5 April 2022

AIP Awarded $12.5 Million Grant to Increase African American Representation in Physics and Astronomy

Susanna Kohler

Susanna Kohler American Astronomical Society (AAS)

This announcement is adapted from an American Institute of Physics press release:

TEAM-UP Together, a new initiative by the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and other societies, will boldly take the first steps toward achieving a goal of doubling the number of African Americans graduating college with undergraduate degrees in physics and astronomy by 2030. The AIP Foundation has secured a $12.5 million, five-year game-changing grant from the Simons Foundation and Simons Foundation International in support of this AIP federation action.

Banned for the TEAM-UP Together launch

TEAM-UP Together will launch in 2022 with the aim of providing both direct financial support to students and grants to physics and astronomy departments that are committed to changing the lived experience of their African American students. The 2030 graduation goal is a key benchmark set in a groundbreaking report from AIP's National Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy (TEAM-UP).

The report, The Time Is Now, was published in 2020 after a two-year in-depth study into understanding and cataloging the factors driving persistent underrepresentation of African Americans in these fields. TEAM-UP Together is a direct response to that report's recommended actions and its call for a consortium of societies to address funding for students and for departments committed to systemic change.

The percentage of African Americans earning degrees in physics and astronomy has been appallingly and persistently low for more than two decades. According to a survey from AIP's Statistical Research Center, just 3% of physics bachelor's degrees were earned by African Americans for the class of 2018. For comparison, African Americans earned 10% of all bachelor's degrees awarded for the 2017–18 school year.

The grant will initially fund scholarships for undergraduate students who are attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Predominantly Black Institutions. Later, it will support Black physics and astronomy students at all institutions across the United States. AIP and the Society of Physics Students will administer the student scholarship application and distribute funding.

The funding would also support undergraduate departments committed to implementing the TEAM-UP report recommendations at their institutions. AIP will be joined by the AAS, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Physical Society in providing financial and programmatic support that will assist physics and astronomy departments committed to systemic change that aligns with the TEAM-UP report recommendations.

"The TEAM-UP report identified two main reasons for underrepresentation of African Americans in physics/astronomy: financial challenges and a lack of a supportive environment," said AAS president Paula Szkody. "This Simons grant will ensure both factors will be addressed through scholarships and department activities to enhance belonging. The AAS is delighted and committed to being an active part of the program to double the number of African American astronomers by 2030."

The TEAM-UP Together partners are committed to increasing African American representation in science. The scholarships and department funding are just the beginning of that journey toward the 2030 doubling goal. More details about programs will be announced at a future date and promoted within the physical sciences community.