APS News

Student Member Survey Fosters Two-Way Communication

Student members of APS, both graduate and undergraduate, have made their opinions about APS heard through a recent survey. The survey also provided a way for the Membership Department to communicate with student members, who are often unfamiliar with all the benefits APS offers.

The survey asked how students first learned about APS, and why they chose to join. Many students (40%) first learned about APS through a professor or advisor recommendation. Others (17%) heard about APS through a friend or peer, and 14% discovered APS through attendance at an APS meeting. Among undergraduates, 29% heard about APS through the Society of Physics Students.

The most common reasons for joining were “wanted to present paper at APS meeting” (42%), “view APS as my professional organization” (38%), “professor recommended I join” (39%), and Physics Today (34%). (Respondents could choose more than one reason for joining.) Undergraduates were much less likely than graduate students to have joined in order to present a paper at an APS meeting.

Student members also rated the importance of various member benefits. Physics Today was rated essential or important by 80% of undergrads and 77% of graduate students. Other highly-rated benefits included: one free online journal for student members (rated essential or important by 66% of undergrads and 56% of graduate students); career website (rated essential or important by 65% of undergraduates and 62% of graduate students); reduced meeting registration fees at APS meetings (77% of graduate students and 41% of undergrads), and scientific and technology books discount (59% of undergraduates and 53% of graduate students).

The survey was emailed to student members in the fall of 2005. 4057 students responded, a response rate of 53%. This was the first APS membership survey that focused specifically on student members. Future surveys will seek the views of other aspects of APS membership. A survey of industial physicists is in progress.

Membership Director Trish Lettieri says she uses the survey as a communication tool. Surveys such as this one help APS leadership learn what’s important to members, but they also help inform members about the resources available to them. “That’s one of the biggest benefits we get out of doing surveys,” said Lettieri.

In fact, in the comments section, many students wrote that before the survey they hadn’t known about many of the benefits APS offers. Because the survey found many student members are unaware of the benefits, the membership department has recently developed a new brochure that lists some of the member benefits for students and lists websites for more information. The brochure was distributed at student events at the March and April meetings, and can be found online at http://www.aps.org/memb/studentbrochure.pdf

When asked what additional services or benefits APS could offer, many students wrote that they want more career resources. Students requested more job postings and listings of internships, scholarships and fellowships, and advice on graduate schools, fields of physics, what classes to take, and non-academic careers. APS currently has an online career center which allows members to find job openings and employers (http://careers.aps.org). In response to the survey suggestions, the APS Committee on Careers and Professional Development is developing a handbook of career advice and resources for students, which will be available online soon.


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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff