From the President: The "Pandemic Presidency"

June 22, 2021

Sonya Smith Dear Sigma Xi members,

It has been quite a year. At the conclusion of our 2019 Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, I invited you to join me the following November for our 2020 meeting in Alexandria, Virginia. We had no idea that COVID-19 had already arrived, and the world was about to change. During the pandemic, we lost members and loved ones of Sigma Xi, and I am deeply sorry for their loss.  

Over the past year, science has come under attack and Sigma Xi has been active in defending it. In addition to signing onto national science initiatives, the Society released a statement supporting science and the scientific method. Scientists, some of whom are members of our organization, were instrumental in the development of the COVID-19 vaccines. As we return to in-person spaces and begin reconnecting with family, friends, and colleagues, we have a duty to remind the public that this reunion is facilitated by the nation’s commitment to scientific research.

The past year has also been defined by a confrontation with racial injustice. Sigma Xi  adopted a resolution reaffirming its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in scientific research. It is an important beginning, but we still need to do more. It is possible to create a positive impact through several strategies, from reducing implicit bias to promoting bystander intervention, and I am ready to help Sigma Xi take the lead on these issues moving forward.

One of the things I missed most during the pandemic was the face-to-face interaction with members at the Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference. When the country went into lockdown, the Society had to learn to deliver its content in a different way. The virtual conference format allowed for participation by students and researchers throughout the world. We had more participants at the 2020 virtual meeting than at any previous in-person event. Sigma Xi will continue to include a virtual component going forward to provide a more inclusive experience. 

I would like to thank my predecessor Geri Richmond for her continued service to Sigma Xi as immediate past-president. I am thankful for her support of my presidency and continue to enjoy her spirit and enthusiasm for helping the Society thrive. 

I would also like to thank President-Elect Robert Pennock for his dedication to the Society. I encourage you to attend this year’s Annual Meeting in Niagara Falls, New York. It will be Sigma Xi’s first in- person conference in over 15 months. I look forward to seeing you there and learning about your exciting research.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the staff at Sigma Xi’s headquarters in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. They have done a fantastic job in pivoting Sigma Xi programs to a virtual format and keeping the Society moving forward through very difficult times. I think I speak for all of us in my expression of sincere gratitude.

This “pandemic presidency” has been both frustrating and rewarding. While I am proud of the two new chapters that were installed this year, it was frustrating to not be able to travel and visit the chapters in person as I had originally planned. However, it was rewarding to help the Society persevere through uncertainty and continue to grow.  I look forward to supporting Sigma Xi’s mission and programs for years to come.

All the best,
Sonya Smith signature
Sonya T. Smith
Sigma Xi Fiscal Year 2021 President 

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