Earlier this year a task force organized by the American Institute of Physics released the results of a study into why African American students are persistently under-represented in receiving undergraduate degrees in physics and astronomy. This interesting topic came to our attention from The Scholarly Kitchen in their article, “We Step Aside: Why Are There So Few Black Physicists?

The very briefest summary of that two-year study is: the persistent under-representation of African Americans in physics and astronomy is due to the lack of a supportive environment for these students in many departments, and the enormous financial challenges facing them and the programs that have consistently demonstrated the best practices in supporting their success.

According to Shirley Malcolm, senior adviser at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and director of STEM Equity Achievement Change initiative,  “For bachelor’s degrees in physics for African Americans, the needle has hardly moved since 2006.”

Like most topics involving race and social disparities, the resolution requires addressing systemic and cultural issues.

Melody K. Smith

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