News Archive

Sigma Xi Chapters Participate in March for Science, Sponsor Earth Day Extras

May 03, 2017

Rain or shine, Earth Day celebrations across the world welcomed throngs of scientists, science enthusiasts and concerned citizens to advance science and promote benefits of scientific research. The commemoration’s signature event, the March for Science in Washington DC and worldwide, demonstrated respect for science and its role in our lives. Sigma Xi proved its commitment to the cause by being the first science organization to partner with the global event and serving as a fiscal sponsor for several of the more than 600 satellite marches across the nation.

Held in locations across six continents, the fete materialized as a respectful civic display of the incalculable value and expansive reach of science. From its earliest plans, the march was intentionally touted as a nonpartisan and apolitical occasion to celebrate science and call for evidence-based policymaking. Reports noted that on April 22, 2017, America hosted an estimated 600,000 people on its streets and sidewalks. Organizers and participants credit the gatherings as an example of community outreach that successfully and peacefully communicated the importance of science’s momentum toward public progress and technological improvement. Sigma Xi stood proudly as a mentor organization for the marches while its chapters championed the Society’s mission to nurture the scientific research enterprise.


Inviting Research Triangle Park-area riders to join them, Sigma Xi staff members chartered its own bus to Washington DC and walked the national march alongside DC peers. A day before boarding the bus,  American Scientist Editor-in-Chief Jamie Vernon noted the value of science in society and the organization’s role in the event with listeners during a segment on the local public radio station.

Members and chapters across the country and around the world participated individually and with their chapters. Here are some examples of their participation. If you are a member and would like to share your experience with us, please send your story to Sigma Xi Director of Membership, Chapters and Programs Eman Ghanem.

Washington, DC


In addition to the march activities on the National Mall, Sigma Xi members lead science presentations. Director of Membership-at-Large Vijay Kowtha spearheaded a high school robotics team demonstration in which he organized three groups: Team Illusion-4464, the Parkdale High School panthers team and the Phelps Robopanthers. Because Sigma Xi strongly supports the efforts of the National Junior Academy of Sciences and the informal and unofficial activities of scientists and engineers in the DC area to encourage young women and men into an increased participation in science and STEM activities, the youth were invited to join members at a series of scientific presentations at the Navy memorial. Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Pennsylvania State University engineering professor gave a talk about nanoscale in science and nature; Tee Guidotti, Sigma Xi president, discussed the founding of the Grants in Aid for Research (GIAR) program; Robert Kellogg of Boeing spoke about radio navigation 100 years ago; and David Moran of Technology Naval Partnerships addressed naval architecture and future ship design.

Raleigh, NC

UNC_CH ChapterNot far from Sigma Xi headquarters in downtown Raleigh, Richard Watkins, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Sigma Xi chapter president and southeast regional director, addressed marchers from the main stage, telling them “We march to prevent extinction.” He added, “We’re beacons of light and hope whose brilliance is only appreciated when the night skies are darkest.”

Columbus, OH


Dark clouds didn’t dampen the spirits or motivations of marchers at Columbus Commons. Mark Peeples, research scientist and past president of Sigma Xi, addressed a crowd of approximately 5,000 science supporters. Flanked by chapter associates, including past president Larry Feth among others, Peeples deemed the event a success, “a great showing.” His speech noted the numerous opportunities to promote science as well as the vital need for scientists communicate it in ways that everyone can learn something. He mentioned the prominent role that science and technology play now and our future and that it’s imperative members make every effort to inspire others – hopefully future scientists – to strive for more. 

Lincoln, NE

UNK Sigma Xi in Lincoln

Marchers in Lincoln, who numbered 2,500 according to estimates, urged leaders in Washington to prioritize scientific research funding, science education and science-based policy. University of Nebraska-Kearney organic chemistry professor and UNK Chapter President Allen Thomas said the march brought attention to the many realms of science. “Two chapters in Nebraska both marched for science in Lincoln. Officers in the UNK club were enthusiastic about marching and wanted to show their solidarity by wearing the same t-shirts,” he said. He also noted the event provided a forum for future collaboration among peers. University of Nebraska at Lincoln biochemistry professor and president of the University of Nebraska chapter Concetta DiRusso voiced her reluctance of funding cuts in a KLKN TV8 news feature. "Scientists don't often promote what they do, but our society in the United States is flush with technology, with medical care, with educational possibilities, and we can't lose that momentum."

Boston, MA


Members of the UMass Dartmouth chapter joined the crowds in Boston Common to celebrate science in rally form, not a traditional march, with music and speakers. The goal was to help make science a priority and highlight diversity and inclusiveness in the field that makes it successful and beneficial to the whole of society. The cool, rainy weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the reported 25,000 supporters.  Elizabeth Winiarz, UMass Dartmouth science librarian noted that speakers represented the EPA, MIT and Harvard Medical School in addition to 12 scientists who addressed the importance of research and the discoveries that have become part of daily living. She added young people at the elementary school, middle school and high school levels also read their winning essays about the importance of science in their futures. “Homemade signs were everywhere. The atmosphere was supportive, respectful and upbeat,” she said. 

 Ann Arbor, MI


Ann Arbor’s participants enjoyed sunny skies and spring-like temperatures for its campaign. Marchers welcomed each other at the Diag, the central campus gathering spot, and a multitude of marchers dressed in specially designed event t-shirts, costumes, science-themed garb or University of Michigan collegiate attire. Propelled by its mantra to encourage scientists to step out of the lab and share their knowledge with its community and the world, Ann Arbor chapter members strived to encourage discourse about the vital function of science within it. 

Portland, OR

Doug, Tom,Linda,Eileenat MFS

Sigma Xi’s Columbia-Willamette chapter joined its community’s science expo and shared the wonders of science and research before and after its march. Despite the cool, rainy weather, members Linda Mantel, Peter Abrahams, Eileen Brennan and Douglas Eddy staffed the chapter booth during the fair.

Photo captions:

Photo 1 (from the top):  Sigma Xi staff join RTP-area scientists pose outside the bus they rode to Washington, DC
Photo 2:  Sigma Xi sponsors a high school robotics presentation in Washington, DC
Photo 3:   Members of the UNC Chapel Hill Chapter at the Raleigh march 
Photo 4:   Larry Feth from the Columbus, OH chapter addresses march participants
Photo 5:  Lincoln, NE marchers show their support for the science celebration
Photo 6:  UMass Dartmouth chapter president Nancy O'Connor, an ecologist, and daughter, Genevieve, a PhD student at Harvard, join marcher at Boston Common
Photo 7:   Marchers in Ann Arbor gather for the science event on the Diag
Photo 8:   Columbia-Williamette members march despite the cold rain