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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2014009829
pages 317-340

WOMEN'S PERSISTENCE INTO GRADUATE ASTRONOMY PROGRAMS: THE ROLES OF SUPPORT, INTEREST, AND CAPITAL

Melinda McCormick
Department of Sociology, Western Michigan University, 1903 W. Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, USA
Ramon S. Barthelemy
Department of Physics, University of Michigan, 500 S. State Street, Ann Arbor MI, 48109, USA
Charles Henderson
Department of Physics and Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 W. Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, USA

ABSTRACT

This study uses data from qualitative interviews with successful female graduate students in astronomy in order to explore female student success in undergraduate physics departments. The aspects include the role of faculty support through an undergraduate's education, the provision of engaging introductory courses, the importance of community among students, and more. However, the results also suggest that there are other factors that influence the success of the students, such as a love of the field of study and available resources in terms of different types of capital. The authors argue that in order to increase the numbers of female students in the fields of astronomy and physics these considerations also need to be addressed.