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2023 ΣΠΣ Induction ceremony and special bestowing of Honorary ΣΠΣ Membership on Jearl Walker

Wide shot of attendees at Spring 2023 Sigma Pi Sigma EventOn March 31, 2023, our Society of Physics Students (SPS) chapter held a Sigma PI Sigma (ΣΠΣ) induction ceremony with a large 2023 inductee class consisting of graduating student and SPS vice-president George Tomaras '23 (starting a Ph.D. in AMO Physics at Rice University, Houston TX), and six alumni. The alumni list included: Dr. Prasenjit Bose'12 (Staff Software Research Scientist, Intel Corporation, Portland OR), Dr. Phil Dee '13 (Postdoctoral Associate, University of Florida, Gainesville FL), Kaitlin Vandemark '13 (CAPEX and Indirect Category Manager, North American Transformer, Youngstown OH), Hannah Shuman Dee '14 (Director of Client Solutions, Integrity Laboratories, Knoxville, TN), Dr. Joseph Glaser '14 (Scientific Computing Specialist, NANOGrav, West Virginia University, Morgantown WV), Christian Gunder '17 (Fermentation Development Engineer, Meati, Boulder CO). This was 4th ΣΠΣ induction ceremony since the revival of CSU’s ΣΠΣ chapter in 2018 (our chapter was dormant for almost 46 years before that). The induction event this year was very special as it included bestowing the Honorary ΣΠΣ Membership (the highest ΣΠΣ honor) on Jearl Walker with help from SPS Director, Dr. Brad Conrad.

Students give talk during SPS ceremony ΣΠΣ is the Physics Honor Society which “exists to honor outstanding scholarship in physics and astronomy; to encourage interest in physics and astronomy among students at all levels; to promote an attitude of service of its members towards their fellow students, colleagues, and the public; to provide a fellowship of persons who have excelled in physics and astronomy.” Every year we induct the very top of the current physics class and program’s alumni and friends from recent and not-that-recent years who have significantly contributed to our physics department, to physics scholarship, to physics fellowship, to physics general outreach and service. We believe that a strong ΣΠΣ chapter helps to build bridges between our department, current students, and alumni from different walks of life. Different generations of alumni in a multitude of professions, current and emeritus faculty, and students assembled at the induction event might not know each other well, but they all have a common bond in our physics department. This bond creates an amazing synergy and atmosphere in the room not only provokes the exchange of ideas, many laughs, and jokes but also leads to real job opportunities for current students and to service/fellowship opportunities for the alumni, which in turn strengthens the department.

The induction event hosted about 60 people (students, alumni, faculty, and administration) and took place in the ballroom of the Student Center at CSU. It was the evening of celebration of 2023 student awards and achievements, recognition of honorary alumni who contributed heavily to the department, an induction of seven new ΣΠΣ members, and celebration of Dr. Jearl Walker, who received the Honorary ΣΠΣ membership.

InducteesThe evening started with a reception during which guests had a chance to meet each other and explore a poster collection about SPS, Physics Department, CSU’s REU, and 17 Physics Day posters that highlighted yearly departmental outreach events for middle and high school students. The opening remarks by Dr. Streletzky started the official portion of the evening. After welcoming the guests, Dr. Streletzky briefly talked about the national SPS and the history of the CSU’s SPS chapter showing pictures of the chapter leadership from the past (as far as back as 1971). Then Patrick Herron (SPS President) and Jordan Miller (SPS VP) with some help from Dr. Streletzky discussed CSU’s SPS chapter achievements in the past year which included on-campus events such as Physics Olympics and Physics Jeopardy, student conference travel, student publications and a student-led “Physics Fridays” outreach program that in 2023 celebrated 12 years of operation in local Cleveland area schools.

In the next part of the program dedicated to Sigma Pi Sigma, Dr. Streletzky introduced the special guest of the evening, the Director of the SPS and Sigma PI Sigma, Dr. Brad Conrad. Dr. Conrad told the audience about the mission, the history, and the four pillars of the ΣΠΣ, the Physics Honor Society. This was followed by Dr. Streletzky talking about CSU’s chapter of ΣΠΣ, its own history including the participation of CSU students in the Physics Congresses (PhysCons) organized by ΣΠΣ. Over the recent years, CSU delegations went to the PhysCons of 2016, 2019, and 2022 supported by generous donations from CSU alumni and friends. In this part of the program, CSU students Patrick Herron, Jordan Miller, George Tomaras, Collin Douglas, and Jacob Forester gave a detailed report on their attendance at the Centennial Physics Congress (2022 PhysCon) in Washington DC. Students described in detail their PhysCon participation, and the huge impact of the conference on their education and career plans and thanked the donors for supporting their trip to PhysCon 22.

The formal 2023 ΣΠΣ Induction Ceremony was followed by Dr. Conrad describing the symbolism of ΣΠΣ’s insignia and the Red Book. Dr. Streletzky then introduced every 2023 inductee and invited them to come up to the podium to sign the Red Book individually. Each inductee was gifted a pin, a pen, and a membership card that signifies their lifetime membership at ΣΠΣ. Then, following CSU tradition, the words of the Charge to New ΣΠΣ Members were read by Dr. Jearl Walker to the entire group.

In the next part of the ceremony, Dr. Fodor, the chair of the physics department, highlighted the state of the program and some of the recent achievements of the department which included faculty promotions and hires, renewal of Soft Matter REU at CSU, publications with undergraduate students, CSU student admittances to REU and grad schools, and student awards, including the Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Award. Dr. Fodor then thanked alumni and friends of the department for their donations. This portion of the evening was followed by presenting alumni-honorary guests who made significant contributions during CSU’s 2023 Giving Day with personal CSU/Physics Dept gifts.

The highlight and the concluding part of the ceremony were very special and unique:  Dr. Jearl Walker was bestowed with the Honorary ΣΠΣ Membership. For his contributions on the national and international level, Jearl was elected to join the distinguished list of honorary members that includes Mildred Dresselhaus, S. James Gates, Jr., Vera Ruben, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, John Mather, Linus Pauling, and Eric Cornell. Here is the official citation: “… in recognition of his many years of supporting countless students across many countries through hundreds of articles and presentations, his seminal contributions to introductory physics courses, and defining how physics is the clockwork of universe to generations students. Dr. Jearl Walker is a pillar of Sigma Pi Sigma, which upholds the ideals of society.”Dr. Streletzky gives Dr. Walker the award plaque.

This part of the ceremony included a short presentation about Jearl’s contribution, watching an excerpt of Jearl’s interview with CSU’s YouTube channel, a clip of his appearance on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson", and several video messages from Jearl’s former students.

The guests were then invited for group pictures and served a buffet dinner which stimulated many conversations and networking between students, alumni, and faculty. 


The induction ceremony was made possible through funding by the College of Arts and Sciences; Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Honors College; Physics Department; and contributions from members of CSU's Sigma Pi Sigma chapter