Sigma Xi (Xi is pronounced with a "Z" sound-"Zi"-as in "xylophone") was founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering. The Greek letters "sigma" and "xi" form the acronym of the Society's motto, "Spoudon Xynones," which translates as "Companions in Zealous Research."
Today, Sigma Xi is an international, multidisciplinary research society whose programs and activities promote the health of the scientific enterprise and honor scientific achievement. There are nearly 60,000 Sigma Xi members in more than 100 countries around the world. Sigma Xi chapters, more than 500 in all, can be found at colleges and universities, industrial research centers and government laboratories. The Society endeavors to encourage support of original work across the spectrum of science and technology and to promote an appreciation within society at large for the role research has played in human progress.
Sigma Xi was founded at Cornell University in 1886. The charter of the University of Texas Medical Branch Chapter Of Sigma Xi – initially called the University of Texas (Galveston) Chapter of Sigma Xi – began 68 years later, at 11:00 a.m. on June 3, 1954, with a business meeting in Room 108A of the Keiller Building. During that meeting, 31 members and associate members of the chapter approved its constitution and bylaws, including John G. Sinclair, Professor of Anatomy, and Mason Guest, Professor of Physiology. The meeting ended that evening with a dinner at the former Jean Lafitte Hotel in downtown Galveston. The first president of the UTMB Chapter was Dr. Howard G. Swann, Professor of Physiology; John G. Bieri was its first Secretary. A bound, gold-embossed record book shows the signatures of all founding members of the UTMB Chapter. This record book is still in use today and every new member is asked to sign it.
After its charter, the UTMB Chapter grew quickly. By May 1960 almost 150 new members and associate members were initiated into the chapter, among them Truman Blocker, Jr., (who in 1964 became Head of UTMB and in 1967 its first President), William C. Levin (who followed Truman Blocker as President of UTMB from 1974 until 1987), James Thomas (President 1987-1997), and E. Burke Evans (after whom the cafeteria courtyard is named). In the following 30 years, the membership increased steadily and in 2001 reached 543, its highest level in the history of the chapter. The record book shows many familiar names of Deans: George Bryan (SOM), Lemone Yielding and Cary Cooper (GSBS), Charles Christiansen (SAHS), and Pamela Watson (SON), as well as of Departmental Chairmen: Ron Bailey, David Herndon, George Jackson, David Niesel, Regino Perez-Polo, Joan Richardson, Brad Thompson, Courtney Townsend, David Walker, and William Willis.
1990 was a special year for the chapter. It decided to organize a campus-wide Research Forum. Since only 10 poster boards were available on campus (and off-campus rental was too expensive), members of the chapter, with financial support of the Graduate School, built 70 poster boards themselves. Until 1998, this research forum became an annual event that attracted over 100 posters every year. For many years to come, the poster boards were made available to the research community on and off campus for a small nominal fee. Until today, this generated income provided the financial resources for the many Sigma Xi Awards that are presented annually at the National Student Research Forum (NSRF), the poster sessions of the Medical Student Summer Research Program (MSSRP) and Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), and at multiple other events.
In 1995, 1996 and 2001, the UTMB Chapter was honored by Sigma Xi with a Certificate of Recognition for membership growth. In 2002, it was asked to help host the Annual Sigma Xi Forum on Changing the Face of Science and Engineering and the Sigma Xi Student Research Conference; these events were held at the Moody Gardens Conference Center. In 2004, the UTMB Chapter was one of only eight chapters world-wide that was honored with a Certificate of Excellence.
Recent Presidents of the chapter were (in chronological order): Andrew Grant, Bruce Niebuhr, Golda Leonard, Rod Fabian, David Niesel, James Kanz, Michael O’Boyle, Norma Turner, Alex Kurosky, Charles Holzer, Karen Brykczynski, David Rassin, Giulio Taglialatela and, most recently, Volker Neugebauer. Ulli Budelmann served as Secretary from 1989 until 2011.
Today, the UTMB Chapter of Sigma Xi is one of almost 600 active Sigma Xi chapters in North America and around the world; it has a little over 100 members. Current officers are David Niesel (President), Cary Cooper (Vice President), Bruce Niebuhr (Secretary), and Ulli Budelmann (Treasurer).