APS Bridge Program

Abstracts & Presentations

Architect’s Panel: Big picture issues to take from this meeting and move forward

Dina Stroud, Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program, Çagliyan Kurdak, University of Michigan, Ed Bertschinger, MIT, Chair: Theodore Hodapp, APS

This session will bring together leaders of each of the existing Bridge Programs to discuss the context of bridge programs in improving diversity in physics, and to facilitate a high-level conversation on how we take programs and individual efforts forward and concrete advice on how to design and operate successful programs.


Bridge program logistics: Progress monitoring, selecting research advisors, course selection, and mentoring

Summer Ash, Columbia University

You've read the applications, conducted the interviews, and selected the most promising candidates.Once they arrive on campus, how do you ensure that they are being mentored, making good research progress, and succeeding in their classes? When and how do you intervene if things aren't going to plan? And how do you measure success, anyway? The Columbia Bridge to Ph.D. Program has been trying to answer these questions for over five years, and in this talk I will discusswhat we have learned along theway.

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Çagliyan Kurdak, University of Michigan

The Applied Physics Program at the University of Michigan allows graduate students to do research at the frontier between the physical sciences and technological applications, which is not readily accommodated by traditional single-focus graduate programs. In the last 25 years, the program has attracted many underrepresented minority and female students, matched these students with faculty with research programs that are beyond the traditional boundaries of physics, and provided the support structure and mentorship that was needed for the students to succeed. Building on our success, we have launched a master's bridge program designed to prepare students from underrepresented groups for doctoral studies in applied physics. In this talk, I will share some of the challenges associated with starting and running a bridge program.

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Keivan G. Stassun, Vanderbilt University, Fisk University

Since 2004, the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program has admitted more than 65 students, 60 of them underrepresented minorities, with 92% retention. Growing to this scale has required us to develop concrete tools and approaches that permit efficient programmatic operations while at the same time maintaining a firm commitment to each individual student. We will share some of these tools, and describe the overarching precepts that guide their use, including: (1) how to select students with the greatest potential for success, (2) monitoring performance, and (3) tiered mentoring.

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Building Community: Student Study Groups, Social Events, Department Environment

Summer Ash, Columbia University

Columbia's program spans multiple departments across the natural sciences so fostering a community among our scholars in uniquely challenging. How do you get biologists to relate to physicists and astronomers to bond with psychologists? What common ground do these scholars have? How can they learn from each other? In this talk, I will elaborate on the communal aspects of our program both from the program standpoint and the individual departments in which our scholars are placed.

Mandana Sassanfar, MIT


Building consensus for establishing a Physics Bridge Program at Ohio State University

Jonathan Pelz, Ohio State

In the fall of 2012, the Ohio State University (OSU) physics faculty voted unanimously to establish an M.S.-to-Ph.D. Physics Bridge Program. After securing substantial internal matching funds, OSU applied to the APS Bridge Site Program, and in April was selected as an APS-funded Bridge Site. I will discuss some of the challenges, events, and activities by a dedicated group of people over several years that eventually led to OSU's new Bridge Program.

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Expanding America's Science and Technology Pipeline: Academic Innovation and Inclusive Excellence

Peter Henderson (Senior Advisor to the President, UMBC)

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Generating Administrative and faculty support

Jonathan Pelz, Ohio State

In the fall of 2012, the Ohio State University (OSU) physics faculty voted unanimously to establish an M.S.-to-Ph.D. Physics Bridge Program. After securing substantial internal matching funds, OSU applied to the APS Bridge Site Program, and in April was selected as an APS-funded Bridge Site. I will discuss some of the challenges, events, and activities by a dedicated group of people over several years that eventually led to OSU's new Bridge Program.

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Keivan Stassun, Vanderbilt University, Fisk University

Let’s get real about what it takes to engage colleagues and institutional support for graduate diversity initiatives. We will share experience from developing the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program, and provide concrete strategies for enlisting broad support for these important efforts.


How to be a Successful Mentee

Christine Pfund, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In this session, you will explore how to be an effective mentee in research mentoring relationships. Through small group activities and case study discussion, you will:


Introduction to the Project

Theodore Hodapp (APS)

Theodore Hodapp, Director of Education & Diversity at the American Physical Society, presents a brief overview of the APS Bridge Program. The program received NSF funding last fall, and recently selected its first new funded sites and students. The program aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who earn PhDs in physics.

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The MIT Biotechnology Biology Bridge Program: an example of partnership between academia and industry

Mandana Sassanfar, MIT

The B-cubed program was pioneered a few years ago at MIT as an alternative to the existing postbac programs funded by NIH and other governmental agencies to provide talented college graduates from under represented groups a structured and rigorous program with both practical training in industry and course work in academia in preparation for graduate school. Now in its third year this program has taught us what works, and how we can improve this model moving forward.

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The National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences: Building a new American community in the Mathematical Sciences

Philip Kutzko, University of Iowa

There were, in the year 2010, 1210 doctoral degrees awarded in mathematics in the United States. Slightly more than half of these degrees - 622 - were awarded to US citizens and of this latter number there were 20 doctorates awarded to African Americans and 20 awarded to Hispanic Americans. Thus in 2010 African Americans and Hispanic Americans - two ethnic groups that, between them, comprise about 30% of the population - were awarded about 6.5% of those doctoral degrees in mathematics that were awarded to US citizens. It is critical to the mathematical sciences and to the nation that this situation change and therefore critical that strategies be developed to accomplish this. A fundamental impediment to developing these strategies is that we have, as a nation, been historically kept apart from one another. We have, until recently, lived in separate neighborhoods, traveled in separate social circles and attended separate churches, mosques and synagogues. And, until quite recently, those groups that NSF refers to as 'underrepresented' were denied equal access to those colleges and universities that most contribute to our scientific enterprise. A consequence of this is that, although the desire to live and work in an environment that reflects our rich national diversity is almost universal among mathematical scientists, we have so far had little opportunity or occasion to get to know each other well enough so that we may work as one community to bring this desire to reality. To paraphrase Dr. King,

"Like life, racial understanding is not something that we find but something that we must create. And so the ability of different ethnic groups to work together, to understand each other, will not be found ready;made; it must be created by the fact of contact."

The National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences (www.mathalliance.org ) has been consciously designed to create and foster this "fact of contact" in our profession. It brings together more than 200 faculty from colleges and universities that serve large percentages of undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds and nearly one hundred of their counterparts at masters and doctoral granting mathematical sciences departments. It serves more than 500 undergraduate and masters level students from families, regions and ethnic backgrounds that have had little prior contact with the culture and profession of research in the mathematical sciences. The Alliance has had initial success and it is growing rapidly, in numbers, in programs and in its ties to other parts of these professions.

We will give a brief history of the Alliance and explain the philosophy and strategies on which it is built. We will then explore the possibility of building similar community based and faculty led alliances in other STEM fields.

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Panel discussion on admissions, Selecting students for success: Admissions criteria and their correlation with later measures of success

Brent Bridgeman, Educational Testing Service

Casey Miller of the University of South Florida and Brent Bridgeman of Educational Testing Service will lead a discussion on selecting students for success. Brent will introduce the discussion with a presentation on creating fair and effective admissions systems. It will highlight what test publishers need to do to produce fair tests, but will emphasize that even fair tests can produce selection bias because bias can come not only from the tests that you use but also from what you choose not to measure.

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Casey Miller, University of South Florida

I will present data showing the significant racial and gender performance disparities on the GRE general test. Because of the belief that high GRE scores qualify one for graduate studies, the diversity issues faced by STEM fields may originate, at least in part, in misuse of the GRE scores. It is well known among psychologists, but underappreciated in other disciplines, that the real and measurable phenomenon of “stereotype threat," among other sociocultural factors, can impair the testing performance of otherwise gifted underrepresented individuals. As far as we are aware, no study has shown the ability of the GRE to predict success in research (the aim of the PhD), despite a minor correlation with grad GPA. I will present data from USF’s PhD program corroborating this statement; similar null results are emerging from numerous other programs.

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Research on Mentoring

Christine Pfund, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Strong mentorship has been linked to enhanced mentee productivity, self-efficacy, and career satisfaction; it is also an important predictor of the success of researchers in training. For members of underrepresented minority groups, mentorship has been shown to enhance recruitment into research and into research-related career pathways. Yet, scientists often are not trained for the crucial role they play in mentoring the next generation. Based on a research mentor training program developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this session is designed to help you become a more effective mentor and enhance research mentor training on your own campus. Through presentation, case studies, activities and small-group discussion, you will:

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Stereotype Threat and the Psychology of Achievement Gaps: Causes and Solutions to Student Underperformance

Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Columbia University

This address uses the psychologist’s toolbox to understand why certain schools and workplaces cause students to underperform relative to their potential and what interventions combat underperformance. Environments like work or school can trigger stereotype threat for students from under-represented groups - an added stress from the possibility of being seen through the lens of negative stereotypes, rather than being accepted equally as individuals. The cumulative toll of contending with such a threat, repeatedly and over long periods of time, can threaten students’ sense that they can meet the demands of the environment. Performance and health can suffer as a consequence. This framework helps to explain intergroup disparities across a wide range of outcomes, including education (e.g., gender and racial achievement gaps) and health (e.g., racial health disparities) that have tended to be studied in isolation. This framework also provides concrete strategies for psychological interventions that target stress associated with stereotypes and bias. When well-timed and supported by environmental structures, these strategies help buffer students against the cumulative costs of stereotype threat.

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What are the major research and evaluation questions cogent to increasing diversity in physics graduate education?

Geoff Potvin, Clemson University

This session will begin with a brief overview of existing research which highlights factors that may positively influence the retention of traditionally-marginalized students in graduate physics programs. In particular, the issues of effective mentoring and sociocultural supports have been repeatedly raised as factors that can contribute to retention and success. However, the practical implications of the existing research remain poorly understood (e.g. which specific practices will actually improve graduate programs), so this overview will be followed by a discussion of the research and evaluation questions that need to be addressed in order to foster broader recruitment and retention in graduate physics.

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What More Do I Need Besides Grades, Test Scores & The Right Courses?

William E. Sedlacek, University of Maryland

While grades, test scores, and specific courses may be desirable as predictors of success in technical (STEM) fields, they have not been able to keep pace with our measurement quality demands, nor the increasing diversity in our applicant pools. Other variables generally called “noncognitive” are important predictors of success in STEM fields, particularly for students of color, international students, and women. Eight noncognitive variables that correlate with success for students in all fields, including technical areas and graduate school, will be presented and discussed. These include self-concept, realistic self-appraisal, long-term goals, negotiating the system, including any discrimination encountered, community, support-person, leadership, and nontraditional learning. Examples of the use of these variables in selection and postmatriculation programs in teaching, advising, and student services will be included.

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