Exploring Doctoral Admissions Practices in Physics

Event information
Venue:AHC3-205, MMC


Sustaining or improving the best graduate programs as well as increasing the diversity of the physics community requires us to better understand the critical gatekeeping role played by graduate admissions and the ways to make graduate education most effective in its preparation of future physicists. Admissions processes determine not only who is allowed to begin graduate study but can also influence who chooses to even consider applying. Recently, in concert with some of the activities of the APS Bridge Program, a survey was conducted of directors of graduate admissions and associated faculty in doctoral-granting departments about their admissions practices. Receiving responses from over 75% of departments in the U.S. that award physics PhDs, respondents were probed about their admissions decisions with special attention on the criteria used in admissions and their relative importance, and how student representation considerations are dealt with in the admissions process (if at all). Results indicate a number of important issues for future students, faculty, and administrators to consider including the importance placed on GRE scores. The results of this survey will be discussed in the context of prior research on success in graduate school and subsequent career productivity in science.


Geoff Potvin completed his doctorate in theoretical physics at the University of Toronto before taking up a science education postdoctorate in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Prior to coming to FIU in January 2014, he spent five years as a faculty member in the Department of Engineering & Science Education at Clemson University. He is a member of the APS Forum on Education's Executive Committee and the American Association of Physics Teachers's Committee on Diversity. His research is focused on understanding diversity issues in the physical sciences and engineering at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Using an identity lens, he studies how educational practices and other experiences influence students' attitudes and career intentions, especially for those who are traditionally marginalized from STEM. He is working with the APS Bridge Program to understand how departmental admissions and retention practices can help to g