“Diversity without excellence is destitute; excellence without diversity is an orphan.” That is the motto of Ed Bertschinger, head of the physics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. Since taking this role in 2008, Bertschinger has spearheaded a series of initiatives to increase the diversity of people in the physics department – among students, researchers and faculty
As a result of these efforts, under-represented minorities now make up 17% of undergraduate students in the physics department at the MIT – a proportion that is significantly higher than the national average in the US. In this audio clip, three different MIT students explain how they developed an interest in physics and what they believe are the main benefits of studying in a diverse environment.
Bertschinger believes that creating a diverse physics department is not only a moral obligation for the opportunities it offers people, but it also makes good “business sense”. He strongly rejects the idea that to promote diversity somehow reduces the quality of students and faculty members. “If we want our students and employees to achieve their best then we should create a climate in which they feel respected and well supported,” he says. Bertschinger describes MIT’s approach in this interview with Physics World journalist James Dacey.
You can find out more about what MIT is doing to promote diversity here. You can also find out what the Institute of Physics (which publishes Physics World) is doing to promote diversity in the UK physics community here.