SPS-AAPT-ALPhA Undergraduate Award for Outstanding Laboratory Development

Honoring Undergraduate Physics Student Contributions to the Advanced Laboratory

This award was established to recognize outstanding work in the development of an advanced laboratory apparatus/experiment by an undergraduate physics student. Recognition of these projects will encourage their proliferation and help build the next generation of experimental physicists and educators. This award is funded by AAPT, ALPhA, and SPS. Applications are due November 15.

Award at a Glance

  • One or more awards may be made each year to individuals or teams.
  • Awarded to (an) undergraduate(s) on the basis of their exceptional contributions to advanced laboratory development and letters of recommendation.
  • Winners will present their work at the summer national AAPT meeting, supported by a $1,000 student travel award, a $500 faculty travel award, a $500 student honorarium, and a $500 award to the department to advance the department’s advanced laboratory.
  • Honorable mentions may be given, which provide an SPS student travel award ($300) to attend the summer AAPT meeting to present their work as an invited poster or oral talk.
  • Awardees are strongly recommend to submit their work to the American Journal Physics (AJP), Journal of the Advanced Physics Laboratory Investigation (JAUPLI ), or the Journal of Undergraduate Reports in Physics (JURP) for publication.
  • Applications are accepted year-round and evaluated during the fall awards cycle.


  • Applicants must be members of the SPS national organization.
  • Applicants have completed the work as an undergraduate student and be a current undergraduate student (or has graduated within the academic year) at the time the application is submitted.
  • Applicants must be SPS chapters in good standing with the SPS national organization.

Nominations of those traditionally underrepresented in physics are encouraged to apply.


The SPS-AAPT-ALPhA Award will be given to a student, or group of students, who have developed a new laboratory experiment for (1) a course that is beyond the 1st year of physics instruction (i.e., modern physics, electronics, optics, advanced lab, etc.) and (2) that could become part of their school's advanced laboratory program. The laboratory experiment could be an experiment that is new to their institution, a significant modification of an existing experiment at their institution that allows something new or novel to be done or it could be an original experiment.

This work can have been carried out as a capstone/senior project, senior thesis, or equivalent. A project developed over several years, by a succession of students, is also eligible. In such cases, the student honorarium is to be shared among the students involved. Students who have graduated but are within one year of graduation will be considered.

The Award

The Award includes a plaque with the citation, student travel expenses to the AAPT meeting at which the award is presented (up to $1,000), an invited talk at the same AAPT meeting, a $500 faculty travel award at the same meeting, a $500 student honorarium, and a $500 honorarium to the department to advance the department’s lab courses.

The awards will be presented at the summer AAPT meeting following the academic year in which the work was completed. Recognition will also be given to the supervising faculty.

Nomination and Selection Process

Awards are accepted through the Society of Physics Students. Applications are first evaluated by Awards Committee 1. Up to three applications are presented to a standing committee designated by the Executive Board of AAPT for final selection, consisting of ALPhA and AAPT members, with the Director of SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma sitting ex officio.

In choosing the award recipient, the committee will solicit and examine all relevant documents including photographs of the apparatus, mechanical drawings, relevant circuit diagrams, computer software, actual experimental data and student analysis, instructor's manual, student manual (for future students), and the candidate's final report. Awards Committee 1 will designate multiple finalists (if applicable) and carry out an in-depth interview with each one. This might be carried out by various electronic and telecommunication technologies.

In determining the recipients, the Awards Committee shall consider:

  • Quality of the application
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Demonstration of good standing within the department

Application Procedure

  • Students must complete an online application (up to two proposals per chapter will be accepted in a given year) to the fall awards.
  • Applications are reviewed by the SPS Awards Committee 1.
  • Finalist application materials will be shared with the AAPT-ALPhA Undergraduate Award for Outstanding Laboratory Development Committee for review and selection.
  • The SPS-AAPT-ALPhA Undergraduate Award for Outstanding Laboratory Development committee may conduct interviews with finalists or request additional information before final selection is made.
  • The award winner and any honorable mentions will be notified no later than 5 months after the award deadline.

Applications will contain the following materials:

  • Adviser letter of support explicitly addresses the student's contribution to the work, how the experiment fits into their institutions laboratory curriculum and to verify that the experiment will become part of the institution’s laboratory curriculum beyond the 1st year of physics instruction.
  • Confirmation of student enrollment and standing
  • Contact information provided through the application portal for a cover page
  • Manuscript in the format of American Journal Physics (AJP), Journal of the Advanced Physics Laboratory Investigation (JAUPLI), or the Journal of Undergraduate Reports in Physics (JURP).
  • Optional: Student video abstract of their work, no longer than 2 minutes
  • Optional: One PDF document containing all appendices. The follow items are encouraged, when appropriate:
    • Instrumentation photos, drawings, or similar.
    • Parts list with rough costs
    • Outline of what the students using the apparatus should be able to do with the apparatus
    • Representative student data
    • Any relevant supplementary files (Ex. 3D drawings, code, documentation, user manuals)

Jeremiah D. Williams, Committee Chair (2023)

Eric Ayars (2022)