Serving Sigma Xi's Mission

June 14, 2016

Cristina Gouin-PaulPlant pathologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture by day and Sigma Xi super volunteer by day and night—Cristina Gouin-Paul does a lot for the Society. She is president of the District of Columbia Chapter, director of the Mid-Atlantic Region, chair of the Committee on Qualifications and Membership, and photographer for the Annual Meeting. To recognize her outstanding volunteer service to Sigma Xi and its mission, the Society is honoring her with the 2016 Evan Ferguson Award. Heather Thorstensen, manager of communications, spoke with Gouin-Paul about her dedication to Sigma Xi and what it’s like to be on the board of directors.

Thorstensen: Why is it important for you to be a part of the Society?

Gouin-Paul: The ethics and public outreach holds me in. You go on Facebook or get emails about stuff on the Internet that’s not true. It’s great to be able to pick up the phone and call somebody—somebody who you know through Sigma Xi—and ask, “OK, can you explain this to me? Because they’re not doing this right, but I can’t explain it any better,” then learn another piece of information. Sigma Xi allows me to interact with other people whose work may represent a small aspect of what I do, but you never know where a good idea is going to come from when you talk to somebody in science. A light bulb goes off. 

Thorstensen: What do you want members to know about what it’s like to be on the board of directors?

Gouin-Paul: I think members think the board is there to run the Society. They don’t understand that they need to talk to us and tell us what they want the Society to do. I send an email to the Mid-Atlantic members asking, “Do you have ideas of what you think the Society should be doing or shouldn’t be doing?” Being on the board allows me to have a say in how we can change and improve.

To read what Gouin-Paul has learned from being a chapter president, go to

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety