APS Education, Diversity, and Outreach Program Updates

Monica Plisch


PhysTEC will hold its annual conference in Ontario, California on February 3-4, 2012. The theme for the conference is New Paradigms for Physics Teacher Education. This conference is a great way to meet and interact with the leaders in physics teacher education. See www.ptec.org.

Minority Bridge Program

The Minority Bridge Program is an effort of the American Physical Society, working with the broader physics community, to increase over the next decade the fraction of physics PhDs awarded to underrepresented minority (URM) students to 10%, which is the fraction that currently receive physics Bachelor’s degrees. We will do this by creating a national network of sustainable research-focused programs that bridge the transition from institutions where URM students receive their undergraduate education to leading research universities. While a number of URM students do make successful transitions into physics PhD programs, graduation data show that the current paradigm of moving students from undergraduate to graduate education fails to include many. This project will establish “Bridge Experiences” at five institutions to help diverse students prepare for and make the transition to doctoral studies in physics. We have brought together Doctoral Granting Institutions (DGIs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and concerned organizations to inform and help build a national effort that will offer sustainable solutions to improve support, mentoring, and progress monitoring to ensure that students make the transition smoothly and complete their studies.

The APS occupies a unique position in the community to catalyze action and leverage resources to succeed in these goals and to bring about sustainable change in physics graduate education. For more information, visit www.minoritybridgeprogram.com

Physics Careers Webinars

Physics Careers Webinars offer interactive discussion, career guidance, and advice from fellow physicists. Past webinars have included Physics Careers in Small Companies and Choosing a Graduate School in Physics and Related Disciplines. APS webinars require registration but are always free. For more information, to register for a webinar, or to view past webinars, please go to www.aps.org/careers/guidance/webinars/

Physics Mentoring Seminar

The Physics Research Mentor Training Seminar is a facilitation guide to a training seminar for physics faculty, postdocs, and graduate students who are in mentorship roles. The guide is intended to help physics researchers improve their mentoring skills and to improve the research experiences of the next generation of physicists. To access a free PDF copy of the guide, go to www.aps.org and enter “mentor training” in the search bar. A number of introductory workshops based on the seminar have been organized at APS meetings and other conferences. Please contract Monica Plisch if you are interested in organizing a workshop at a meeting or conference.

Physics departments threatened with closure

Nearly half of the undergraduate physics departments in Texas are threatened with closure after a decision by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board to end programs that do not graduate an average of at least 5 students per year. Officials in other states looking for cost-cutting measures are watching Texas, including the Florida governor, who has publicly expressed interest in similar measures. APS is working on coordinating a response, noting that if such policies spread, 57% of all physics departments at public institutions would be at risk. In addition, there would be disproportionate negative impact on institutions that serve minorities, including the closure of physics departments at all public historically black colleges and universities.

Monica Plisch is Assistant Director of Education at the American Physical Society and co-PI on the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) project.

Disclaimer- The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.