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How Sigma Xi Chapters Can Find Great Speakers

January 23, 2019

Sally Seidel

Sigma Xi chapters around the world bring members and the public together to learn about and support research. Engaging activities are vital to the health of chapters, and they can get help in that regard from the Society’s Distinguished Lectureships program, which provides a cohort of cutting-edge researchers each year who can speak at chapter events. The program also invites chapters to apply for subsidies that can help cover the cost of a lecturer’s visit.

In March of 2018, the Columbia-Willamette Chapter in Oregon, which has members from multiple institutions in the Portland area, hosted Distinguished Lecturer Sally Seidel, a physics professor from the University of New Mexico. Seidel, who is trying to discover new particles, explained in a Sigma Xi lecture at Portland State University how each new particle could answer fundamental questions about the nature of the universe. She is a collaborator on an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and she also collects and analyzes data from other experimental facilities.

Seidel’s first event in Oregon was a morning visit to a local pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school, where she met with junior and senior honors students in science. A lively question and answer session followed her talk. Later that day, at Portland State University, she met with students in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program and with members of the Physics Club. The next day, she met individually with faculty members and graduate students in Portland State’s physics department in the morning, and in the afternoon she gave a technical seminar as part of the department’s seminar series. Seidel’s main Sigma Xi lecture followed dinner with the chapter’s board members. Before departing, she had lunch with students and faculty from Portland State.

Hosting a Distinguished Lecturer is always valuable, said Linda Mantel, the chapter’s president. 

“We get to meet someone we don’t know, we have the opportunity to involve the larger scientific community, and we can do outreach to younger scientists,” said Mantel. “The more we can engage faculty and other scientists in town, the bigger the impact of a Distinguished Lecturer visit.”

The chapter received a $1,000 subsidy from the Distinguished Lectureships program for Seidel’s visit. Every year, the deadline for subsidy applications is March 1 for lecturer visits that will take place between July 1 of that year and June 30 of the following year.

Visit to see the list of the most recent cohort of Distinguished Lecturers. You can also watch Sigma Xi’s interview with Sally Seidel about her research

Photo caption: Physicist Sally Seidel, on left, met with science faculty members of Oregon Episcopal School, which serves pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students in Portland, as part of her Distinguished Lecturer visit to the Columbia-Willamette Sigma Xi Chapter. (Photo courtesy of Linda Mantel.)