Community

Astro at Berkeley is not just about taking classes and doing research; there is a tight-knit community of undergrads, grads, postdocs, and professors that interact in various ways. Getting involved with some of the following is a great way to make friends, meet cool people, and even learn about opportunities you would not have heard of otherwise!

Academic/Social Clubs

Undergraduate Astronomy Society The Undergraduate Astronomy Society (UAS) is a community of undergrad astro majors which hosts socials, cool events and talks, and promotes interconnectedness within the astronomy department, working with representatives from the graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. Programs run through UAS include undergraduate food socials every other week, monthly departmental socials, undergraduate astronomy research showcases, and the AstroCDS talk series. For further information, or to be added to the email list contact nchoksi@berkeley.edu. We've also got a Facebook group: just search “UAS - Undergraduate Astronomy Society”.

Society of Physics Students

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) is effectively the undergraduate physics club. We are the Berkeley branch of the National Society of Physics Students. We have weekly meetings, regular barbecues, lunches with faculty members, and occasional lab tours. We also do some other stuff. Primarily, we serve to provide community and resources for physics majors. For more detailed information, visit our website (linked above), join our mailing list, e-mail us at ucbsps@gmail.com.

Space Exploration Society at Berkeley

Space Exploration Society at Berkeley (SESB) is an open club for anyone interested in space and space exploration. The club is the Berkeley chapter of the Planetary Society, and is open to all students (we have members from astro, physics, CS, math, and more). We also have various projects, including a weather balloon launch from Berkeley's campus- you can watch the video here. We also host space forum discussions and host lectures with Berkeley professors who work in astro fields.

Clubs with an Additional Focus on Inclusivity/Social Justice

IGenSpectrum

IGenSpectrum is the first LGBT physics club in the nation. It was founded in 2014 to help support LGBT physics students. Over the summer they host an annual summer program focusing on undergraduates and during the semester they host monthly meetings that consists of either talks with about LGBT in physics of social events.

AstroJustice

Rather than a “club”, AstroJustice is a 2-year old discussion group in the department. We meet every other week to discuss topics related to social justice and relevant to astronomy, physics, and/or academia. Previous topics include: impostor syndrome, mental health on college campuses, sexual harassment, and much more. This is an informal group with no concept of “membership”, anyone (post-doc, grad student, undergrad, researcher) can attend any meeting. To be added to the mailing list, email nchoksi@berkeley.edu.

Berkeley Compass Project

The Compass Project, often referred to as Compass, is a multi-faceted program run through the physics department. The primary goals of the project are to foster a community within the physical sciences, and to teach meaningful skills for problem solving and research. Compass has a summer program for incoming freshmen, a transfer program, and usually a class during the semester focused on a core topic, such as designing and carrying out an experiment. Outside of this, Compass often pairs up with SWPS (Society of Women in Physical Sciences) to host workshops and mixers, bringing together grad students and undegrads to share advice and experiences concerning classes, research, etc. Compass also hosts a series of lectures every semester, where professors come give a version of their research talks geared towards undergrads, with an open environment for questions and interaction. The American Physical Society, recently presented Compass with the 2012 Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education.

Society of Women in the Physical Sciences

The Society of Women in the Physical Sciences (SWPS, pronounced “swips”) is a student group run by female graduate students in Physics, Astronomy, Earth and Planetary Sciences and Biophysics. Our goals are to encourage women and minorities to study the physical sciences and to create a friendly and supportive environment in these departments for all students. SWPS hosts monthly dinners with (free) food from good local restaurants. Some have talks or presentations, but most consist purely of eating and mingling. We also organize mentor groups consisting of intermixed undergrads and grads, both male and female. Mentor groups can choose how often, when, and where to meet, and also have free reign on discussion topics. Visit our website for more information, and join our mailing list for event announcements.

Colloquia and Colloquium Tea

Astronomy and Physics Colloquia are talks given by professors (usually of another campus, sometimes of our own) about their current research or preliminary discoveries. They are always open to the public, but are presented at a fairly high level (they are designed as peer talks- the presenter assumes his/her primary audience has a pretty good idea of the topic). Colloquia are fun to go to, and even though occasionally they go over your head, they can be a good tool for figuring out what types of things you are interested in.

There is also a social aspect to these Colloquia. In the Astronomy department, 30 min before the talk starts, there is a “tea” on the 6th floor of Campbell- with food and snacks. As an undergrad you can come to these, and talk to grad students and professors in the department before heading to the talk! If you're worried about not having access, don't be - the sixth floor is purposefully unlocked during this timeframe. Also, if you want to hang out but can't make it to the talk, it's generally socially acceptable to come to tea anyway.

Thursday Lunch Talks

Three talks, 15 mins each, every Thurs, from 12:30-1:30 in 131 Campbell. Usually one talk is given by the colloquium speaker, and two by people at Berkeley.

Other Departmental Events

Astro-CDS (~1/month)

Astro-CDS (Career Development Seminars) are informal group discussions led by a former member of the UC Berkeley Astronomy Department who decided to pursue a career outside of academia. The speaker usually gives a 15-20 minute description of their path from astronomy to elsewhere, discussing their motivations (e.g., what drove them to pursue industry, or what they disliked about academic research), as well as discussing whether the transition process was easy or difficult, and how they accomplished this. The rest of the ~hour is then handed over to the assembled group to ask any questions they may have. Everyone usually sits in a circle of couches/chairs on the 6th floor, and plenty of (catered!) food is provided, which is usually eaten during the second half. Astro-CDS is open to everyone, including undergraduates, graduate students, and post-docs, and is a great way to learn about where a degree in astro can get you, and what you might be interested in pursuing post-bacc.

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