MIT is one of the top places for cutting-edge science. At the same time, we also have to push on issues of diversity, racial and social justice, and work-life balance.

Nergis Mavalvala, Curtis (1963) and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics and Dean, MIT School of Science

The MIT Physics Department’s mission is excellence in physics research and teaching. We tell the story of the physical universe to the world and doing so well means having all the world’s voices as part of our community. Our task is hard and we engage with great alacrity, but we recognize our work cannot compromise the health or well-being of students, postdocs, staff, or faculty in our community.

We bring new people into our community in three major ways: through our graduate admissions, through the Pappalardo Fellowship competition and through faculty search. These three processes are carried out by the Department’s four Divisions (experimental particle and nuclear physics, astrophysics, theoretical physics, atomic, bio and condensed matter physics) and the committees within each division always include a faculty member specifically charged with ensuring all applications are properly evaluated, specifically taking into account the background of the applicant. These faculty receive training in implicit bias. In addition, the Department Head, Associate Department Head and designee of the School of Science review candidate and short lists at every stage and frequently insist on changes.

Every two years, we report to our Visiting Committee, which in turn reports to the Institute. A major task of the Visiting Committee is to ensure our processes and their results are consistent with the values expressed above.

Student Groups

There is a strong component of student governance: the Society of Physics Students (SPS), Undergraduate Womxn in Physics (UWIP), Physics Graduate Student Council (PGSC) and Graduate Womxn in Physics (GWIP) all play roles in student life in the Department through outreach and professional development events. The Department provides funds and guidance for these activities.

Physics Community Values

To be the best Department for everyone, we—all of us—have to continue to create a culture of respect and welcome for everyone. We do this because it’s needed, and because it’s the right thing to do. In the fall of 2016, we began to engage our student groups and URM students in a discussion about short-term changes we can make in use of student spaces and communications to make both more reflective of all the cultures of Physics students. At the faculty and staff level, we took part in a multiyear examination of departmental programs to ensure we continue those important to us and discard any not meeting our needs. There were a lot of interesting ideas in those first meetings and the thing that eventually gelled was the idea of a Code of Conduct written collectively by students, faculty and staff. What our working group eventually produced was a Physics Community Values Statement, centered on the core principles of well-being, respect, inclusion, collaboration and mentorship. We adopted the statement in Spring 2017. Since then we have created a Physics Values Committee and Charter to continue striving to be a better community for all.

APS Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance

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The MIT Department of Physics has also joined the American Physical Society’s Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance (APS-IDEA). APS-IDEA aims to create a collaborative network working to improve equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) across the physics community.

The Department engages in continuous self-examination to improve the way we do our work and to make sure all voices are part of our community. These are necessary to fulfill our mission.

Faculty Leadership on Diversity Issues includes:

Diversity Resources