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By Leah Poffenberger
APS has joined forces with four other scientific societies—the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Astronomical Society, and the Materials Research Society—to increase participation of underrepresented students in graduate physical science programs. The five societies make up the Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN) that will be funded with a five-year $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
By supporting more underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities in graduate school, IGEN will build on foundations laid by the APS Bridge Program. For the past six years, the APS Bridge Program has been testing and implementing ways to eliminate a participation gap between undergraduate and graduate students in physics from underrepresented groups. The lessons learned through the APS Bridge Program will now be more broadly applied to other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields through IGEN.
“When we started the APS Bridge Program six years ago, we had no idea how much community support would materialize,” said Theodore Hodapp, IGEN Project Lead and Director of Project Development at APS. “Propagating this throughout physical science disciplines, and simultaneously confronting how admissions and retention issues are addressed in graduate education was an obvious next step to both expand the impact of this strategy and sustain it for the long run.” Catherine Mader, professor of physics at Hope College, will be co-principal investigator and the alliance program director.
Jon Urheim, Indiana University
APS Bridge Program student Michelle Lollie at Indiana University in 2016.
IGEN will concentrate on improving mentoring of undergraduates, modifying graduate admissions practices, and recruiting large numbers of students from underrepresented groups who would otherwise not enter graduate studies. For those students who are already in graduate programs, IGEN will improve retention by helping them acquire multiple mentors, ensuring that students benefit from monitoring and intervention early in their academic careers. In addition, IGEN will work to enhance professional development of students to prepare them for the professional world.
“The APS Bridge Program far exceeded its original goals, thanks to the leadership of Ted Hodapp and the support of physics departments across the country,” said APS Chief Executive Officer Kate Kirby. “Having seen that the program can be successful in physics, we are confident that the approach can yield similar results across the spectrum of STEM fields, as represented by our partners in IGEN.”
While many scientific societies have programs in place to stimulate interest in STEM fields among high school students or undergraduates, many, including the American Chemical Society, have not had a specific program to promote graduate school enrollment among underrepresented minorities.
“We [at ACS] would like to replicate what APS is doing to help underrepresented student groups to make sure they’re able to succeed from day one until they graduate,” says Joerg Schlatterer, head of the ACS Graduate and Postdoctoral Scholars Office. According to Schlatterer, 17% of chemistry graduates are underrepresented minorities, but in graduate school that number drops to 12%. “We’re concerned that talent is being lost by not placing underrepresented minorities in graduate school,” he says. “For us, a successful program will look like no difference in these graduation rates.”
For more on the APS Bridge Program go to apsbridgeprogram.org.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik