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WIU Physics Students Win National Recognition

The Western Illinois University chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS), locally known as the Physics Club, has won an Outstanding Chapter Award from the SPS National Office.

Prior to the recognition, the Physics Club received the Distinguished SPS Chapter recognition for 2017-2018, Outstanding SPS Chapter designation for 2018-2019 and Notable SPS Chapter award for 2019-2020. This is the fourth time the chapter has been recognized for its excellence and out of that twice as a top-tier student-led physics organization, a designation given to fewer than 10% of all SPS chapters at colleges and universities in the United States and internationally.

The SPS is a professional association designed for students, and membership is open to anyone interested in physics and related fields. SPS operates within the American Institute of Physics (AIP), an umbrella organization for professional physical science societies.

The SPS chapter at WIU is advised by WIU Physics Professor P. K. Babu and led by student officers.

The 2022-2023 officers include (all undergraduate Physics majors):

 Drew Hecox, president

 Tyler Welsh, vice president

 RJ Tillman, treasurer

 Board members: Amisha Rane, Punya Paudel, Gabriel Sojka, and Thomas Chu are either undergraduate or graduate physics majors.

This year (2023-2024), the club officers are Sojka, president; Rane, vice president; and Tillman, treasurer, and the board members are Chelsie Henderson, Kenneth Vanzuiden, John Reed, Samantha Nahlik, Allie Strack and Thomas Chu. In November, the chapter hosted a demonstration show named “Barbenheimer,” which was inspired by the recent blockbusters Barbie and Oppenheimer.

“This achievement is a great honor for WIU,and it was an honor to be a part of the process. This was only possible with the support and efforts of the WIU community,” Sojka said.

“The consistency and frequency at which WIU’s Physics Club is being recognized nationally is a testament to the value the department holds in the outreach activities of the department, as well as how we use it as an excellent training platform for our majors in communicating physics to a general audience,” Chair and Professor of Physics Kishor Kapale said. “A big thank you to Professor Babu for his excellent mentorship and to the club members for their hard work! We could not have gotten a better Christmas/New Year’s gift for this year.”

SPS chapters are evaluated on their level of interaction with the campus community, the professional physics community, the public and with SPS national programs. The Outstanding Chapter Award recognizes high levels of outreach, as well as unique approaches to fulfilling the mission of SPS to help students transform themselves into contributing members of the professional community.

The WIU Physics Club organized/actively participated in the following major events during 2022-2023 academic year:

 Kickball match and cookout with the Chemistry Club

 The Annual Science Demo show (The Incredible World of Science)

 The Regional Academic Challenge

 The Regional Science Olympiad

 Table Fair for recruiting new members 

 Explore WIU (Outreach program for high school students)

 Spring picnic and end of the year celebration for the Department of Physics

For more information on WIU’s Physics program, visit

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