News Archive

The Sigma Xi Community Responds to COVID-19

June 16, 2020

Above: The Fairfield University Sigma Xi Chapter sponsored a group of virtual student research presentations as part of the university’s Innovative Research Symposium. Sigma Xi member Michael Andreychik interviewed a student, Emma Antoine-Portinari, about her research presentation on pro-Black bias in criminal sentencing during the symposium. Video from Fairfield University on Vimeo.


Members, chapters, and staff continued their support for research and the public understanding of science during the pandemic. Here are a few examples.

Preparedness Kit and Science Expert Interviews

The Society has published a list of resources online for members to use and share. These resources focus on helping people adjust to lifestyle changes and finding evidence-based information during the COVID-19 pandemic. The kit includes a series of videos in which scientists answer questions about COVID-19, such as whether pets can get the virus and if it is safe to order takeout. Sigma Xi produced the videos in partnership with science communicator Brian Malow. 

Virtual Events Led by Headquarters

Because of canceled campus events and conferences, students had fewer opportunities to present their research this spring. In response, Sigma Xi reopened its abstract submission period for the online Student Research Showcase, which then had 200 high school through graduate students give online presentations comprised of an abstract, slideshow, and video. The Society also hosted a new event, the Virtual Student Scholars Symposium (VS3), which had 132 students virtually present their research in poster or oral format. Members served on the organizing committee or volunteered as judges, and Sigma Xi president (Fiscal Year 2020) and National Medal of Science recipient Geraldine Richmond presented the keynote session

The Society has also switched the format for the Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference from an in-person meeting to a virtual meeting in November, 2020. 

Promoting the Public’s Understanding of COVID-19

The Sigma Xi community made its support for science communication clear on Giving Tuesday Now, held on May 5, by raising $10,267! The total exceeded our $10,000 goal. The money will go toward providing science-based messages to the public about COVID-19, by creating an awards fund for Sigma Xi’s new platform, #SciCommMake. Together with Science Talk, a nonprofit for science communicators, Sigma Xi is hosting #SciCommMake with the goal of gathering teams of scientists and artists that create innovative science communications projects. The Giving Tuesday Now donations went to a special session of #Sci-CommMake to create COVID-19 communications projects that will help people worldwide prepare for the next wave of challenges. Thank you to all the donors!


Chapters Shift to Virtual Events

The Fairfield University Chapter hosted 57 student research presentations in 11 faculty-moderated Zoom sessions as part of the university’s Innovative Research Symposium. During the symposium, the chapter’s Zoom sessions were visited 400 times. The chapter also held its spring induction ceremony virtually and inducted 17 new members. The Fordham University Chapter also held a virtual induction ceremony for approximately 70 new members.

Virginia Tech Chapter Promotes the Society Virtually

The Virginia Tech Chapter hosted a virtual table at the university’s Spring Undergraduate Research Conference to promote the chapter’s presence on campus and to recognize qualified students with nominations for membership. The chapter nominated 19 students for associate membership from the event. The chapter also invited six high school students to join the Sigma Xi Explorers program for K–12 students and continued to support Science on Tap-New River Valley, which continued their science talks online.


Students Get Relief Funds

Rebecca Jones, president of the George Mason University Chapter, led efforts to secure rapid, emergency financial support for the university’s students from the FAST Fund, administered by the nonprofit Believe in Students. The fund gave Jones $5,000 that was used to provide 27 university students in need with emergency financial support, such as funds for paying bills or rent, buying groceries, and covering moving expenses to leave campus.


Chapters Share Science Online

Many Sigma Xi chapters host talks by researchers, who share their work with the public. Two chapters that took talks virtual were the Research Triangle Park Chapter and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapter. Speaker topics included the genetic underpinnings of anorexia, the health effects of e-cigarettes and vaping, and living well during pandemic times