This award supports a two-day conference to focus national attention on current issues in graduate education in physics. The conference is organized jointly by the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers. The conference will take place at the American Center for Physics in College Park, MD in January 2013, and will bring together about 100 participants including those in a position to implement changes and those in a position to provide informed recommendations for change. The conference is motivated partly by the success of the first conference on graduate education in physics in January 2008. The topics to be discussed at the conference include curriculum; exam/exam structure; climate and diversity; admissions; advising and mentoring; non-academic careers; developing "soft" skills including oral and written communication; team building and leadership; multi-disciplinary coursework and degrees; outcome assessment of graduate programs; and shaping a holistic and effective graduate education experience. The conference will continue the conversation started four years ago and give the physics community an opportunity to brainstorm ideas about graduate education so that graduate programs in physics can continuously improve to maintain their world class excellence. In addition, the conference will provide a forum to learn about the progress made in various graduate programs since the first conference and find ways to identify, adapt, and implement best practices within local constraints.

Project Report

Five years after the first conference on graduate education in physics, the second conference on graduate education in physics was organized by the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). The conference was a forum for presentations, panel discussions, and breakout sessions on how physics graduate education can respond to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. 107 participants including department chairs and/or directors of graduate studies, representatives from industry, national laboratories, and professional societies, and graduate student leaders shared best practices and discussed how to spur innovation and creativity to improve graduate education in physics. A major focus of the conference concerned maintaining excellence in graduate education in physics, given the changing demographics of the country. Bridge programs (or components of these programs) of the type that APS is developing ( could be pursued by physics departments to increase the participation of underrepresented students in PhD programs. Other strategies discussed include the concept of cohorts to establish a critical mass of underrepresented students, the employment of Physics Education Research-based curricula and pedagogies in core graduate courses, providing more effective mentoring, and improving the climate for all. A second major focus was on preparing students for diverse careers. Physics graduate education should provide adequate training for non-academic careers since a majority of physics graduate students will end up with employment outside academia. Professional skills, including oral and written communication skills, networking skills, program management and leadership skills, as well as the ability to work in and lead teams were emphasized as critical to success in all careers. The participants at the conference were in broad agreement that these skills should be included in doctoral training. Invited and contributed presentations and summaries of panel and breakout sessions were published on the APS website. A "Best Practices/Conference Report" manual that detailed successful aspects of graduate programs and provided other outcomes of the conference was produced in hard copy and also made available online at no charge. The conference outcomes were featured at invited and contributed sessions at APS and AAPT conferences, colloquia, and seminars. Photos available at:

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Program Officer
Kathleen V. McCloud
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American Physical Society
College Park
United States
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