A University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student-led physics organization has received top honors from its national governing body for the first time.
The UTC chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) has won an Outstanding Chapter Award from the SPS National Office, recognizing its excellence as a top-tier student-led organization. The designation is given to fewer than 10% of all SPS chapters at colleges and universities in the United States and internationally.
UTC has a long history of student organizations in physics. Sigma Pi Sigma, the Physics Honor Society, was founded in 1921; eight years later, the University of Chattanooga chapter joined the organization as its seventh chapter. Sigma Pi Sigma and the Student Section of the American Physical Society were reorganized in 1968 to form the SPS, which now has more than 820 chapters on university campuses. The professional association is explicitly designed for students and their advisors and is open to anyone interested in physics and related fields.
The UTC SPS chapter advisor is UC Foundation Professor of Physics Tatiana Allen.
“Winning this award is a really big deal, given that SPS has had a chapter at UTC for so many years,” Allen said. “I became the advisor during COVID, when everything went online and all activities were put on hold. After we returned to campus in 2021, students worked very hard to revitalize the chapter. We started to hold regular meetings, applied for an SPS National Research grant and received it, and participated in community events.
“Our hard work paid off. We were named a ‘Distinguished Chapter’ in 2021-22, which is equivalent to a silver medal, but in 2022-23 we have attained ‘Outstanding Chapter’ status—the gold standard of the SPS National Office. These were the first recognitions in UTC’s long history with SPS.”
SPS chapters are evaluated on their level of interaction with the campus community, the professional physics community, the public, and SPS national programs. According to the organization, the Outstanding Chapter Award recognizes high levels of outreach and unique approaches to fulfilling the mission of SPS to “help students transform themselves into contributing members of the professional community.”
“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,” SPS Assistant Director Kayla Stephens wrote in a congratulatory note. “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.”
During the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years, the UTC SPS chapter president was Ivy Cartwright, who graduated in spring 2023.
Current SPS chapter officers are:
- Matthew Boone, president, physics, junior, Gallatin, Tennessee
- Evan Humberd, vice president, physics, senior, Hixson, Tennessee
- Kyle Alfultis, treasurer, biophysics, senior, Denver, Colorado
- Olivia Ziemer, secretary, biophysics, sophomore, Tigard, Oregon
Allen said students of any major interested in physics are encouraged to consider joining SPS to connect with people of the same interests, learn physics, experience great fellowship and have a lot of fun.