Society of Physics Students


About The Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi SigmaSPS and Sigma Pi Sigma Logo

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) is a professional association open to anyone interested in physics. One does not have to be a Physics Major to be a member. At the global level, SPS members include not only physics majors, but also students and professionals in astronomy, chemistry, computer science, engineering, geology, mathematics, medicine, and other fields. Within SPS is a separate association, Sigma Pi Sigma (ΣΠΣ). Sigma Pi Sigma is the national physics honor society, which elects members on the basis of outstanding academic achievements. Induction into Sigma Pi Sigma shall be based upon character and academic and professional attainments and is not restricted to physics majors.


The Society of Physics Students was formed in 1968 with a constitution that combined its two “parent” organizations, The American Institute of Physics (AIP) Student Sections and the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society. SPS now has over 800 chapters on campuses across the country. The associated honor society, Sigma Pi Sigma, now exists in about 575 of those chapters with over 90,000 inductees throughout its history. Marshall University’s Society of Physics Students has roots that extend back to a 1960 when the AIP first recognized an AIP student Section from, then, Marshall College under Physics Department Chair Dr. Donald C. Martin. Marshall College was elevated to Marshall University in 1961 under the advisement of Dr. Stewart H. Smith, the seventh and longest serving Marshall University President in the history of the institution.

Purpose and Mission

SPS is a chapter-based society that exists to help students transform themselves into contributing members of the professional community. Traditional coursework develops only one range of skills. Other skills needed to flourish professionally include effective communication and personal interactions, leadership experience, establishing a personal network of contacts, presenting scholarly work in professional meetings and journals, research experiences, and outreach services to the campus and local communities. Through its members, advisers, chapters, and leadership, SPS enables national initiatives and local impacts within the community. Locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, the SPS offers the opportunity for these important enrichments to the student’s experience.

SPS at Marshall is a Nationally Recognized Student Organization

Marshall University’s SPS Organization has been nationally recognized the last three consecutive academic years by the National SPS Office. When you see a student member of the Society of Physics Students, make sure to congratulate them on earning the title of a Distinguished Society of Physics Student Chapter for the 17-19 academic years and an Outstanding SPS Chapter award for the 2019-2020 academic year! A Society of Physics Students Outstanding Chapter award is the highest level of distinction given to our chapters and is received by less than 15% of our top chapters annually, with just 96 of 844 chapters so honored in the 2020 year. “We at the SPS National Office want to take this opportunity to commend and applaud you for your tireless efforts to enrich the SPS community. It is because of your dedication and commitment to the SPS mission and vision that we are able to foster such a strong SPS community” – Brad R. Conrad, Ph.D., Director, Society of Physics Students & Sigma Pi Sigma (ΣΠΣ).​

Marshall University SPS Awards

The Marshall University Chapter of the Society of Physics Students 

Here at Marshall, as of fall 2019, our SPS organization is mostly comprised of physics majors; however, we are always looking to recruit from other majors, especially those in science education or STEM related fields. The main objective of SPS at Marshall is to have fun as a group. We encourage interested students in the sciences, and physics in particularly, to develop and grow in their knowledge base of science and physics related research, develop a strong collegiate bond between faculty and students, promote public interest and awareness in science in general and specifically physics, and recognize high levels of student achievements by means of a Sigma Pi Sigma induction.

Since fall 2019, decided by the then current SPS members and continued until now, it was decided that SPS would be more of an outreach and recruiting student organization for the Physics Department, either focusing efforts on assisting with the outreach activities currently conducted by Dr. Sean P. McBride, or by others in the Physics Department, or assisting with the group’s own outreach activities that they devise. In spring 2020, through Fall 2021, many of the planned outreach events were or will be cancelled; however, SPS students were still able to conduct virtual outreach and promote physics and the department via their virtual Faces of Physics speaker Series (more details found below). The SPS group does have interests in fundraising activities in an effort to save money to go on a fun/cool/educational trip at the end of either the semester or academic year depending on how much money is raised and available. At the end of every semester would be ideal for a trip. This trip could be to a national lab/school/graduate program/etc. An additional goal for SPS will also be networking for the students for future employment; so, meetings will likely host speakers from academia and industry.

Want to Become a SPS Member at Marshall University?

If you want get involved in SPS and become a member, contact Dr. Sean P. McBride, current SPS faculty advisor as of August 2017 ( or go to one of the SPS meetings. Bring a friend. If you really want to get involved in SPS and have a leadership role as a SPS member, which looks great on resumes for grad school or employment, you are encouraged you to apply for an officer position. Meeting times and locations change each semester, contact Dr. McBride for the most current information. All majors and all academic ranks from freshmen to graduate students are welcome to attend meetings and join the club!

Current Officers: Ellie White (President), Peter Burbery (Vice President), Andy Prostor (Treasurer), and Dr. Sean P. McBride (interim Secretary)
SPS Advisor: Dr. Sean P. McBride (, Assistant Professor, Physics

  • The following link will allow you to register to become an official member: Join SPS National | Society of Physics Students
  • Membership dues are only $24 per year (These costs may be cover by the local SPS funds, talk to Dr. McBride).

Marshall Physics Department and National SPS Scholarships and Awards Available!

Click here to link to Marshall’s Physics Department Scholarship Page for all scholarships available to current Marshall students and ones specifically for current Marshall physics students, including ones available for SPS members. For a more in-depth presentation of the benefits of being an SPS member click here. Click here to find out information on national SPS deadlines for awards and scholarships.

————————————- Recent SPS News and Activities ————————————–

Marshall University’s Society of Physics Students Continuing to host the Faces of Physics Speaker Series from November 2020 through December 2021.

Faces of Physics Marshall UniversityWould you like to learn more about the search for life in space, planets around other stars, the quest to understand and cure cancer, mysterious outer space clocks called pulsars, and get a chance to meet and ask questions to brilliant scientists who are asking big questions and making exciting discoveries? Then please join us for the Faces of Physics Speaker Series, hosted by Marshall University’s Society of Physics Students from November 2020 through December 2021. Each month during the regular academic semesters, a guest speaker will give a 30-minute talk on their current research, followed by a Q&A session with attendees. The talks will be held virtually through YouTube Live and are free and open to the public, and will be appropriate for all ages. The goal of the event is to highlight the work of researchers from underrepresented groups to promote inclusion and inspire the next generation of scientists to see a place for themselves in the exciting field of physics. To stay up to date on information pertaining to the event, sign up for the mailing list below or follow Marshall University Physics on Facebook 

Click the following  link to receive information about the Society of Physics Students upcoming  fall 2020 through fall 2021 speaker series, “Faces of Physics”:


This speakers series started out as a single event planned on campus and partially funded via the Future Faces of Physics Award for spring 2020 from the National SPS Office, but covid-19 had other plans and it was radically transformed for fall 2020. The story of how this single Campus Event Turned Virtual Speaker Series is featured in the Spring 2021 edition of The SPS Observer. The SPS Observer is the quarterly magazine of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) published by SPS and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and is distributed nationally.


The four speakers for the Faces of Physics speaker’s series in fall 2021 will be supported by external funding: Financial Support for the Faces of Physics speaker’s series will made possible by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, Grant # 80NSSC20M0055.


Previous Faces of Physics Speakers and Links to Their Videos (click on speaker name for their bio and or supporting info):


Dr. Bob Lutz – NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), May 12, 7 p.m.

Dr. Pranav Sanghavi – West Virginia University,  April 12, 7 p.m.

Dr. Kandice Tanner – Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute –March 17, 2021, 7pm

Dr. Abel Mendez – Planetary Habitability Lab. at Univ. of Puerto Rico at Arecibo – Feb. 16, 2021, 7;00 pm

Dr. Bryan Kent Wallace – Fisk University — Jan 20 2021, 7:00 pm

Karen Perez — Columbia University – Dec. 1, 2020, 7;00 pm –

Dr. Lewandowska – Haverford College -November 18th, 7:00 pm –

MU SPS Receives a $25,000 Endowment + $3,000 in Fluid Funds for Activities

This endowment and fund was made possible by the very kind, generous, and patient Dr. Frederick W. Smith.

Dr. Frederick W. Smith grew up in Huntington, West Virginia. He is the son of a former Marshall University President [1946-1968], Stewart H. Smith. In 1960, he graduated from Marshall High School (which was then on the Marshall College campus) and then pursued a B.A. degree in physics from Lehigh University and graduated in 1964. He then went on to Brown University and graduated with a PhD in solid state physics in 1969. After a postdoc at Rutgers University, he joined the faculty of the Physics Department of the City College of the City University of New York in 1970. There he had a 43 year long career as a physicist teaching and conducting experimental research in solid state physics and materials science. He is coauthor with Prof. Joel Gersten on the textbook “The Physics and Chemistry of Materials” and is an author of over 80 publications.

Dr. Smith read about the activities of the SPS chapter at Marshall in the Marshall Alumni Bulletin in January 2021 and wanted to contribute to the activities of the physics students. He wanted advice on what are some of the needs of the SPS students. The Society of Physics Students Fund for the Marshall University Chapter of SPS was established 6 months later in June 2021. Dr. Frederick W. Smith has committed to establishing a $25,000 endowment for the Marshall University Society of Physics Students for use in SPS events and activities. This translates to the SPS chapter having access to roughly $500 a semester from this endowment when it matures, during which time, an additional $3,000 has been provided to assist with annual activities. The establishment of this fund will enable SPS to further increase their impact on our local community and will increase exciting professional growth opportunities for Marshall’s physics majors as well.

As a result of the establishment of this endowed Fund by Dr. Smith, it is the hope that all physics majors at Marshall University will also be SPS members; therefore, both the SPS group will remain strong for generations to come and all the physics majors will benefit from this Fund. The Fund has been specifically established to be for the activities carried out by the SPS members. The students in the MU SPS group are to decide how the funds are to be used. The physics students in MU SPS are forever grateful for Dr. Smith’s kindness, generosity, and patience, all qualities of which helped make this fund possible.

Marshall University Science Olympiad and SPS Student Organizations Work Together – Support from the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium for $2,400

Our chapter also earned a grant from the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium for $2,400 to coach 15 students on the West Virginia State Championship team for Science Olympiad who belonged to a local high school. This was a joint effort with the Science Olympiad student organization here on campus who also helped with the coaching. Both student organizations helped prepare the high school team members for the 2021 virtual National Science Olympiad Competition. This opportunity for Science Olympiad coaching was made possible by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, Grant # 80NSSC20M0055. President Jacquelyn Sizemore and member Peter Burbery (along with other students from the MU  Science Olympiad student organization) were coaches for this project. They met weekly with respective groups of students to practice for particular events in the competition. Both student organizations thought it worked out well and are encouraged to apply for future funding to continue this effort annually.

SPS Science Olympiad Coaching

Screenshot from a Marshall University Science Olympiad coaching session led by SPS member Peter Burbery, who was sharing his screen to show students Jada Mullins and Breann Tennyson the resources for studying Disease Diseases on the Science Olympiad website. Photo courtesy of Peter Burbery.



Conference Attendance by SPS Members

Ellie White Conference PicDue to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and university and state travel restrictions, travel to physics meetings was limited for our members. However, MU SPS Vice President Ellie White attended three virtual conferences: the GNU Radio Conference in September 2020, the URSI National Radio Science meeting in January 2021, and the American Astronomical Society meeting in January 2021. She presented the following talks and workshops:

Screenshot from Ellie White’s talk, “GNU Radio-Enabled Capabilities at the Allen Telescope Array” at the 2020 GNU Radio Conference. Photo courtesy of Ellie White.

SPS member Jeremy McCloud also attended West Virginia University’s Virtual Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium in July of 2020, and presented the following poster video recording on his research:

  • McCloud, J., and McBride, S. P. (2020, July 23). Rejection Comparison of Molecular Dyes Through Non-Functionalized and Gold Nanoparticle Functionalized Polycarbonate Filters. West Virginia University’s Virtual Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Fall 2020 to Spring 2021
Awards, Scholarships, Fellowships Granted to SPS Members

Jacquelyn Sizemore (SPS President):

  • Inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma spring 2021

Ellie White (SPS Vice President):Ellie White Award

  • Received 2021 SETI Forward Award from the SETI Institute for her work as a Berkeley SETI Research Center intern.
  • Awarded an REU position with the UC Berkeley SETI Research Center for Summer 2021.
  • Awarded an Undergraduate Research Fellowship from NASA WV Space Grant Consortium for Fall 2020 – Spring 2021.
  • Received an Award for Academic Achievement in Physics from the MU Physics Department.
  • Received the Alva and Dixon Callahan / John Marshall Scholarship from the MU Physics Department.
  • Received the Outstanding Undergraduate in Physics Award from the MU Physics Department.
  • Received the A. Dixon Callihan, Donald C. Martin, and Ralph P. Hron Memorial Physics Scholarship from the MU Physics Department.
  • Inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma in spring 2021.

Screenshot of MU SPS Vice President Ellie White (right) receiving the SETI Forward Award at SETI Institute’s annual Drake Awards ceremony, which was held virtually this year. Astronomer Dr. Jill Tarter (left) introduced the award, and Adam Savage of Mythbusters (top right) was Master of Ceremonies for the event. Photo courtesy of Ellie White.

Jeremy McCloud (SPS member):

  • Awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) scholarship in Summer 2020 to work in the Dr. McBride Laboratory.
  • Awarded an REU position at Miami University in Oxford Ohio for Summer 2020 (unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19).

Andrew Prostor (SPS Club Treasurer):

  • Awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) scholarship in Summer 2020 to work in the Dr. McBride Laboratory, but was forced to decline for personal reasons.

Alec O’Dell (SPS member):

  • Received an Award for Academic Achievement in Physics from the MU Physics Department.
  • Dixon Callihan, Donald C. Martin and Ralph P. Hron Memorial Physics Scholarship from the MU Physics Department.
  • Alva and Dixon Callihan Scholarship/John Marshall Scholarship from the MU Physics Department.
  • Inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma in spring 2021.

Peter Burbery (SPS member):

  • Received the A. Dixon Callihan, Donald C. Martin, and Ralph P. Hron Memorial Physics Scholarship from the MU Physics Department.

SPS President Presents Project at Physics Department Spring 2021 Convocation Day

All SPS members also showed up virtually on Zoom April 22nd, 2021 to support their SPS president Jacquelyn Sizemore when she gave a Physics Department Convocation Day talk on “Teaching Quantum Key Distribution Through Simulation”. This was part of an Independent study completed with SPS advisor, Dr. Sean McBride, as part of her graduation requirements. Jacquelyn also drafted a paper and completed a poster on this topic for the independent study course.

Invited Speaker Dr. David G. SimpsonInvited Speaker David Simpson

Dr. David G. Simpson, from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,  was hosted by SPS on March 22, 2021, 12pm. David G. Simpson, Ph.D. provided a talk on “Exploring Space through the Eyes of the Hubble and Webb Telescopes”. This was mostly a talk geared toward SPS members and invited Engineering students. This talk discussed the Hubble Space Telescope, its design and construction, and some of its important discoveries. Dr. Simpson also provided some information about the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, and discussed career opportunities at NASA for students in physics and engineering. Here is a link to his talk:  Member Peter Burbery organized this event.



SPS students run virtual Trivia Series – Happy Hers HourHerd Hours Flier

Toward the end of the semester, three club members (Ellie White, Jacquelyn Sizemore, and Peter Burbery) also helped run a virtual physics trivia night as part of a series of trivia events hosted by the university, which provided a fun community-building activity for the club members and event attendees from across the campus, while doubling as a potential recruitment opportunity. This trivia series was called Happy Herd HourFun was had by all.




Sigma Pi Sigma Inductions – Spring 2021

SPS President Jacquelyn Sizemore, SPS Vice President Ellie White, and SPS member Alec O’Dell were all inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma in a virtual induction ceremony on April 22nd, 2021. The ceremony was run by our SPS Advisor in the Physics Department.

The physics department was on a path of doing annual Sigma Pi Sigma inductions for junior/senior physics majors with impressive GPAs every fall during their newly established Physics Week (click here and here for 2018 and 2019 events). During their traditional physics week, the physics department invites all alumni that they have contact info for to these events. In recent years, illustrious alumni have been invited to speak at these annual events accompanied with a welcoming dinner with all department faculty, alumni, and family and friends of inductees and speaker’s. However, COVID-19 disrupted this new routine and this recent event was simplified this year into a virtual format. Jacquelyn Sizemore (SPS President), Ellie white (SPS VP), and Alec O’Dell (non-SPS physics major) were all recently inducted this past spring in an effort to make sure some students were inducted before their graduation (fall 2020 ceremonies were not possible due to guidelines put in place on events by the university following the CDC and state guidelines). The department will make sure to host virtual inductions as needed, but looks forward to hosting the induction ceremonies as done in years past.

SPS Advisor Attends The Zone 7 SPS Meeting and Zone 7 SPS Kickoff

On behalf of the SPS members at Marshall University, SPS Advisor Dr. Sean P. McBride attended the Zone 7 SPS Meeting and Zone 7 SPS Kickoff. Ideas for outreach, recruitment, and activities were discussed at the Zone 7 SPS Kickoff. Dr. McBride also presented a talk at the accompanying Spring 2021 Meeting of the Ohio-Region Sections of APS and SPS Zone 7, Virtual, April 9th-10th, 2021. “Nanoparticle Functionalization of Commercial Filtration Membranes for Water Purification”.

SPS Members Continue to be Dr. McBride Approved Tutors

To help with retention efforts for our department, both SPS President Jacquelyn Sizemore and member Jeremy McCloud continue to be “Dr. Sean P. McBride approved physics tutors” for the 2020-2021 year: Dr. SPM Approved Tutors.

SPS President and Advisor Perform Demonstrations for Spectators –
The Virtual 57th Annual Marshall University International Festival

SPS President Jacquelyn Sizemore and SPS Advisor Dr. Sean P. McBride perform Physics demonstrations for all ages and nationalities at the 57th Annual Marshall University International Festival (click link for video). “Marshall University’s 57th Annual International Festival will be held virtually for the first time on November 7, 2020 from 4pm to 8pm.  In previous years, more than 2,000 guests have attended this event, and this year we’ll continue the tradition virtually, showcasing the exceptional international cultural experiences that Marshall University has to offer.” ~ Festival Highlights

SPS Activities by Academic Year

Fall 2019 – Spring 2020
Fall 2018 – Spring 2019
Fall 2017-  Spring 2018


Fundraising is also and important aspect for our SPS group. The money raised will allow the group to tour graduate research programs and/or national research laboratories along with buy supplies for national build competitions if the desire arises. See below flyers for our previous YETI Fundraiser. Below we see past SPS member selling coffee and donuts on Buskirk field to raise money for these purposes. As shown below, Physics Department T-Shirts and Sweatshirts are available as well, see Dr. McBride in Room S152 in the Science Building. Suggested donations are $15 for a T-Shirt and $20 for a sweatshirt. Also, see the Upcoming Events link on the Physics Department homepage for events that SPS will likely be participating in.


SPS YETI CoolerFundraising

Physics T-Shirt Design


Some information in the “About The Society of Physics Students, Purpose and Mission, and History” sections are provided by:

SPS Webpage Maintained by Dr. Sean P. McBride, Faculty Advisor of the Marshall University SPS Chapter.