With the gracious push of a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, a team of professors based out of Florida International University are combining efforts with researchers from physics-oriented institutions across the nation to promote the promise and appeal of physics to young women as a worthwhile career.
Focused on tasking 16,000 high school teachers with the recruitment of female students to major in physics in college, the initiative, led by FIU associate professor of physics education Zahra Hazari, will attempt to “change the face of physics in the United States.” Academics hailing from the American Physical Society, Texas A&M University and the American Association of Physics will be lending their efforts as well.
In the United States and around the world, physics is a field traditionally dominated by men. Despite the fact that women make up half of the students enrolled in high school introductory physics classes, only some 8 percent of bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) are awarded to female students, per a 2016 STEM index produced by Raytheon along with the U.S. News and World Report.
The pilot phase of the initiative is slated to begin in August, in tandem with the new school year. It will involve ten teachers who will commence with the testing of lesson plans in an effort to establish improved practices and create a teaching framework that strives for the initiative’s goal, which can then be implemented in other schools across America. The campaign is intended to expand to twenty four teachers by 2018 and the culmination of bringing in 16,000 physics teachers, equating to somewhere in the ballpark of 60 percent of all American high school physics teachers, will start by the year 2019.
If one female student was convinced to pursue a major in physics by even one-third of the nation’s high school teachers, the gender gap in physics careers, according to Hazari, “we could achieve the largest increase of women in physics in any decade in history.”
Expected to conclude in 2020, the true purpose of the initiative is to provide researchers with more data in order to adequately determined how these potential methods may be successfully applied to other STEM fields such as engineering, where women are also abysmally underrepresented.
With hard work and determination, the gender gap of STEM fields can one day be closed, embracing the best that all minds, women and men alike, have to offer in the realms of science, math and technology. The only way to see the future made a reality is by reaching it together.
This story originally appeared in the South Florida Business Journal and can be found at bizjournals