EDI Seminar Series | "Advancing Diversity at the PhD Level in Physics and Astronomy" | Keivan G. Stassun, Vanderbilt University | via Zoom 

Thu, Mar 18, 2021, 4:00 pm
via Zoom

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Abstract: The under-representation of Black-, Hispanic-, and Native-Americans at the PhD level in physics is an order-of-magnitude problem. In this talk, we describe lessons learned from the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program as a successful model for addressing this problem. Since 2004 the program has admitted more than 140 students, ~90% of them underrepresented minorities, ~50% women, with a retention rate of ~85%. We summarize the main strategies that enable these successes: (1) replacing the GRE in admissions with indicators that are better predictive of long-term success, (2) using the master’s degree as a deliberate stepping stone to the PhD, and (3) wrap-around mentoring to support student success. We show how misuse of the GRE in graduate admissions may by itself in large part explain the ongoing under-representation of minorities in PhD programs, and we describe alternate methods to identify talented individuals most likely to succeed. We describe a mentoring model and toolkit which may be utilized to enhance the success of all PhD students. Finally, we introduce Vanderbilt's new Center for Autism & Innovation, focused on bringing the talents of autistic and other neurodiverse individuals to scientific research.