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Welcome to Sigma Delta Epsilon/Graduate Women in Science!

In 1921, women graduate students from Cornell University formed the first SDE/GWIS chapter-Alpha Chapter– just one year after women won the right to vote! The group was originally formed as a fraternal science organization for women, to provide women in science the opportunity to interact in the informal and powerful ways that men in science did. But over the years, the mission statement of SDE/GWIS has expanded to today’s relevant statement. We are 1500 strong with 17 regional chapters. Check out our fellowships program, our chapter activities, our honorary members and many other activities. We are “United in Friendship Through Science” and enjoy the camaraderie of other women scientists. Won’t you join us?

A Very Brief History of SDE-GWIS

We have a rich history with over 90 years as a professional organization of women in science. Women obtained the right to vote in 1920, and Sigma Delta Epsilon (now called Sigma Delta Epsilon Graduate Women in Science or SDE-GWIS) was incorporated in 1922! So you can imagine the stories of our members. We have attempted to capture our colorful history in five publications authored by SDE-GWIS. The current one, called the 87th Year History, pulls together much of the earlier four, as well as bringing the story up to 2008. Contact the Executive Directory for a copy of the 87-Year History.

Initially, women graduate students at Cornell University convened their first meeting in 1921, at a picnic and at later organizational meetings. At the American Association for the organization had started in Madison, Wisconsin, and by early 1922 we were incorporated into a professional organization. Today we still maintain our affiliation with AAAS.

The first SDE chapter, Alpha, was started in Ithaca, NY, at Cornell University, while the second chapter, Beta was in Madison, WI. These chapters still existence today, along with 15 other chapters in the US and internationally. Members include graduate students, post docs, and academic teachers and researchers, as well as the professionals in industry, government, or non-profits. Numerous disciplines are represented, ranging from basic scientists to representatives from corporations in all areas of science. Most of our members have graduated and professional degrees, but a Baccalaureate degree and support if the organization’s aims are the minimum requirement for memberships.

The National membership exceeds 900 and continues to grow as new, younger members continue to “pick up the banner” to make SDE-GWIS a timely and relevant organization for the women scientists of today. Membership is at the National level with a local chapter affiliation. Check out the Chapter listings to see if there is a chapter near you. If not, maybe you would like to start one, using our start a chapter tools.

Dr. Viola Graham was a graduate student in 1921 when she designed the beautiful insignia that we use today. It’s encompasses several disciplines of the society’s membership while stating our society’s slogan with the Greek initial letters-Sigma, Delta, and Epsilon, which translates to “United in Friendship through Science”. The Key includes a Benzene Ring for Chemistry, a Nile Key for Biology, a Nabla Delta for Mathematics, and a Thunderbolt for Physics.

Please don’t hesitate to contact any of the National officers, if you still have questions, once you’ve perused our website. While our seal may be over 80 years old, it is still very relevant today–remember we are forever “United in Friendship through Science.”
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