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SPS News - Celebrate Black History Month with SPS
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SPS News Issue 170: February 18, 2020


Celebrate Black History Month with SPS


February is Black History Month, and we’d like to highlight the accomplishments of black physicists!

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, a theoretical physicist specializing in condensed matter physics and the physics of opto-electronic materials, was the first Black woman to earn a PhD from MIT and only the second in the United States to earn a doctorate in physics. She became the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1999 and was the first woman and African American to hold the position.  In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Jackson to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology which assists the White House in policy creation for science, technology, and innovation. In 2016, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Science, the highest honor for contributions in science and engineering in the country.

Dr. Edward Alexander Bouchet was the first African American to earn a PhD from an American university, completing his undergraduate career in 1874 and finishing his dissertation in physics in 1876 at Yale College (now Yale University). He taught physics and chemistry at many colleges and schools around the country.  In his honor, The American Physical Society (APS) named the Edward A. Bouchet award to recognize minority physicists for their significant contribution to physics research and the advancement of underrepresented groups in science.

Annie J. Easley (pictured to the left) started her job at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which would become the NASA Glenn Research Center, in 1955 as a human computer. Once mechanical computers became more available, Easley adapted and became a computer programmer, learning languages such as Fortran and SOAP, and writing codes for different projects including the Centaur rocket.  Her technological contributions helped with the launch of Cassini to Saturn in the 90’s.  During the 70’s, Easley went back to school and earned her BS in Mathematics from Cleveland State University while also working full-time. Later in her career, she took on the responsibility of being an equal employment opportunity counselor at NASA to help address issues of gender, race, and age discrimination complaints.

If you have suggestions on ways the Society of Physics Students can do better to promote underrepresented groups in physics, please contact us at


Outstanding Chapter Advisor Nominations due March 15


Recognize your SPS chapter advisor for all their hard work – nominate them for the Outstanding Chapter Advisor Award, the most prestigious SPS award.  Awarded based on leadership, student leadership development, support, and encouragement the advisor provides to the SPS Chapter, the recipient will receive an award of $5,000 to be divided between themselves, the chapter, and the department. Nominate your advisor today!

Also, get your applications in for the other SPS Research Awards, Scholarships, and JURP submissions ASAP! Deadline March 15.


Attend Your Zone Meeting


Zone meetings bring together students from SPS chapters within geographical zones. They are a fun and effective way for undergraduates to meet other students, present their research, and interact with practicing scientists. Find what zone your chapter is in here.

Upcoming Zone Meetings

Zone 14 & 15: February 30; University of Denver @ Denver, CO

Zone 5: March 20-21; High Point University @ High Point, NC

Zone 6: March 25-29; University of Puerto Rico @ Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

Zone 10: March 27-28; Louisiana Tech University @ Ruston, LA

Zone 12: March 27-28; University of Kansas @ Lawrence, KS

Zone 2: March 28; University of Rochester @ Rochester, NY

Zone 3: March 28; New Jersey Institute of Technology @ Newark, NJ

Zone 13: April 2-4; Lamar University @ Beaumont, TX

Zone 7: April 3-4; John Carroll University @ Cleveland, OH

Zone 4: April 10-11; University of Virginia @ Charlottesville, VA

Zone 8: May 2; Millikan University @ Decatur, IL


National Council Nominations


Nominations are being accepted for SPS Zone Councilors for Zones 1, 3, 4, 9, 13, and 14 for three-year terms, Associate Zone Councilors for all 18 zones for one-year terms, and the office of Sigma Pi Sigma President for a two-year term. Visit here if there is someone you’d like to nominate to the National Council!

Nominations will close March 15, 2020. For position descriptions and duties, visit here.


SPS at the 2020 APS March Meeting


Join SPS at the American Physical Society March 2020 Meeting in Denver, Colorado! If you’re planning on attending, check out the program for the meeting here.  SPS will be present at the following events:

  • Sigma Pi Sigma Networking Reception on the first day, Monday, March 2, located at Otra Vez Cantina, 610 16th Street Mall from 6:30-8 PM
  • Student Reception, Tuesday, March 3, 5:30-8:30 PM, Centennial D

GSS at the 2020 APS March Meeting


Are you going to be in Denver for the 2020 APS March meeting? Stop by the SPS booth to learn more about GradSchoolShopper and get some cool swag! You can even pick up a FREE copy of the 2020 GSS book to get a head-start in your grad school search.


Upcoming Scientific Meetings - Students Welcome


APS March Meeting 2020, March 2-6

On-site or online registration open until the start of the meeting. Registration info located here.

APS April Meeting 2020, April 18-21

Early registration is open until February 28. Meeting info is located here.

OSA CLEO, May 10-15

Early registration closes April 9. Find conference and registration info here.

ASA 179 Meeting, May 11-15

Preregistration closes April 8. Find meeting information here.

AAS 236 Meeting, May 31 – June 4

Early registration is open through March 10. Conference info is located here.


SPS offers Travel Awards of $300 to members presenting their research at AIP member society meetings. A limited number of awards will be offered. Apply Today!


SPS members attending and reporting on professional physics meetings are eligible to receive $300 as an individual and $250 per person as a chapter in travel reimbursement. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Apply Now!

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Questions or assistance? 

Contact us at or 301-209-3007.