Program Details

Penn State University

How many tenure-track or tenured faculty -- male/female?

As of Fall 2011, the Penn State Physics Department has 41 tenured or tenure-track faculty, 7 female and 34 male.

How many graduate students-- male/female?

As of Spring 2011, the Physics Department has 125 grad students, 109 male and 16 female.

How many post doctoral associates - male/female?

The Physics Department has 22 postdocs, 3 of whom are female.

Is there a family leave policy for graduate students? If so, describe.

Graduate assistants who meet the requirements for parental accommodation will be excused from their regular activities for a period of up to six weeks immediately following the birth or adoption of a child. During this time, individuals will continue to receive the same income and benefits as provided previously by the University. Approval of accommodation will automatically extend deadlines--for any academic or research reports, class or work assignments, dissertation proposals or related work, and other responsibilities--for the duration of the accommodation period. Faculty and other mentors are expected to work with graduate assistants to make fair and appropriate alternative arrangements during the accommodation period. Individuals should be permitted to defer course grades until the following semester, and deadlines for academic milestones, including candidacy, comprehensive examinations, and final defense, will be postponed or extended for one semester. Individual parties are required to work collaboratively to ensure these minimums, but should feel free to negotiate additional accommodations. Indeed, additional accommodations may be necessary, especially in medically critical situations. More information is available at

Is there family health insurance for graduate students? If so, is it included in the stipend?

Graduate Assistants or Fellows are eligible to receive subsidies in the amount of 80% of the annual premium cost for the Graduate Assistant and Graduate Fellow Insurance Plans. The university pays the 80% directly to the insurance companies, and the remaining 20% is paid through monthly payroll deductions. Insurance subsidies for eligible dependents is 70% of the annual premium expense. As with the subsidy for individual insurances, the university pays 70% of the premium expense directly to the insurance companies, and the remaining 30% is paid through monthly payroll deductions. Details of the insurance plan are available at, with complete information on prescription, dental, and vision benefits.

Please describe why someone applying to graduate school who is interested in a female-friendly department should choose your department.

The Physics Department at Penn State University provides graduate students with the opportunity to collaborate with world-class scientists doing cutting-edge research in a wide variety of fields. PSU has active efforts in condensed matter, gravitational physics, atomic, molecular, and optical physics, experimental particle physics and observational particle astrophysics, theoretical particle physics and string theory, and biological physics, including systems biology and computational and experimental neuroscience. Female faculty and graduate students play an integral role in essentially all of the research groups in the Physics department. Penn State as a whole has also demonstrated a strong commitment to having women in faculty and administrative positions at all levels, with a number of recent appointments at the faculty, department chair and Deans level. All graduate students in the Physics Department benefit from a wide range of support ranging from faculty mentoring, extensive TA training (both at the start of their graduate career and regularly as part of their TA duties), workshops on ethics and sexual harassment issues, and frequent sharing of information (via an active listserve) on issues related to graduate studies, employment opportunities, and departmental activities. There are very active departmental and College-wide `climate' committees, as well as a mentoring program for female physics (and astronomy/astrophysics) students (Physics and Astronomy for Women or PAWS), at both the undergraduate and graduate level, both recommendations made by the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics who visited the PSU Physics in 2001 at our invitation. The Physics Graduate Association collaborates with our very active SPS (Society of Physics Students) chapter, and the SPS presidents for our PSU chapter for the last six years have been female Physics majors. There was renewed interest last year in a new 'Women in Physics' group of graduate students and postdocs which was funded with departmental monies. Physics faculty, postdocs, and graduate students have made use of on-campus day care facilities in recent years.

Has the institution had a Climate for Women in Physics Site Visit or Gender Equity Conversation?


Updated: June 09, 2011

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