NSF grant funds program to increase diversity in physics and astronomy

Physical and Biological Sciences News

UC Santa Cruz is part of a consortium of nine UC and 15 California State University campuses collectively awarded a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to dramatically increase diversity in physics and astronomy through the Cal-Bridge program.Launched four years ago in Southern California, the Cal-Bridge program creates a pathway for students from multiple CSU campuses to Ph.D. programs in physics and astronomy at UC campuses across California. Last year, the program began a small-scale expansion into Northern California, with UC Santa Cruz and San Jose State University leading the effort.
“This new grant allows us to ramp up the program substantially,” said Bruce Schumm, professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz, who leads the the Northern California Cal-Bridge program along with principal investigator Aaron Romanowsky, an astronomer at San Jose State University.
“This program knits together the three branches of the California higher education system by identifying promising physics and astronomy students within the broadly diverse CSU and community college systems and connecting them to a strong mentoring and professional development network,” Schumm said.
Currently, students from underrepresented minority groups represent 30 percent of the U.S. population but less than 4 percent of physics and astronomy Ph.D.s awarded nationwide. The Cal-Bridge program aims to have a national impact on the number of students from underrepresented groups graduating with a physics degree and matriculating to Ph.D. programs in physics or astronomy.
The new grant allows Cal-Bridge to expand from about a dozen scholars per year to as many as 50 statewide. The national average of underrepresented minorities earning a Ph.D. in these fields is about 80 per year. Cal-Bridge is led by principal investigator and program director Alexander Rudolph, a Cal Poly Pomona professor of physics and astronomy.
Cal-Bridge scholars are recruited from the 15 CSU campuses and more than 30 community colleges in the Cal-Bridge network, with …

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