NSF INCLUDES Grant Expands Effort to Diversify Graduate Physics Programs

American Physical Society to lead collaboration to increase the portion of women and underrepresented minorities in graduate physics

COLLEGE PARK, MD, September 27, 2016 – Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), APS will lead a project facilitating the inclusion of women and ethnic and racial minorities in graduate physics education. The grant is one of 37 pilot grants making up a new NSF program called INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science), which is intended to increase diversity in the scientific workforce. The APS portion of the INCLUDES program is titled A National Network for Access and Inclusion in Physics Graduate Education.

The $300,000 INCLUDES grant will be overseen by principal investigator Monica Plisch, APS director of Education and Diversity. Co-principal investigators include Casey Miller (director for RIT’s M.S. program in Materials Science and Engineering), Ted Hodapp (director of project development and senior advisor to Education & Diversity at APS), Geraldine Cochran (assistant dean of the Douglass Project for Women in STEM at Rutgers University), and Julie Posselt (assistant professor of higher education at the University of Southern California and author of Inside Graduate Admissions).

Among all Ph.D. fields in the U.S., physics programs award the smallest percentages to women (19%) and underrepresented ethnic and racial minorities (7%), which are portions significantly lower than their representation in the population in general. The program funded by the INCLUDES grant expands on experience and information gained through the APS Bridge Program. The Bridge Program was established in 2012 and involved 108 institutions working to bring graduate physics enrollment percentages of women and underrepresented minorities in line with their demographic fractions in the general population.

Ultimately, the goal of the INCLUDES-funded project is to create a national network of disciplinary colleagues, expert researchers, and representatives from professional associations who will develop and build evidence-based knowledge of effective practices for recruitment, admissions, and retention of women and underrepresented ethnic and racial minorities.

The grant will help establish a pilot project that will engage six large, highly selective physics graduate programs to demonstrate and map out a plan for a discipline-wide effort. The pilot program will focus on improving admissions practices and developing improved recruitment and retention strategies. The project will identify when and why women and minority students leave graduate programs, and determine the effectiveness of strategies implemented at participating pilot program institutions. In addition, the project will establish connections with other STEM disciplines, beginning with mathematics and chemistry, to explore expanding these efforts.

Related Resource

Gray Arrow Rochester Institute of Technology INCLUDES Release

Contact: James Riordon, APS, riordon@aps.org, (301) 209-3238

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The American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents more than 50,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world.