Physics Bridge Program

UVA PhysicsBridge is a program designed to help diversify the field of advanced physics. Aspiring post-baccalaureate students who would benefit fom broader training receive additional preparatory work in the classroom and in the lab to optimize their chances for success in graduate study. The primary method for applying is through UVA's Bridge to Doctorate Fellows program. Everyone is welcome to apply. Priority is given to students from backgrounds that are under-represented in advanced physics.

Background Information

The UVA PhysicsBridge program is modeled in the spirit of the American Physical Society’s Bridge Program (APS-BP), which has the explicit goal of achieving parity between the fraction of PhDs awarded in Physics to under-represented racial minorities (URMs) and the fraction of Physics Bachelor’s degrees granted to these groups. Institutions working with APS-BP reach a certain status, based on the quality of the academic and mentoring environment for matriculating URM students while engaging in graduate study. In 2017, UVA became an official Partner Institution of the APS-BP.

At UVA, our PhysicsBridge initiative has gone beyond the goals of the APS-BP by making a dedicated commitment to recruiting and retaining another significantly under-represented group in the academy: female Physics students, whose participation fraction in PhD programs nationwide is also woefully deficient when compared to female participation levels in Bachelor’s programs.

Under-represented students often come from unique learning backgrounds and, moreover, often come from institutions with non-standard Physics curricula. These effects can contribute to these applicants needing additional preparation before entering into a graduate curriculum to optimize their chances at ultimately receiving their PhD.

Since 2016, we have admitted students to our PhysicsBridge program through two means: via the APS-BP graduate applicant pool, and also through the standard graduate application process, where we have, on occasion, identified individuals who could benefit from additional preparation before undertaking graduate coursework.

In 2020, a new initiative was launched by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences called the Bridge to Doctorate Fellows program (B2DF). Through this program, the Graduate School seeks to support post-baccalaureate students from groups that are underrepresented in their disciplines and who have not had sufficient training and research experiences to prepare them for admission to doctoral programs. We welcomed our first B2DF cohort into the PhysicsBridge program in Fall 2020.

All PhysicsBridge students receive individual faculty advisors, relief from teaching through Fellowship support, and meet with the Physics Bridge Director multiple times throughout each semester to chart their academic plans and adjust them as needed.

How to Apply

The primary method for applying to the UVA PhysicsBridge program is through the UVA B2DF program (application instructions here). Everyone is welcome to apply. Priority is given to students from backgrounds that are under-represented in advanced physics.

Note that the B2DF application deadline is later than the deadline for typical graduate admissions. For example, in 2021, the deadline is 1 March. Consult the link above for accurate information for the current admissions cycle.

Additional Information

Mentoring: Every PhysicsBridge student works with two faculty mentors.

  • The PhysicsBridge Director serves as academic mentor, helping craft an individualized curriculum designed to meet each PhysicsBridge student's unique need.
  • Students also have regular meetings a faculty scientific mentor who engages in research in a subfield that the PhysicsBridge students finds interesting and is considering for research as a PhD student.

Assessment: PhysicsBridge students will take a skills assessment in the summer before matriculating. This assessment will probe the level of preparation in the four core areas of academic physics: classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical physics and quantum mechanics. Performance on this assessment will inform the individualized curriculum development.

Curriculum: An individualized academic curriculum is developed for each student before the beginning of Fall semester of their year of entry into the program. Example curricula for the first two years of the program are available here.

Research: An opportunity to conduct independent research is an important part of the PhysicsBridge program. This research experience can be under the guidance of the PhysicsBridge student's scientific mentor, however this is not always the case and positions cannot be guaranteed. PhysicsBridge students should try to get a broad exposure to the different research programs underway in the department.

Academic performance: PhysicsBridge students are expected to remain in good academic standing, maintaining a minimum grade of B- in all classes in both undergraduate- and graduate-numbered courses. 

Questions?

For more information, please reach out via email to the UVA PhysicsBridge Director Chris Neu at phys-bridge-director@virginia.edu.