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May 24, 2017 | Rachel Gaal
The high school glory days for students could make or break their career choices later on in life. In the realm of physics, this is especially true for women, who for whatever reason lack the inspiration to pursue physics degrees in college. Even though as many women take high school physics as men, women make up only 20 percent of the undergraduates in physics. To tackle this divide, APS has joined a pilot program funded by the National Science Foundation that will push 16,000 physics teachers to each recruit at least one female student to pursue a physics major in college.
An initiative led by Zahra Hazari of Florida International University (FIU), the program is armed with $3 million to take on the challenge of inspiring women in high school physics to continue as physics majors. Using approaches and interventions drawn from prior research results, the project will collect data over the next 4 years to determine how their methods might be applied to other STEM fields, where women traditionally have been underrepresented.
"We could achieve the largest increase of women in physics in any decade in history," Hazari said in an APS press release. "It's very exciting to encourage women to participate in physics when they might not have considered it before and they may be perfect, they might have a love for physics they never knew existed."
A small group of 10 master teachers from urban, suburban, and rural schools will inaugurate the pilot program in August with the start of the 2017 school year. By 2018, the campaign will expand to 24 teachers. If all goes as planned, there will be a nationwide rollout by 2019 with a targeted goal of reaching 16,000 educators, or about 60% of all high school physics teachers.
Hazari will head a team of researchers from FIU who are partnering with Texas A&M University-Commerce, the American Physical Society (APS), and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).