News Archive

From the President: We Can Do Hard Things

April 13, 2021

Sonya Smith

When I first addressed you at Sigma Xi’s Annual Meeting in November 2019, I invited you to come to the next year’s meeting in Alexandria, Virginia to “celebrate with me that every day something has tried to kill us and has failed.” I never imagined that less than four months later we would be facing a new, more onerous “something”—a global pandemic and a nationwide shutdown. The loss of Sigma Xi members and their loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone at our organization to bear. Amidst the chaos, we have exhibited strength and learned many lessons as we begin to re-emerge  and re-engage.

Sigma Xi, like many organizations, was required to come to a full stop on in-person activities. Personally, I had planned to visit many chapters to participate in induction ceremonies to catalyze membership and be more engaged in the Society. I had already set aside some personal funds to travel to these events, and I had made commitments to some chapters to do so. 

During that period, we were required to pivot and make contingency plans for future events, such as the 2020 Annual Meeting in Alexandria. Given the modest size of our staff, I was impressed by how quickly we pivoted to produce a high-quality virtual meeting that incorporated both arts and STEM. We had an overwhelmingly high number of attendees from around the globe, many of whom would not have been able to attend had it been an in-person event. As a result, we have expanded Sigma Xi’s global reach during the pandemic, which is no small feat, for which I am thankful to our entire team.

As a nation and as an organization, we’ve proven that we can do hard things in difficult circumstances. Therefore, as we return to in-person spaces and begin reconnecting the synapses that we previously used for conversations with colleagues, cocktail chitchat, and other interactions, I hope we remember some of the lessons learned from the pandemic. If we come together in the community of nations, we can focus our scientific talents to solve hard problems—like developing COVID-19 vaccines in record time. And if the nation’s attention is focused on the hard problem of distributing those vaccines, we can create solutions that deliver those vaccines to millions of people in record time. These are lessons that Sigma Xi members already know, as science advocates and zealous research-ers. We must work together. We must act as champions for science and research to solve today’s problems and those we will face in the future. 

It has been my honor to serve as Sigma Xi’s president during this pandemic year. I hope to have in-person conversations with many of you at the upcoming 2021 Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference

Sonya Smith 
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society