National director validates and challenges RU physics students

Professional opportunities for physics students and how they can contribute to their local scientific community were among the topics presented by Toni Sauncy, national director of the Society of Physics Students (SPS). Sauncy addressed the RU chapter on Friday, Nov. 8, in Reed 201.

"A thriving chapter like yours is a gateway for your becoming contributing members of the professional community," said Sauncy in her presentation, "Building Communities and Shaping Culture." She encouraged the 30-member group to transform its initiatives into local action on behalf of themselves, other students, the physics program and Radford University.

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) is a professional association for students. SPS also houses Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society, and both societies operate within the American Institute of Physics.

"We have a lot more opportunities than I thought," said RU SPS President Alec Frazier. "It is nice to know that the national organization is there with resources and expertise."

Sauncy briefed the chapter's members on how the national organization can support them individually and as a chapter. To support the full undergraduate physics experience, SPS offers scholarships, internships and professional development opportunities. She also reviewed how SPS can support its local chapters and why strong SPS chapters add value to their universities. Sauncy said a busy local chapter will help attract students to study physics and help them succeed through graduation by engaging them in fun, challenging activities and providing mutual support.

Physics majors are popular hires in the job market, according to Sauncy. While research and graduate school are traditional career paths, they are not the only ones. "Physics students are critical thinkers and problem solvers," she said, "but they often don’t know how much they know and can't really assess their own value as employable."

Sarah Garza, sophomore physics major from Jacksonville, N.C. was inspired. "It was motivating to hear about what is available to help me as a physics student," she said. "It really sparked me to jump start my undergraduate research aspirations and see what else I can do."


After her presentation, Toni Sauncy, national director of the Society of Physics Students, joined Rhett Herman, chapter advisor, and several members for a conversation on opportunities for professional development and chapter outreach.

Nov 12, 2013