Our Future is Young and Bright

by Nicholas A. Peppas | Dec 23, 2022

Nicholas Peppas

We are just days away from the start of the inaugural International Forum on Research Excellence (IFoRE)—the refreshed, refocused, and rebranded Sigma Xi annual conference. Our theme this year is of particular interest: “Science Convergence in an Inclusive and Diverse World.” Convergence is much more than a buzzword: It is the crucial effort over the last 15 years stressing the importance of collaboration in solving important societal and global problems. 

Take just one example: urban planning. The design of new cities that will meet the needs of modern citizens can no longer be based on principles from the 1950s. Infrastructure no longer means simply clean water and efficient transportation. Now, the quickly changing requirements of modern urban life require scientists and engineers to work together for the most effective solutions. Clearly, new modes of city planning, new materials, and new transportation systems will require all of us to work together to provide solutions to sustain a megalopolis of 20 to 30 million people. 

Looking at a much smaller scale, the multifaceted entity that is the human body can also benefit greatly from the collaboration of an army of specialists: medical, scientific, engineering, and food science, to name a few. Where better to relish the potential of convergence than in longer, healthier lives?

So how do we all work together—or converge—to overcome such huge challenges? First and foremost, we must include people with differing expertise, experience, talent, and backgrounds in the research endeavor. Then we must proceed by truly listening to what everyone has to say. Innovative results are rarely the most obvious; the most glorious stained glass windows have pieces of completely different colors, shapes, and sizes, and the full art would be incomplete without every one of them. 

A few weeks ago, Sigma Xi moved to its new facilities in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. As always, our enthusiastic and adventurous staff members are working hard to improve service to our members. We now also have a group of scientists from diverse backgrounds who are very passionate about “giving back” to the Society . . . and to society in general. We have a new plan to increase Sigma Xi’s membership by identifying and electing active scientists from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds. And excitingly, our annual conference is becoming a magnetic pole for a diverse group of scientists. At this year’s IFoRE, it will be a pleasure and an honor to hear the “call to arms” from true leaders like Cato Laurencin, Gilda Barabino, Jim Collins, and Patrick Couvreur. 

Personally, I am most excited to hear the fresh ideas of Lola Eniola-Adefeso and Kelly Stevens on diversity and inclusivity. They both have the uncanny ability to inspire hope when the clouds are darkest. 

For these and many other reasons, I am thrilled about the future of Sigma Xi.


Nicholas A. Peppas, ScD
Sigma Xi President

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