School of Physics Wins 2016 Gender Equity Champion Award

School of Physics Wins 2016 Gender Equity Champion Award

College of Sciences unit advances gender equity on multiple fronts with great success

The School of Physics, in the College of Sciences, has been awarded the prestigious Gender Equity Champion Unit Award by Georgia Tech. The award was presented at the 8th Annual Diversity Symposium held on Sept. 16, 2016, at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center and the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center.

“We in the School of Physics are honored by this award recognizing our commitment to gender equity and diversity,” says School of Physics Chair Pablo Laguna.

The School of Physics was commended for its commitment to and success in increasing the admission and retention rates of female students through outreach programs.

One such program began in 2015, when prospective female students were invited to tour the physics labs as a single cohort. During these tours, they are introduced to female faculty and student groups and to potential resources to help them gain a positive Tech experience. This initiative has helped to significantly increase the representation of female students to 30% of the two most recent batches of admitted physics majors, according to Deirdre Shoemaker, a professor in the School of Physics and the director of the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics. Shortly before that, women made up only 12% of undergraduate majors and only 9% of graduate students.

The cornerstone of the School’s ambition to attract female students has been its Society of Women in Physics (SWiP) group. Founded in 2013, SWiP spreads awareness of the achievements and impact of female physicists and highlights employment opportunities for women of all ages. Currently, SWiP has more than 100 members. SWiP has contributed to the dramatic increase in enrollment and retention of female students, particularly at the undergraduate level, Shoemaker says.

SWiP hosted its first annual American Physical Society Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, in January 2016. The conference was organized by Andrea Welsh, a graduate student. The meeting gave attendees, who were predominantly female undergraduate physics students, the opportunity to experience a professional conference. It also offered attendees information about graduate school and career opportunities. Many participants presented their research to their peers for the first time.

More than 200 students from the southeastern U.S. and Puerto Rico attended the conference, which was the first of its kind at any university in Georgia.

“Gender equity and inclusive excellence are among the top priorities of the College of Sciences,” says Dean Paul M. Goldbart. “I am delighted and proud that the efforts of my physics colleagues to attract and retain talented physics majors and to increase the representation of women among our students are paying off and being recognized by the Institute.”

All recipients of the 2016 Gender Equity Champion Awards are featured in this story and video.

Photo caption: (From left) Institute Diversity Associate Vice President Julie Ancis presented the award to School of Physics Graduate Research Assistant Andrea Welsh, School of Physics Associate Professor Flavio H. Fenton, and College of Sciences Dean Paul M. Goldbart at the award ceremony on Sept. 16, 2016. 

 

 

Matt Barr

Science Communications Intern

College of Sciences

Media