Statement on Diversity in Physics from APS President Sam Aronson

On December 9, 2015, Chief Justice Roberts, during oral arguments for a case considering affirmative action, asked the question, "What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?" The implication was that physics, unlike the social sciences and humanities, does not need diverse perspectives.

The National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) strongly endorses the views stated here by the American Physical Society.  Founded in 1977, the NSBP is the largest and most recognizable organization devoted to promoting the professional well-being of African American physicists and physics students.

Paul Gueye, President, NSBP

The National Society of Hispanic Physicists (NSHP) strongly endorses the views stated here by the American Physical Society, and fully supports the notion that enhanced diversity of backgrounds and perspectives in physics fully benefits the discipline and the advancement of knowledge for the betterment of society as a whole. NSHP was created in 1996 to promote the development and advancement of Hispanics in physics.

Luz Martinez-Miranda, President, NSHP

The future of physics and indeed all disciplines depends on attracting and retaining the brightest minds. The American Physical Society (APS), representing over 51,000 members here in the United States and throughout the world recognizes the need to bring those diverse perspectives to the practice of science. Without this, we will overlook large numbers of the world’s population who might contribute to solving some of the most important problems facing society.

All students bring to a physics class unique beliefs, intelligence, and aspirations that come from their birth, upbringing, and community. With every physics class, students gain increased facility in a powerful mental discipline that will enable them to unlock secrets of the natural world and solve problems for the rest of their lives.

One physics student from a minority community disparaged and feared at the time – the Jews of 19th century Germany – was Albert Einstein, whose unique perspective transformed the world. Einstein deplored racial inequality, and writing on the subject he said, “The more I feel an American, the more [it] pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.”

Physicists recognize the importance of human diversity to further physics research. For example, Professor Neil Turok has been instrumental in establishing the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and the Next Einstein Initiative, a core program of AIMS, to encourage and support African scientific and technical talent.

What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class? They bring their background, ways of thinking, methods of applying physics to real world problems, and the potential to educate others through their unique perspective. APS is committed to supporting the advancement of knowledge, and the people who make this possible. We cannot separate the two.

Samuel AronsonSam Aronson
2015 APS President