The Department of Physics Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) initiative is a department-wide call to action to combat racism, discrimination, and implicit bias in academia and our daily lives. Review the Physics departmental action plan for the EDI initiative. The EDI has 50+ members consisting of Physics students, staff, researchers, and faculty. We welcome new members year-round and participation and time commitment is flexible. If you are interested in contributing to the Physics EDI initiative: DETAILS / [email protected]
To post an EDI-related event to this webpage and/or to the Physics social media, complete and submit the EDI Media Posting Form(link is external). (Princeton netID required). For questions or to join our Slack channel, contact [email protected].
The Princeton University Department of Physics stands in solidarity with local, national, and global movements against systemic racism, which have been highlighted by the issue of police violence against Black people in the United States. We affirm that Black and Brown lives matter, and commit to ensuring that all members of our community feel valued and empowered to achieve their potential. We further commit to listening and learning from Black and Brown communities, and addressing how individuals, departments, and institutions systemically maintain and reify the oppression and exclusion of Black people and other people of color.
On June 10th, 2020, members of the Physics Department joined physicists and academics across the country for a Strike for Black Lives; a day for non-Black scientists “to engage in academia’s core mission to build a better society for everyone” by educating themselves and advocating for change in their communities. Discussions at a Department Town Hall held on June 10 illuminated the need for deliberate and consistent action to combat racism in our community.
To implement the concrete actions discussed at the Town Hall on Strike for Black Lives, we created the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Initiative. This Initiative has created six different working groups and tasked each one with immediately creating and implementing programs and policy changes that support and address the needs of marginalized physicists and students.
As the American public confronts the institutional racism of our nation, we recommit ourselves to listening to and supporting Black and Brown scholars and creating a department environment where they can thrive. We must work to support individuals with multiple identities who are discriminated against and excluded in our society, including race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, nationality, indigenous identity, and immigration status. We hope that our scholarship and daily actions will be part of a larger movement that forges an alliance to unite people around human dignity.
Herman Verlinde, Chair and Class of 1909 Professor of Physics
James D. Olsen, Associate Chair and Professor of Physics
William C. Jones, Associate Chair and Associate Professor of Physics
Lisa M. Scalice, Senior Department Manager
The Postdoc Path Podcast
The Postdoc Path Podcast interviews some of the postdoctoral researchers at the physics department at Princeton University in an informal and unstructured way. Each episode features a postdoc as a scientist, coworker, member of our community, and, of course, as a person we want to get to know a little bit more.
Link to Apple Podcast:
Link to SoundCloud:
Zoom a Princeton Physicist (ZaPP)
The EDI group has created an outreach program called “Zoom a Princeton Physicist” (ZaPP), in which Princeton scientists (students and postdoctoral researchers) video chat with high school students to discuss their research, life as a physicist, their career path, and more. The times and topics of discussion are flexible, and questions from students (and teachers) are always welcomed and encouraged!
If you would like to request a Zoom chat with a Princeton physicist for your class, club, or organization during the 2022-2023 school year, click here.
If you are a Princeton student or postdoc who would like to volunteer to give a talk, fill out this form.
Feel free to email Bennett Greenberg ([email protected]) with any questions about the program or if you are a student or postdoc who would like to volunteer.
The Graduate Student Recruitment Ambassadors are a group of graduate students dedicated to supporting applicants to Princeton Physics. First and foremost, they are regional points-of-contact for any questions, comments, or concerns that arise during the application process. In addition, the Ambassadors host webinars and Q&A panels to introduce students to grad school and life as a graduate student. Ambassadors also conduct regional activities, for example region-specific webinars and office hours. Click here for details about the Ambassadors Program (including individual Ambassador profiles).
May 2022 update from the EDI Advisory Board (click here to review all content.)
- With the help of the Provost’s Office, we developed and ran a department-wide survey in Spring 2021, which was followed by dedicated focus groups in Fall 2021. Many of the new initiatives implemented this academic year were informed by the feedback received from this process. We plan to run a survey every two years, with the next one planned for Fall 2022.
- The physics department’s Code of Conduct was updated in Fall 2021. This work was informed by the Advisory Board’s participation in an AdvanceGEO workshop on the topic. A new Code of Conduct committee, consisting of faculty and one junior representative, has been established to review reports of potential violations. We have also improved advertising of reporting procedures through signage around Jadwin and semesterly email announcements. We will continue evaluating the effectiveness of these procedures moving forward and adjust where necessary.
- In collaboration with the Astrophysics Department, we have been organizing a well-attended EDI Seminar Series that features 2-4 speakers per year. Talks to date have detailed current research on improving representation of URMs in physics, as well as examples of successful programs at other institutions.
- Department-wide workshops on fostering inclusion were organized for Spring 2022 and held separately for the undergraduates, graduates, postdocs, staff, and faculty. The workshops were led by members of the Provost’s Office. All departmental members were strongly encouraged to attend, but attendance was an issue at all levels. Moving forward, we plan to offer at least one such workshop (on rotating topics) per semester and will revisit methods of improving participation.
- The department offered a mental health workshop in Fall 2021, which was led by a representative from Counseling and Psychological Services. Moving forward, we plan to offer this workshop once per academic year.
- We created a new outreach program called “Zoom a Princeton Physicist” (ZaPP). In the past year, departmental members have reached out to 13 high school classes/clubs in New Jersey to discuss what life is like as a physicist.
- We have collaborated with the STEM-to-Civics Charter School (STEMCivics), a public high school in Ewing, NJ. This year, physics department members hosted four students from STEMCivics through a meet-n-greet, which led to three of these students applying to Princeton’s summer Laboratory Learning Program.
- We have created an EDI Initiative webpage and helped to draft the Statement of Solidarity and Commitment to Action, which was posted on the department’s webpage in Summer 2020. We actively promote EDI events on social media and include a summary of our activities in the end-of-year departmental newsletter.
- We have implemented EDI Awards to recognize the efforts of students, staff, researchers and faculty who have been exceptionally dedicated to improving diversity and equity in the department. As we typically receive more nominations than awards that can be offered, we post all the nomination letters by the main departmental offices in Jadwin so that we can still publicly celebrate everyone’s contributions.
- We have updated the iconography in Jadwin to better spotlight the contributions of URMs in physics, with a particular focus on reimagining the spaces most frequently used by the undergraduates.
- Postdoctoral and faculty job applications now suggest that applicants comment on their “specific plans and goals for advancing equity and inclusion if hired.”
- We have created a virtual “Comment Box” on the department website for anonymous feedback from students, faculty, or staff. The Comment Box is regularly monitored by the EDI Advisory Board.
- A new position has been created for an Outreach, Events, and Communications Manager, who will help coordinate and run EDI initiatives in the physics department. Our goal is to hire someone into this role for the start of the 2022-2023 academic year.
- In conjunction with TiCuP (formerly, UWiP) and PSPS, we have implemented a new Princeton Physics Mentorship (PPM) program. As part of this program, undergraduate mentees and graduate mentors are matched based on their interests and funding is provided for shared meals. This program has been very successful, with 106 (82) participants in Fall 2021 (Spring 2022). In evaluating the program for next year, we would like to better understand the drop in participation that occurred in the spring semester.
- For the last two academic years, we have run an Undergraduate Tutoring Program, which supports a network of senior-level undergraduate students to serve as peer tutors. This program fills an important gap, covering both freshman-level and more advanced courses where tutoring support is not available from the University’s McGraw Center. This program has been hugely popular and is typically limited by the number of tutors that can be recruited.
- We have revamped the department’s Summer Research Program, with the aim of facilitating connections between students and faculty. While in the past students were tasked with reaching out to faculty members on their own to find summer research opportunities, this new program allows students to apply online to be paired with faculty members with open positions. In Summer 2021, the program was oversubscribed, with 54 applications received for 35 available positions. We were unfortunately not able to continue the program for Summer 2022 (see challenges section below).
- We have organized an Undergraduate Talk Series where graduate students and postdocs give informal research presentations to undergraduates. This series started last summer as part of the department’s summer research program and has continued through the academic year.
- We have developed a standardized department-wide mid-semester feedback form that is sent out to all students enrolled in undergraduate physics courses. The results of the form are collated centrally and reported back to course instructors. This procedure provides a mechanism for course instructors to respond to student feedback before the end of the semester, and for the department to identify and follow-up with AIs whose performance is substandard.
- A standardized syllabus addendum has been created that summarizes undergraduate student resources as well as the departmental code of conduct. This addendum will now be automatically posted to all course websites each semester. Moreover, we have a departmental faculty representative speak to every 100/200 level class at the start of the semester to highlight the material on this addendum.
- In Spring 2022, the department hired a student who chairs the Mental Health Initiative and was trained in active listening to serve as a “physics peer listener”. In this role, the student served as a peer-to-peer resource for undergraduate physics students seeking out guidance.
- The department has restructured the course curriculum for 100/200 level courses to provide multiple on-ramps to the major for students with varying backgrounds in physics. These changes will be implemented for the 2022-2023 academic year.
- We have developed and run the very successful Ambassadors Program. As part of this program, Princeton graduate students host webinars on the graduate application process with undergraduate students at universities across the country (with a focus on minority-serving institutions).
- We have developed and run the P4 Program, a two-day workshop that is aimed at promising URM sophomores in physics from institutions across the country. The workshop introduces students to current research areas, describes what life as a graduate student entails, and also provides advice on the graduate application process. As part of this year’s virtual P4 program, the number of students indicating that they would apply to graduate school increased by 70% from the start to the end of the workshop based on entry/exit surveys. We gave a presentation on the P4 program at this year’s APS April Meeting. We would like to host this program in-person next year, but this will require external funding.
- Based on the survey and focus group results, we recommended that all graduate students in years 3+ be required to meet yearly with their pre-thesis committee. This would provide an opportunity for students to build relationships with their committee, solicit feedback on their research, and discuss other concerns. This requirement will be implemented starting in the 2022-2023 academic year.
- We have developed Individual Development Plan (IDP) forms that all graduate students will be required to discuss with their advisor (or other departmental mentor) and to submit as part of the re-enrollment process each year. The IDPs will provide students with an opportunity to assess their research progress, skill development, and career goals on a yearly basis. This new procedure will be implemented next academic year.
- Each year, we organize student and faculty representation at physics affinity conferences, including the NSBP and SACNAS conferences, the Ivy+ Puerto Rico Recruiting Fair, and other relevant meetings.
- We helped to rewrite the graduate admissions page on the departmental website to make the requirements and procedures clearer for interested applicants.
- In the 2020-2021 academic year, we included a graduate student representative on the Graduate Admissions Committee. We were not able to recruit an interested student this year; providing payment for the (significant) time commitment may help with recruitment in future years.
- We ran a Graduate Curriculum Survey in Spring 2021, and the feedback received resulted in some changes to the graduate course offerings for next academic year.
- We have run several social events for graduate students to help build a sense of community.
- In collaboration with other physics-adjacent departments and institutes across campus, we have established a new Future Faculty in the Physical Sciences (FFPS) Fellowship. The FFPS fellows are selected for their excellence in research as well as their promise---either through their own unique background or through demonstrated commitment---to improving the representation of under-represented groups in the physical sciences. The interdisciplinary nature of the fellowship provides additional avenues for recruiting exciting candidates to Princeton.
- In Spring 2022, we organized a Faculty Job Panel for postdocs in the department to learn more about the application and recruitment process. We anticipate this being a yearly event.
- We have developed Individual Development Plan (IDP) forms for postdocs. Postdocs will now be required to meet with their advisor before their yearly reappointment to discuss their IDPs.
- We are developing Postdoc Welcome Packets that will be given to new postdocs when they arrive, which will provide helpful advice for integrating in the department.
EDI working groups
|Working Group Name||Working Group Description|
Broader Outreach coordinator: Bennett Greenberg
|This group facilitates and helps organize bridging activities within our department and the broader community. The group maintains outreach and in-reach connections and advocates for building pathways between the physics department and the public. The group publicizes and promotes EDI projects, events, findings, and initiatives, both internally to the department and externally.|
|This group organizes department events on the topic of diversity and inclusion, curates speakers and ensures a departmental commitment to diversity for non-EDI events with respect to invited speakers and public engagement. The group publicizes and promotes EDI projects, events, findings, and initiatives, both internally to the department and externally.|
|Graduate Student Matters||This group aims to make the graduate program more diverse and inclusive. With a program of outreach and professional development tailored to undergraduates, we hope to make the next cohort of graduate students our most diverse ever.|
coordinator: Victor Rodriguez
|This group aims to (1) foster a welcoming and inclusive environment, and (2) provide useful resources for postdoctoral researchers within the department in order to facilitate their professional development.|
coordinator: Zach Atkins
|We strive to foster a welcoming and engaging undergraduate Physics experience that promotes diversity, provides all students, regardless of their ultimate majors, with the support and structure most conducive to academic success, and offers meaningful research opportunities across class years.|
coordinator: Mariangela Lisanti
External Events and Resources
Registration is open for the "Amplifying Voices" distinguished public lecture with Dr. Raven Baxter, science communicator, molecular biologist, music artist and advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM. Dr. Baxter, who goes by Raven the Science Maven on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, will give a public lecture on Wed., Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. at McCosh 50. Find the event on the website and you can register for the event here: https://ravenbaxter-princeton.eventbrite.com. In addition to the public lecture, during the two-day visit, Dr. Baxter will meet with graduate students, postdocs, faculty, DEI staff practitioners, and our Princeton Research Communicators. Sponsored by the Office of the Dean for Research with assistance from the Office of the Provost Institutional Equity & Diversity and The Graduate School.
#BlackinPhysicsWeek2022 will be held from October 24, 2022 - October 28 2022. The #BlackinPhysics Week organizers aim not only to celebrate Black physicists and our contributions to the scientific community, but also to reveal a more complete picture of what a physicist looks like. We seek to strengthen intergenerational connections between physicists in the #BlackandSTEM community, encourage long-lasting collaborations, and further push for the development of supportive environments where current and future Black physicists can thrive. In these ways, we believe we can improve the human condition via engaging communication of physics research, and by inspiring future Black physicists across the world. Because so many non-scientists will have opportunities to interact - and have dialogue - with scientists, we anticipate that our week will have the added benefit of improving general science literacy. The program assembled will engage many tens of thousands of people around the world, and will allow us to realize the vision described earlier. Check out the website blackinphysics.org
Some of the events we have planned include:
- Three Minute Thesis competition
- Career Exploration Expo
- Science Communication Workshop
- Soft Skills Workshop
- Poster Competition
Cultural and Affinity Groups at Princeton
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) National Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy (TEAM-UP) has spent the last two years investigating the reasons for the persistent underrepresentation of African Americans in physics and has released a report with its findings. In this report, TEAM-UP has uncovered long-term systemic issues within the physics and astronomy communities that contribute to the underrepresentation of African Americans in these fields and makes important, actionable recommendations for community wide efforts to reverse this trend.
The American Physical Society (APS) Board Statement on Racial Violence: Physics flourishes best when physicists can work in an environment of safety, justice, and equity. Therefore, all of us must work vigorously against systemic racism and to overcome implicit biases. The Board of the American Physical Society believes that it is timely to reaffirm the importance of building a diverse and inclusive physics community, as expressed in the APS Joint Diversity Statement (Human Rights 08.2). The Board expresses deep concern over incidents of racially biased violence and threats of violence against people of color.