PGSC Recommendations Scorecard

Please see also:

Color code:

  • Green: recommendation completed
  • Yellow: partial implementation or discussions underway
  • Note that highest-priority recommendations are indicated in bold red font. (Specifically, recommendations 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 12, 20, 23, and 27.)

Other notes:

  • There are four Divisions in the MIT Physics Department: the Center for Theoretical Physics (CTP), the MIT Kavli Institute (MKI), the Laboratory for Nuclear Science (LNS), and Atomic/Bio/Condensed Matter/Plasma Physics (ABCP)






Minimize armed and uniformed police presence in Physics spaces

See progress updates from campus-wide student activism surrounding campus policing at the RISE campaign website


Develop a set of best practices for suspicious activity reports, including using language that does not invoke stereotypes




CTP: The Center for Theoretical Physics has made changes in how it handles suspicious activity reports.


Hire a staff member specifically devoted to diversity, equity, and inclusion

MIT is hiring a senior administrative DEI officer for the School of Science and afterwards plans to conduct searches at the department level (departments may share officers).


Examine admissions and hiring trends in each physics Division and take corrective action as necessary

The Department asked PGSC to convene a standing committee on admissions, GAGA, to advise the chair of admissions about changes to the admissions process. All student volunteers may join PGSC-GAGA.

The Department additionally added three graduate student members to the Admissions Committee to actually take part in evaluating applicants, for two-year terms. For the pilot admissions season, students submitted applications and were chosen by PGSC and the department administration. In future years, we expect the representatives will be elected in PGSC elections.

In 2020-21, the Department is piloting a Graduate Student Search Committee, which will participate alongside faculty in many key stages of the faculty hiring process. 


Implement best practices in postdoc hiring processes




CTP:The Center for Theoretical Physics will have a faculty member explicitly monitor equity/inclusion issues and at minimum ensure a second read of all files for candidates known to be URM. (see CTP action item #2)


Divisions should ensure their seminar organizers are inviting diverse sets of speakers to give technical talks



Divisions should create a seminar Code of Conduct



LNS: In LNS, seminars and colloquia have been a focus of discussion on June 10 and thereafter.

CTP: The CTP appointed a committee of faculty, postdocs, and grad students to create a seminar Code of Conduct in Fall 2020.


Ensure visitors and speakers have adequate numbers of meetings scheduled with researchers so they get the most out of their visit




CTP: The Center for Theoretical Physcis is proactively scheduling meetings for underrepresented physicists invited to give talks. (See CTP action item #8)


Divisions should take more advantage of the MLK program



CTP: Listed in CTP action item #15

ABCP: In 2020-21, a member of CMX is hosting an MLK scholar.


Expand faculty participation in MSRP

Two students worked with the department chair and MSRP to revamp the department’s faculty recruitment and MSRP student admissions process. A new MSRP Application Review Committee (ARC) was formed in the department.


Additionally, listed in CTP action item #14. Also, CUA professors are discussing a minimum summer quota of MSRP students.


Post clear and accessible descriptions of faculty research to the webpage

The new department website in 2021 has clear and accessible blurbs about faculty research near their profiles. 

The descriptions of research areas in the department (e.g. here) are also vastly improved.


Expand faculty participation in programs that serve URM students, e.g. the APS National Mentoring Program



Sponsor booth and send at least one faculty representative per year to major minority-centered academic conferences

Various groups in the department sponsored booths at four events in fall 2020 – the NSBP conference (student + faculty team), the Black in Physics Week Jobs Fair (PVC), Ivy+ Puerto Rico (PGSC-GAGA), and an event at UPRM (PGSC-GAGA). The PVC has created handouts to be used at recruitment events.


Build partnerships with HBCUs



Create fund to provide travel support for community members giving talks at minority-centered conferences and institutions




CTP: The CTP has set aside funds for students and postdocs to attend minority-centered conferences. (See CTP action item #3)


Periodically have external body evaluate equity in graduate admissions process

Department: Department leadership asked PGSC to convene a committee of graduate students, GAGA, that advises the Chair of Graduate Admissions on policies, procedures, and practices. Three graduate students now serve on the admissions committee as well. 

LNS: Graduate admissions has also been a focus of ongoing discussions in LNS.


Regularly offer training in best practices for graduate admissions readers

GAGA created a set of slides for presentation to the 2020-21 application readers about equity.


Remove the PGRE and GRE from the graduate application

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Physics Department is not considering standardized test scores in admissions for Fall 2020. It will re-evaluate its use of test scores following this year’s admissions process.


Ensure serious consideration of all talented graduate applicants, including those who did not attend top-ranked research universities and/or who are not from research groups recognized by the committee

GAGA created a set of slides for presentation to this year’s application readers about equity, which includes this specific point.


Create a graduate application assistance program

Representatives on GAGA created such a program, PhysGAAP, that launched in Fall 2020. The Academic Programs Office worked with GAGA to make substantial updates to the prospective student information webpages as well.


Clearly advertise application fee waivers on the Department website

In Fall 2020, the Academic Programs Office updated the admissions page with information about fee waivers.


Admissions essay about how the applicant will contribute to a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive physics community

In Fall 2020, GAGA completely revamped the prompt for the statement of purpose and added an additional personal statement. See new prompts here. 


Have an event explicitly focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion at the admitted graduate student visit



At the admitted graduate student visit, include summary documents about support and advocacy organizations in the folder given to prospective students



Increase URM and women physics major representation so that within 5 years, the demographics of the major reflect demographics of the entire MIT undergraduate student body



Actively reach out to undergrads and counteract implicit and explicit messages they have received while growing up or during their time at MIT about who belongs in the hard sciences



Faculty should encourage every student who indicates an interest in physics to take course 8 subjects and pursue the major, regardless of their performance



Provide training for graduate TAs to promote equity

The pilot 8.02 mentoring program was expanded to all classes 8.01-8.04 this fall. It includes weekly training for all student mentors.


Create a graduate/undergraduate mentoring program for URM students or all physics majors

The pilot 8.02 mentoring program was expanded to all classes 8.01-8.04 this fall.


Hold graduate student-led workshops for physics majors about physics research, grad school, etc.

In fall 2020, a Piazza forum for the entire department was launched, where students can ask questions to the community about things like research and graduate studies, among other things. Notably, many faculty and staff have joined. 


Increase Department participation in K-12 outreach programs

Department: In Fall 2020, a graduate student connected with local Cambridge organizations and periodically updates and connects the community with opportunities.

CUA: The Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms now has a community service requirement for all faculty and students. 


Have a section on the department website with information specifically for young people and other members of the general public interested in learning more about physics

Section on new department website titled "non-degree programs"


Create a program like Stanford EDGE for URM and women PhD students with professional development, mentoring, and community-building opportunities (link here)



Provide mentors outside the Department for graduate students, e.g. the Student Success Coaching Program implemented MIT-wide during the Covid-19 pandemic



Significantly expand the role of academic advisors, especially in the early years of graduate school




CTP: See Center for Theoretical Physics Action Item #9.

Department: In fall 2020, a Piazza forum for the entire department was launched, where students can ask questions to the community about things like research and graduate studies, among other things. Notably, many faculty and staff have joined.


In the theory divisions, provide graduate students with the option for more structure and (multiple) mentoring when they first arrive, e.g. rotations, a trial research advisor, a public list of faculty with known group openings, or assigning students a second faculty point of contact for the first year



CTP: See Center for Theoretical Physics Action Item #9.


Strong endorsement for the appointment of a graduate student advocate

Professor Claude Canizares was appointed the pilot Graduate Student Advocate in Fall 2020 on the basis of conversations about what students were looking for in an advocate.


Disseminate best practice guidelines for mentoring, for mentors/mentees at every stage of their respective careers

The Physics Values Committee created a list on their webpage


Provide a list on the website of formal on-campus programs to improve mentoring and teaching skills, e.g. TA Days and the Kaufman Program for grad students

The Physics Values Committee created a list on their webpage.


Create more opportunities for teaching and community mentoring involvement besides those offered through full-time TAships.

The pilot 8.02 mentoring program was expanded to all classes 8.01-8.04 this fall.


Create an undergraduate handbook



Create a graduate student handbook



Provide ongoing administrative support to establish a URM graduate student organization

Discussions underway


Create a lounge for URM graduate students and postdocs



Make physical spaces more inclusive, e.g. photo walls, poster displays, artwork



Call Building 37 the McNair building

The McNair Building is the terminology used on the department webpage and is becoming more common in conversation.


Provide all-gender or single-stall restrooms in all physics buildings



On bathroom doors, have signs indicating the direction to the nearest all-gender or single-stall restroom



Provide feminine hygienic supply dispensers in every single-stall, all-gender, and men’s restroom in the Physics Department. Ideally all feminine hygiene supplies in all bathrooms should be free.



Cover graduate student health insurance starting in August of the first year of graduate school, when students are required to be on campus for Orientation and exams.

PGSC and the PVC brought this to the department chair, who agreed.


Rename and reframe the Written Qualifying Exam as four required courses with the option to test out

This is on the agenda for the Education Committee this year.

One undergraduate and one graduate student representative were added to the Education Committee.

Improvements in language on the new department website released in Spring 2021. 


Foster an ethos of community involvement and ensure that non-marginalized physicists share in diversity, equity, and inclusion labor, as well as office housework

Department level: Regular emails from department leadership about opportunities and conveying their importance. See for example, the chair’s weekly newsletter. Noticeable increase in community involvement opportunities and participation this year. 

CTP: See CTP action items #4, 5, and 10.

CUA: CUA has formed a Community Service Steering Committee.  


Create Service Fellowships funded at the 10% TA, 20% TA, and full-time level



Create a graduate student service award



Teaching and service should be taken into more account in hiring and promotion cases

In 2020-21, the Department is piloting a Graduate Student Search Committee, which will participate alongside faculty in many key stages of the faculty hiring process. 


More equity and oversight in postdoc hiring



LNS: See LNS discussions.

CTP: See CTP Action Item #2.


Anti-racism training for new postdocs and faculty members



Regular colloquia or seminars about underrepresented groups in physics

Department-wide colloquium on November 12, 2020.


Encourage faculty to participate in regular non-mandatory trainings, e.g. You Are Welcome Here.



Advertise funding sources for professional development

New page on PVC website.


Create a grant for community members wishing to access further professional development related to diversity, equity, and inclusion



Required ethics and diversity, equity, and inclusion courses for students



Regular reading and discussion groups about diversity/equity/inclusion in each Division

ABCP: The MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms started an Equity Journal Club.



CTP: The CTP started a monthly Anti-Racism Reading Club.


Actively encourage nonacademic conversations in work settings




CTP: See CTP Action Item #11.


Provide further anti-racism educational material on the website and in the Physics Reading Room

See page on PVC website.


Improve information provided on the primary department webpage about diversity, equity, and inclusion



Expand the main department webpage’s discussion about the department’s community, history, and alumni



Actively work to counteract stereotypes in physics, such as the “myth of the lone genius” and widespread ageist stereotypes in theoretical physics



Create a Department-wide strategic diversity, equity, and inclusion plan

The PVC works on some types of long-term planning related to systemic issues in the department.


Create Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committees and strategic plans in each Division


CTP: The CTP created a committee to organize events for the Strike for Black Lives on June 10, 2020, which created a set of recommendations

MKI: MKI created a task force on DEI in Summer 2020, which issued a set of recommendations

LNS: The Laboratory for Nuclear Science held division-wide programming on June 10. In the following weeks, groups of faculty and staff met to discuss actionable items that the division can partake in to improve the environment and opportunities available in LNS. The groups focused on graduate admissions, seminars and colloquia, as well as faculty hiring. LNS put together a draft document summarizing their findings and held a Town Hall on August 3 to discuss it. LNS then formed a BLM Task Force composed of faculty, staff, postdocs, and students (two of each) to formalize those initial suggestions and to begin implementation.


Publicly post data about representation to the main Department webpage

Department has agreed it can go on the Physics Values Committee webpage. Data has been compiled.


Create an ombuds-like position to serve all members of the Physics community

Claude Canizares appointed as Graduate Student Advocate in fall 2020

Lindley Winslow appointed as Undergraduate Coordinator in fall 2020