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TEAMing-UP to increase diversity in physics and astronomy

February 13, 2020
By: Konni Lorenz

During 2018 and 2019, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) National Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy (TEAM-UP), examined the persistent underrepresentation of African Americans in physics and astronomy in the U.S. as measured by bachelor’s degrees in these fields. The 2020 report spotlights its findings that African American students have the same drive, motivation, intellect, and capability to obtain physics and astronomy degrees as students of other races and ethnicities; however, they are choosing to pursue majors perceived as being more supportive and rewarding.

The report uncovers two main causes for underrepresentation of African Americans in physics and astronomy: the lack of a supportive environment for these students in many departments and the enormous financial challenges facing the students and programs. The task force hopes to double the number of physics and astronomy bachelor’s degrees (from the 2017 values of 238 and 12, respectively) awarded annually to African Americans by 2030.

TEAM-UP identified five factors as essential to solving the issue: belonging, physics identity, academic support, personal support, and leadership and structures. The report emphasizes numerous recommendations such as the role that faculty can play to foster a sense of belonging among African Americans in classrooms, student clubs, departments, etc.; communicating the ways in which a physics degree empowers graduates to improve society and benefit their communities; and, the responsibility of faculty to seek ways for students to advance academically while earning money. 

higher ed, inclusion