I got an email today reminding me to renew my membership to my field's professional society - ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers). I have been a member since my sophomore year in college. I mean shoot, the first year is free and after that it's only $25 a year. Although I had a scare when I graduated from undergrad, because the next year my email to renew my membership quoted a price with more zeros than I was expecting. They thought I had become a professional. Hardly! I quickly called them up and assured them that I am still a student, and the $25 price would be much more appropriate...
But even if the membership wasn't so cheap, I'd still be a member.
My dad was a member of ASME while I was growing up. I remember taking a tour of West Point in New York with my family when I was small, sponsored by ASME. There were little remote control tanks in a sandbox that really impressed me. Well, actually it was a "prototype demonstration" in a fancy "simulated test environment" but to me as a kid it was RC cars in a sand box. The engineer giving the tour told us it was important to test prototypes in the environment they would be used in, and I thought that was a genius idea that would never have occured to me.
My dad's closest business partner (now the vice-president of one of my dad's companies) used to work as the ASME college rep through the NorthEast. Through him and his ASME connections, I have access to a vast network of professional engineers and engineers in academia if I need.
ASME was also a big deal at my undergrad school. The student chapter was active and had good membership among the student body. I was an officer in the student ASME chapter for a year, actually. The network I gained was quite valuable - I got an internship through one of the people I knew through ASME.
And it's valuable to me now. Last year I attended the annual huge ASME conference. I presented my research for the first time, and I soaked up the work that others are doing. I saw my undergrad advisor, and one of my professors from undergrad. I hadn't even expected to see them - I didn't realize that my undergrad professors even WENT to conferences. Who'd have thought? Just goes to show what a different side of academia you see from the research/graduate side.
But strangely, none of the students I know here at World's Best School are remotely interested in professional societies. There is a student ASME chapter, but it has measly attendance from undergrads and little to no attendance from graduate students. People only sign up for professional societies if it gives them a discount to register for some conference they are going to.
I haven't taken a poll of professors - I know my own advisor is an ASME member, but I don't know about other professors.
So it's apparently important to me, but nobody else in the student population here.
How involved are you with professional societies? Are you a member of any?