AIP Showcases #BlackinPhysics Week with Essays, Oral Histories, Social Media Outreach

WASHINGTON, October 26, 2020 — The American Institute of Physics is celebrating and supporting #BlackinPhysics Week, from now until Oct. 31, through the publication of a series of essays, oral histories, illustrations, and social media outreach. In addition, a new survey of academic institutions will showcase the impact of AIP’s TEAM-UP report on African American students in physics and the physical sciences.

“AIP is committed to promoting increased diversity, equity, and inclusion in physics and the physical sciences,” said Michael Moloney, CEO of AIP. “With our support of #BlackInPhysics Week, we want everyone to be more aware of the important contributions that Black scientists have made and the ongoing struggles they face.

“Fostering equity and a sense of belonging for all who are a part of our scientific community requires coordinated action and change across a broad range of educational, research, and private-sector institutions.  We embrace our unique opportunity and responsibility for advancing equity in for all in our community.”

Physics Today, the flagship publication of AIP, is working with the U.K.-based Physics World to copublish seven essays on topics of importance to Black physicists and physics students. The topics of the essays include trailblazing in the 21st century, how to be a successful student, work/life balance in graduate school, physical disability, impostor syndrome/mental health, science literacy, and Black representation in quantum information science and artificial intelligence.

From Monday to Friday, different essays will be published on the Physics Today website and promoted on social media with #BlackInPhysics. A question-and-answer feature story with organizers of #BlackInPhysics tells their tales of the passion for physics and their goals for the week.

“To show a more complete picture of what a physicist looks like as a core part of our mission, #BlackInPhysics Week aims to address this through our various events,” said Eileen Gonzales, one of the lead organizers of Black in Physics. “#BlackInPhysics week plans to support Black physicists, both professionally and personally, with our content. We also want to celebrate Black physicists who helped to pave the way.”

AIP’s Center for History of Physics holds a collection of oral histories with notable Black physicists. Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African American woman to earn a doctorate degree in physics from MIT and current president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Nadya Mason, a condensed matter expert and director of the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, and Kandice Tanner, a principal investigator at the National Cancer Institute, where she is head of the tissue morphodynamics unit, sat down to talk about the experiences of being Black women in the physics field.

“Our professional #BlackInPhysics Week events speak to topics that are relevant to our identities as Black physicists and will help participants to navigate their environments more successfully,” said Charles Brown, one of the lead organizers. “Our fun and engaging social events seek to build inter- and intra-generational community among Black physicists and the broader physics community. #BlackInPhysics Week is also important for visibility, and it will provide a platform for the voices of Black physicists to be heard.”

In the January TEAM-UP report, “The Time Is Now: Systemic Changes to Increase African Americans with Bachelor’s Degrees in Physics and Astronomy,” the task force discussed the five factors it discovered as responsible for the success or failure of African American students in physics and astronomy: belonging, physics identity, academic support, personal support, and leadership and structures. Since then, educational institutions and professional societies have been going through the task force’s recommendations and planning ways to implement them.

A new TEAM-UP survey will be promoted during the week to hear from academic institutions about how they are using the TEAM-UP report and implementing its recommendations.

“There needs to be a parallel prioritization of recruitment, retention, and representation of Black physicists,” said Jessica Esquivel, one of the lead organizers. “Diversity and inclusion initiatives have historically focused on recruitment and tokenization of Black physicists, which has led to Black individuals being recruited into a toxic environment, required to ‘represent’ the organization, then pushed out. Organizations need to take measures to institutionally change their culture, to make it such that we as #BlackInPhysics can thrive in the environment.”

AIP’s social media (@AIP_HQ) is helping the #BlackInPhysics Week organizers to promote a project they are conducting called #IAmHereBecause, where Black physicists share personal stories about who or what inspired them to study and work in physics and the physical sciences. The AIP team is also creating four shareable illustrations that highlight the work of Jackson, Mason, George Carruthers, an inventor, physicist, engineer, and space scientist, and Sekazi Mtingwa, who co-founded the National Society of Black Physicists.

“An impactful way for people to help our movement specifically is to signal boost, amplify, and attend our events and content,” said Esquivel.

“This year, we have just reached 100 Black women with physics Ph.D.s in the U.S.,” Brown said. “We want people to know that we exist, that we are doing great science, and we want other Black physicists to make new, long-lasting connections in and across their subfields.”

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ABOUT AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS

The American Institute of Physics is a federation of scientific societies and an institute supporting the physical sciences enterprise. AIP’s mission is to advance, promote and serve the physical sciences for the benefit of humanity. Founded in 1931, AIP provides the means for its member societies to pool, coordinate, and leverage their diverse expertise and contributions in the pursuit of the shared goal of advancing the physical sciences in the research enterprise, the economy, education, and society. AIP also acts as an independent institute where research in social science, policy, and history advances the discipline of the physical sciences. https://www.aip.org/

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