Program Details

Virginia Tech

Updated: August 02, 2012

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

4 female faculty members (1 full professor, 3 associate professors) out of 30 total.

How many graduate students-- male/female?

13 female and 64 male graduate students (total of 77).

How many post doctoral associates - male/female?

2 female and 7 male (total of 9).

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

Family leave is provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act. In addition, the Virginia Tech Graduate School, in collaboration with the college deans and the provost, has established a Work-Life Grant Program to provide temporary financial assistance to departments to enable them to continue support for female graduate students during pregnancy and childbirth. Departments can request financial assistance equivalent to a graduate assistantship stipend for six weeks. The Graduate School will provide one half of the stipend and the college dean will provide the other half. These funds may be used in a variety of ways to ensure that the research effort is not adversely impacted and the graduate student continues to be supported while she is on leave.
For more details, see

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

Family health insurance is available for graduate students; however, it is not included in the stipend. For the graduate student himself/herself, assistantship packages now include a $1,030 medical insurance benefit, covering seventy percent of the university-sponsored health insurance plan (for a single student at the $50,000 coverage level).

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

The physics department at Virginia Tech is a close-knit community whose members ¿ faculty, students, and staff ¿ know each other well. This community offers personal connections in a large state university which, in turn, offers a wide range of choices. The department houses several internationally recognized research groups.

Women are quite well represented amongst faculty (4 out of 24; 17%), graduate students (8 out of 49; 16%), and undergraduates (22 out of 139; 16%). Male faculty are fair and respectful towards their female colleagues (I was the only female faculty member for several years here, and never sensed any discomfort, open or hidden biases from my male colleagues). The department is also very diverse with regards to ethnic and national origins. The department chair and most of the senior faculty are aware of the special challenges which women and minorities may face and are willing to step in if problems arise.

Female students and female faculty hold a regular social, called the ¿Ladies of Robeson¿ (named after our building) which is very popular. This informal group helps new female students make contacts more quickly, removes barriers between faculty and students, and has also generated much closer interactions between graduate and undergraduate female students.

The two staff members who coordinate the undergraduate and the graduate program keep an eye on unexpected changes in attendance, homework activity or grades, so that problems can usually be caught before they become critical. They provide student support far beyond their job descriptions: Students with emergencies can count on their help at all hours of the day and night (literally!). The graduate coordinator is foreign-born and has a particular heart for our international students. Finally, we have a very active SPS chapter here which reaches out to all physics students and organizes a variety of events for the whole department.

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


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