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By Bushraa Khatib
The APS Bridge Program (APS-BP) recently announced that The Ohio State University (OSU) and the University of South Florida (USF) will receive funding to develop bridge programs to the physics doctoral degree. The goal of APS-BP is to increase the number of physics PhDs awarded to underrepresented minority students, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.
Students selected as APS Bridge Fellows receive stipends to participate in programs at the bridge sites. APS-BP had initially planned on placing four students in its first year, but, because the bridge sites were able to secure their own funding as well, there are now seven Bridge Fellows, with the possibility that even a few more may be able to join.
OSU has established a one-or two-year transitional M.S. program beginning in summer 2013. The APS-BP Fellows will enter OSU’s existing physics M.S. program, and eventually apply to a physics doctoral program there or at another institution. Students will spend the summer of their first year doing research and preparing extensively for the general and physics GRE. During the academic year, they will take graduate physics core courses and receive application coaching to prepare their applications for graduate school. The program also plans to implement a network of mentors for each Bridge Fellow, including academic, research and peer mentors, and emphasizes student networking and study groups to ensure success.
“There is great enthusiasm for the OSU Physics Bridge Program at a variety of levels across the university,” said Bridge site leader Jon Pelz. The OSU Center for Emergent Materials was a major driver in establishing the program by securing and providing funding and administrative support for the program. The program also received significant support from its physics faculty, the Dean of the Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, and current graduate students.
The University of South Florida in Tampa will admit Bridge Fellows into a hybrid post-baccalaureate/transitional master’s program. Students can elect to complete their master’s degree and continue on to complete their physics PhD at USF or another institution.
Casey Miller, Bridge Program Site Leader at USF, said, “Tackling diversity is beyond the scope of any single program, so we are quite excited to be participating at this moment in the history of the APS. One of our principal goals is to diligently document our path forward to enable rapid, low risk replication of existing programs.”
APS-BP secured a $3 million multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation in fall 2012 that allowed programmatic activities to take off.
Bridge Program Manager Brian Beckford joined APS in April, after receiving his PhD in nuclear physics at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and his M.S. and B.S. degrees in physics from Florida International University. He is excited by the program’s potential to increase diversity in physics on a national scale. “The program presents a tremendous opportunity for collaboration between new APS bridge sites, existing bridge programs, and other colleges and universities committed to program goals,” Beckford said. “Over the span of the project, we can make a significant improvement in the number of underrepresented minorities receiving PhDs in physics.”
The program hosted its annual Bridge Program summer meeting at the end of June. The meeting included representatives from newly selected APS Bridge sites, existing bridge programs, students, and faculty from colleges and universities committed to improving diversity in physics graduate education.
The program anticipates issuing another request for proposals for new Bridge Sites in fall 2013. The student application will re-open in the fall as well, and it is anticipated that the summer meeting for the program will become an annual conference as the program expands.
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