December 16, 2015
WOW. That’s my best description of our Sigma Xi Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, October 22–25. I truly wish that more of our members could have attended. I think that all of us there got the Sigma Xi bump. If your chapter’s representative was there this year, I bet s/he felt it too. Ask them.
Our theme was “Science Lifts the Light” and we saw that in so many excellent talks from Sigma Xi award winners like the Young Investigator Award winner, Melissa Kenny, who inspired us with her environmental science work that involved many different stakeholders as she enjoined us to be the “arrows” in the flow chart, not just the boxes, by working with others across disciplines; our newest honorary member Miles O’Brien, who joined us by Google Hangout to discuss his passion and one of Sigma Xi’s missions—communicating science to the public, telling us how he has made a career of explaining science to TV audiences by filming his search for an understanding of a problem and letting the science speak for itself; our John P. McGovern Science and Society Award winner, May Berenbaum, who led us on an exploration of a bee’s life and problems as well as the joy of her annual Insect Fear Film Festival at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Larry Johnson, our Evan Ferguson Award winner, who showed us his approach for reaching and teaching science to students through YouTube videos and live connections with multiple classrooms; and the Proctor Prize winner David Williams, who showed us groundbreaking methods to correct our vision imperfections.
Was that enough? No. We had two nights of extraordinary Science Cafés, three each night: our own Mark Schneegurt landed us on Mars and flew us past Pluto looking for life; Eric Martens, the chemistry-trained brewer behind Border Brewing Company led us through several pints of chemistry; our Vijay Kowtha gave us hands-on robotics training to teach and test engineering and design; and my favorite, Jerry and Nancy Jaax led us through the terrifyingly true story of the first Ebola outbreaks nearly 30 years ago, and their central roles in controlling the Reston, Virginia, monkey colony outbreak that was terrifyingly captured in The Hot Zone.
But we also took care of your Society’s business, introducing our new interim executive director, John Nemeth. John was a high school science teacher, then became a research administrator and professor at Georgia Institute of Technology for 15 years before he went on to be vice president of Oak Ridge Associated Universities. We explored many ideas for strengthening the value of our chapters, approaching potential new members with an attractive message, and using our new online communities both for communicating chapter activities and for discussing science. Our caucuses discussed several ideas for improving Sigma Xi’s infrastructure and I’ll be sharing these with you in future letters. And finally, our delegates discussed their science in the newly revived Professional Research and Chapter Poster Session, and provided feedback on student science at our Student Research Conference. So much interesting science, so many interesting scientists. WOW!
Mark E. Peeples
Sigma Xi President