The aims and purposes of the Society are summarized in its constitution: the promotion of high scholarship and original investigation in all branches of pure and applied chemistry. The founders envisioned a society dedicated to these objectives which would serve the field of chemistry in much the same manner as Phi Beta Kappa does the humanities; Sigma Xi, scientific research; and Tau Beta Pi, engineering. Throughout its history, Phi Lambda Upsilon has been consistently devoted to its objectives as an Honor Society.
Phi Lambda Upsilon was founded as an honorary chemical society in March 1899, at the University of Illinois. This was the first honor society dedicated to a single scientific discipline. A survey of our history reveals three distinct periods. The founding, growth, and entrenchment of the Alpha Chapter at the University of Illinois comprise the first period. The second period began in 1906 when the Beta Chapter was established at the University of Wisconsin. Five more chapters were chartered prior to this period's culmination on June 29th, 1911, the date of the convention at Indianapolis at which the national society was organized. From 1911 to date, the Society has effected a gradual rise in the standards for membership. This period has also been characterized by the development of programs of activity within the chapters consistent with the honorary character of the Society. It's during this period that the Alpha Gamma Chapter was founded at Northwestern University in 1927. In the span of one hundred and eight years, Phi Lambda Upsilon has grown into an organization comprising sixty-seven chapters and more than 55,000 members.
Members are elected by the Chapters or At-Large on the basis of their academic achievement and promise. Membership includes exceptional students of pure and applied chemistry selected from the junior, senior, or graduate classes, and also from well qualified members of faculties, staffs, as well as from selected post-doctoral students engaged in chemical endeavors in affiliation with qualified institutions of higher learning. Information on qualifications for membership in the Society is available here, from any local chapter, or may be obtained by writing to the National Vice President.
Membership to the Alpha Gamma Chapter at Northwestern is available to all chemistry graduate students and graduate students working for a chemistry professor who have been formally admitted into the doctoral program.