Sigma Xi

leah carr “Research allows students to fill in the blanks in understanding that we inevitably experience when reading published works. There is something so gratifying about not only completing this picture, but enhancing our understanding by doing work once exclusively available to college graduates.” Leah H. Carr ’10, neuroscience major and recipient of a Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research for research entitled “The Neurogenetic Basis of Alexithymia and Executive Dysfunction: The DAT1 Gene

Companions in Zealous Research

What is Sigma Xi?

Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi is an international honorary society composed of undergraduate, graduate, and professional scientists brought together by the shared goals of pursuing excellence in scientific investigation, seeking companionship and cooperation among researchers, and promoting ethics in all fields of science and engineering. The interdisciplinary nature of Sigma Xi allows members to unite with colleagues around the world to foster progressive interactions among science, technology, and society. There are nearly 60,000 Sigma Xi members in more than 100 countries world-wide. Since its inception, more than 200 members have won the Nobel Prize and many more have earned election to the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering.

History of the Southern Maine Chapter

There are over 500 Sigma Xi chapters in all, located in colleges and universities, industrial research centers, and government laboratories. The Southern Maine chapter was granted a charter and was officially installed at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine on November 3, 1990 by Bates trustee and past Sigma Xi president, Patricia Morse. Owing much to the unflagging efforts and guiding vision of the chapter’s founders and its original 22 members, the Southern Maine chapter has grown in the last twenty years to include scientists in training, professional scientists employed in government, industry, and academia, and retired scientists.

How to Become a Member

Each year, the Society initiates new members across the globe. Membership in Sigma Xi is by nomination and endorsement by current Sigma Xi members. FullMembership is conferred upon any individual who has shown noteworthy achievement as an original investigator in a field of pure science, applied science, or engineering. This generally requires at least two first-authored, refereed papers or patents, one of which can be a Ph.D. thesis; life experience is also considered in some instances. AssociateMembership is available to any individual who has, through initial research achievement, shown an aptitude for research and has promise to continue a career in scientific research. With respect to the Southern Maine chapter, initiation can happen in one of two ways, each of which is summarized below.

For students at Bates College, nomination is for Associate Member status. Nomination is based on current Sigma Xi members’ endorsement of the student’s aptitude for research through independent work such as a senior thesis, independent study, or summer research project. The research ordinarily results in a written document that must be available to the chapter’s officers if requested. Faculty who are Sigma Xi members are asked to submit nominations for student initiates in the second semester each year. There is an induction ceremony once a year, which takes place in the days prior to graduation. For Bates College students, the decision to nominate a student for membership is at the discretion of the faculty most familiar with the student’s work. Although not an exhaustive list, faculty may consider the following questions in determining a student’s eligibility:

  • Has the student demonstrated significant, independent thought during the research? Did the student conceive of or modify the hypothesis, or modify some other aspect of the experimental design or analysis with the effect of making it his or her own? Did the student generate a conjecture, make progress on an open problem, or extend an earlier result?
  • Has the student become familiar with the research methodology in the field? This might include use of an instrument or computer program, use of analytical techniques, or applications of theory necessary to solve certain classes of problems.
  • Has the student’s project demonstrated an understanding of experimental design or other scientific approach to problem solving? Did the student use controls and know what they were? Did the student demonstrate awareness of the fact that all research is done within some frame of reference which must be explicitly recognized? Did the student understand how to prove theorems, confirm hypotheses, or create counter-examples?
  • Has the project used some analytical technique important for research in the field? Did the student use statistics, numerical analysis, or symbolic programs like Maple or Mathematica?
  • Can the student recognize the limitations of what can be inferred from the work, the limitations of the work itself, or how the work might be improved or extended? Can the student understand how the work fits within the context of the work of others?
  • Has the student produced a written analysis that is focused, coherent, and analytical? Has the student demonstrated the ability to communicate effectively about the project to a wide variety of audiences?

Individuals not connected with Bates College who wish consideration for Full or Associate membership in the Southern Maine chapter may request consideration by contacting the chapter President.

Contact Information

Larissa M. Williams
Associate Professor of Biology
Bates College
423 Carnegie Science Hall
44 Campus Avenue
Lewiston, ME  04290