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APS recently announced this year’s recipients of its Scholarship for Minority Undergraduate Physics Majors. Forty-one students from schools across America will receive financial support and mentorship as they pursue their physics degrees.
“It provides funding, mentoring, and the message that APS, a leading voice in the physics community, has confidence in the minority scholars’ success,” said Arlene Modeste Knowles, the scholarship administrator.
The first scholarships were awarded in 1980, with the intent to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in physics. The scholarships are open to students who are currently or planning to major in physics and are African-American, Hispanic American, or Native American US citizens or permanent residents.
“The scholarship shows that there are bright underrepresented minority students out there who, if given the proper mentoring and the assurance that they are as capable as anyone of succeeding as physics majors, will rise to the occasion,” Knowles said.
Hands-on mentoring is a big part of the scholarship. Each student recipient is assigned a pair of mentors to help guide him or her through the first two years of school. One of the mentors is either a current or former member of the APS Committee on Minorities. The other is a member of the student’s physics department who can be on hand as the student works towards a bachelor’s degree. Part of the program includes one-on-one student meetings with the heads of their physics department. Knowles stays in close contact with the students as well.
“Mentoring is important because, if done well, it helps to provide the student an entrée into the larger community–in this case, the physics community; and from there, many opportunities open up for the students,” Knowles said. “Additionally, mentoring helps students to navigate the educational pathway, allows them to open up about any vulnerabilities they may have, and helps them to realize that much of their path is remarkably similar for all students.”
The scholarship is merit-based, and students are chosen by the APS Committee on Minorities based on the strengths of their grades, recommendations and outside research experiences.
One of this year’s recipients, Natalia Guerrero, started last year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In high school she bought a refracting telescope and took up stargazing as a hobby.
“I fell in love with looking at the sky and thinking about its mysteries,” Guerrero said. “The questions astrophysics is trying to answer fascinated me and led me to choose to major in physics.”
She said that the scholarship will help her not only pay for school, but also give her the support she needs to succeed as a physics student.
Stephanie Lona just started at the University of Illinois. After excelling in her two advanced physics classes in high school, she came to the University of Illinois to get her degree in physics. She said that physics is a subject that comes easily to her. She is captivated by the idea that it’s everywhere.
“When I found out I received the APS Minority Scholarship I was ecstatic,” Lona said. “It will greatly help in paying for college. Tuition is expensive and this scholarship is a tremendous help.
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