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Diversity in Astronomy and Astrophysics: A Study of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty at PhDGranting Departments

by Laura Lopez

Laura Lopez graduates from MIT in 2004. Her undergraduate thesis is “A Continuum Model of the High
Resolution X-ray Spectra from the Relativistic Jets in SS 433”. She is excited about starting graduate school at Penn State in the fall and working on the Chandra Deep Field and AGN science.

June 2004

Professor Donna Nelson of the University of Oklahoma has made surveys in various science
and engineering fields (the Nelson Surveys are available online at: http://cheminfo.chem.ou.
edu/faculty/djn/diversity/top50.html). Last year, when Professor Nelson was visiting MIT, we
conducted a faculty demographic study of all the United States astronomy and astrophysics Ph.D.-
granting departments. We polled all 56 departments offering astronomy Ph.D.s. We
requested disaggregated data on race/ethnicity, gender, and rank of all tenured and tenure-track
faculty conducting astronomy-related research. Every surveyed department except two chose to
participate. This study was the first to rigorously assess representation and rank of females and
minorities within astronomy faculties across the United States.

The findings indicate 12.2% of astronomy professors are female, and 20.2% of assistant
professors are female. Of all astronomy professors 90.6% are Caucasian, and 80.1% of all professors
are Caucasian male. Of astronomy professors 6.8% are Asian, nearly half the Asian faculty
representation in physics. Hispanics comprise 1.38% of astronomy faculty, 1.08% are Black,
and 0% are of Native American descent.

To learn the full results of our survey, please read the June issue of SPECTRUM, the AAS
Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy newsletter. To be put on the mailing
list, download issues or read material online see

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csma/newsletter/ spectrum.htm.

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