Investigating underrepresented students’ choice of a physics major

Katrina Piatek-Jimenez, Dakota Keblbeck, Cielo Medina Medina

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


It is well documented that there is little diversity within physics at the undergraduate level in the United States, and this problem is amplified in graduate school and the workforce. The cause of this underrepresentation of women and people of color in physics is reported to be partially due to a "cold" and unwelcoming climate within physics departments and differential pre-college experiences. Our larger research project aims to investigate undergraduate physics students' experiences, to better understand the factors leading to the selection and retention of a physics major, and how these experiences may differ by the intersectionality of one’s social identities. To achieve this goal, we conducted a series of in-depth interviews with physics majors at one university to learn more about their pre-college and college experiences regarding physics and astronomy. In this paper, we report a subset of our findings. In particular, we share our preliminary results on the data collected from our nine participants with identities underrepresented in the discipline of physics with regards to their selection of a physics major. Our findings reveal both internal and external motivators for selecting a major in physics and suggest that many of the pre-college obstacles they faced relate to their underrepresented identities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhysics Education Research Conference, 2022
EditorsBrian Frank, Dyan Jones, Qing Ryan
PublisherAmerican Association of Physics Teachers
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9781931024389
StatePublished - 2022
EventPhysics Education Research Conference, PERC 2022 - Grand Rapids, United States
Duration: Jul 13 2022Jul 14 2022

Publication series

NamePhysics Education Research Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1539-9028
ISSN (Electronic)2377-2379


ConferencePhysics Education Research Conference, PERC 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityGrand Rapids


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