How undergraduates can boost their resumes (Podcast #1)

Welcome to the first episode of the GradschoolShopper podcast. Here, you’ll learn about different ways undergraduate students can boost their resumes even before applying to grad school.

Our guest, Kendra Redmond, is the Program Coordinator and Assistant Editor for the Society of Physics Students.

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Kendra Redmond, Program Coordinator at the Society of Physics Students

Episode  topics

  • What is the Society of Physics Students (SPS)?
  • Membership in professional societies
  • Research experience for undergraduates (REUs)
  • Outreach through local SPS chapters
  • Taking leadership roles in SPS chapters
  • Considering activities outside of physics
  • Journal of Undergraduate Research in Physics (JURP)
  • Advice for undergraduates
  • Advice for graduate school

Episode summary

Kendra is a Program Coordinator and Assistant Editor at the Society of Physics Students (SPS).

What is the Society of Physics Students (SPS)?

The Society of Physics Students is a professional society for undergraduate physics students, with the goal of helping students develop into physicists outside of the classroom.

There are chapters on most university campuses around the country, and it accepts students from all disciplines, including anyone who is interested in physics or just hanging around physicists.

SPS offers a wide variety of awards, internships, and support to its members. Read more information on their national website.

Membership in professional societies

In the United States there are approximately 10 member societies that have practicing physicists actively affiliated. Many of these societies offer specific programs for students, and joining one–or more–of them exposes you to incredible benefits, such as:

  • Access to news from the field you’re interested in, plus invitations to nationwide annual meetings the society hosts for its members,
  • Networking opportunities with professional physicists who are often great sources of contact when you’re applying to top graduate schools,
  • A boost on your resume for displaying awareness and participation in a professional society,
  • Internship opportunities, and
  • REU options that you may not otherwise be exposed to.

Research experience for undergraduates (REUs)

The Society of Physics Students strongly supports and advocates for undergraduate students to be involved in research opportunities, both on campus and in other locations or organizations.

SPS runs a website called The Nucleus, where students can search for REUs and other outreach opportunities, as well as apply for internships.

SPS also runs its own internship program worth checking out.

Outreach through local SPS chapters

Many SPS chapters are engaged in community outreach. One notable example of this is a project that launches pumpkins from a trebuche or drops frozen pumpkins from tall buildings. (Physics is awesome!)

These events provide fantastic opportunities to network with other physics students, practice your leadership skills, and build volunteering experience, which is something many graduate schools and future employers will value.

Taking leadership roles in SPS chapters

The structure of local SPS chapters varies from school to school, but in general, each chapter has a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, Outreach Officer, and other positions of leadership.

These are all elected positions that give you a chance to exercise leadership skills, organize meetings and events, and network with other professionals and students at the national level. Getting involved in leadership roles could pay off handsomely to potential employers or graduate school recruiters.

Considering activities outside of physics

There are a lot of activities outside of physics that you can use to highlight your skills or talents. For example, some physics students are interested in computer science or programming. Getting involved in a student organization or your school’s computer science department is an excellent way to garner attention from research groups or graduate programs in modeling or computational physics.

Journal of undergraduate research in physics (JURP)

SPS is running an online peer-reviewed undergraduate publication called, the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Physics, or JURP. Here, students can publish research they’ve worked on, whether it’s part of an REU or senior project. The publication is peer-reviewed, so you can participate by either submitting your paper and working on it with an editor, or by assisting in the process of peer-review itself. Either one of these endeavors can look very attractive on your resume.

Advice for undergraduates

Physics can be hard, and you probably find yourself spending a lot of time doing homework or preparing for the GRE, etc. Be sure to make time for activities that remind you why you love this field!

Advice for graduate school

The first year of grad school can be extremely challenging. Instead of spending time thinking about what to do with your future, focus on doing your homework and taking advantage of all your classes have to offer. Once you have the first year under your belt, then you can take the time to explore different career options.


Picture Credit: Pumpkin Drop at the University of Oregon Wolfram Burner, 2009






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Advice to Students

The first year of grad school is really hard. Instead of spending time thinking about whether or not you should be in Grad School, spend that time doing your homework. Then after your first year you can think about whether you really want to be there. — Kendra Redmond, Program Coordinator and Assistant Editor, Society of Physics Students, Podcast Episode #1

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