About 15 to 20 new members are likely to be inducted, with twice that number of nominations expected, said Germano S. Iannacchione, secretary of the chapter and associate professor and head of the physics department at WPI. Exact numbers will be known at the end of March.
Sigma XI is an international research society with programs and activities promoting scientific enterprise and achievement. The ceremony will honor “truly special achievers’’ among the student body, said Iannacchione.
WPI features a “projects-based curriculum,’’ Iannacchione said. To graduate, students must complete a major qualifying project, similar to a senior honors thesis. Students whose projects are deemed exceptional are inducted into the organization.
But the majority of chapter members are beyond student age. Most of the society’s members are science professionals who have achieved noteworthy accomplishment in their fields.
Membership is by invitation only: Professionals who have shown potential as researchers are invited to join as associate members. Full membership is bestowed on those who are determined to have achieved noteworthy achievements in research.
To be nominated, professionals must submit “significant’’ work, a CV and supporting letters of recommendation. If a professional is chosen for membership, the chapter pays the first year’s fees. The professional members are then encouraged to reenroll the next year at their own expense.
Science professionals are often invited to join myriad organizations, which can all take time and cost money, Iannacchione said. Choosing which organizations to participate in “can be a challenge for all professionals,’’ he said.
But Sigma XI stands out, he said, because membership is open to professionals in all science and engineering fields, from biologists to computer scientists to biochemists.
“There’s a lot of cross-pollination,’’ he said.
And such variety is not always the case with scientific organizations, he said. Some are especially specific to fields of expertise, he said, such as organizations devoted to professionals in the liquid crystal field.
“Very few have that broad span,’’ he said.
Membership serves as a way for like-minded professionals to make contacts. “It’s a way of building a network,’’ he said. “It’s especially helpful for younger professionals’’ looking to build their professional Rolodexes, he said.
The president of the WPI chapter is Janice Gobert, associate professor in learning sciences. Vice president is Alexander Wyglinkski, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Those two positions change every year. The treasurer and secretary positions are permanent, to provide continuity. David Olinger, associate professor of mechanical engineering and affiliate faculty of aerospace engineering at WPI, is the treasurer and Iannacchione is the “perpetual secretary,’’ he quipped.
By Sandy Quadros Bowles