - intermural sports teams (softball, soccer, hockey, flag football)
    - the physics department contracted the physics society with 'coffee duty' for departmental colloquia which provided a source of funding for the club
    - organized an undergraduate 'physics chat' series where talks were aimed at undergraduates and given as a broad introduction to some of the emerging research in a given field
    - organized a tutoring program (generally aimed at first year physics courses)
    - one year they organized the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference
    - held social events with other groups on campus
    - charity fundraisers
  6. Jul 8, 2009 #5
    My school has a chapter of SPS too (Sigma Pi Sigma, and Society of Physics Students). This'll sound kind of silly, but how do you go about joining it? Or get involved in general? I see signs for it in the physics department and outside the lab, but I don't really know anything about it.
  7. Jul 8, 2009 #6


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    Sigma Pi Sigma is an honor society of the SPS. You have to be nominated and invited into it.

    SPS is a student chapter of the Society of Physics Student, under the http://www.spsnational.org/" [Broken]. You can either join the student chapter at your school, or join directly at the AIP website. To join, just find whoever is the officer for the student chapter and pay your dues. If they are not that well-organized, join through the AIP directly and start getting your Physics Today! :)

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Jul 8, 2009 #7
    Thank you for your response! :)

    If you join through the AIP, do you still register under your school's chapter? Or would that be completely separate?
  9. Jul 8, 2009 #8
    Some SPS chapters raise money by "liquid-nitrogen" ice cream sales (outside the physics building or in some prominent area of campus...

    We used to use our funds to purchase some refreshments for "movie night with the professors" -- where we'd invite the professors and watch a science movie or documentary in the lecture hall using the projection system (at that point those systems were brand new)... the professors especially came when we let them pick the movie. We'd discuss it for a while after. Usually this was done around the early dinner hour (with pizza and soda), so they'd still get home at a reasonable hour... and we do it only once every month or two.

    We also decorated the physics building for the holidays (we had a swinging pendulum in the atrium and we'd surround it with garland and put a santa-hat on it). All the professors liked this except the one who actually designed the pendulum... so this activity was done covertly -- although to our credit one good thing is that this decorating also involved cleaning the pendulum, which tarnished because it was brass.

    Since one of our professor's had recovered from a brain tumor, he once led a discussion on medical physics and then arranged for us to tour a local radiation facility and talk to medical physicists. Other career-oriented things like this would have been nice.

    In my opinion, It'd be really nice if you could pull together a traveling physics show and give shows to smaller audiences (say all three third-grade classes at one local school or something -- here again liquid nitrogen ice-cream would be a hit). I didn't do this as an SPS student, but rather in a high school science club... and we'd do it for all the alamentaried in the district (I think we did 4th or 5th grade).

    I've also seen tutoring programs and social mixers (as pointed out by Choppy) done at many locations...

    Our chapter was also pretty inactive, until my sophomore year, when I was elected treasurer and actually found out (by asking some faculty) that we had funds (and this motivated our president.) Then using those funds we started the movie nights, and other things. So I know from experience that it's possible to revive a dead chapter... you just need to have a good team. Good luck! :smile:
  10. Jul 13, 2009 #9
    Where did all those posts on Feynman go? They were actually really good ideas =(
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