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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Imprimir: 1072-8325
ISSN On-line: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2017016953
pages 169-192

HOW NOVICES PERCEIVE THE CULTURE OF PHYSICS

Martin Bremer
Florida State University
Roxanne Hughes
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory

RESUMO

This study is an exploratory qualitative research project utilizing deductive thematic analysis to investigate how undergraduate physics students form their physics identity. Physics is a unique community of practice that has lagged behind other science fields in terms of the representation of women and members of underrepresented minority groups. This underrepresentation within physics is often credited to the culture of physics which makes identity studies within this specific field that much more important − understanding who persists and why they persist in terms of their identification with physics will help physics departments determine how they can better attract and retain students from underrepresented groups. In this study we used individual interview data with 44 undergraduate physics majors at a Research I university. Our study indicates that novices within physics see the culture of physics as filled with smart, curious, people who are committed to physics as a subject matter and see it as the basis for all science. As part of this culture these novices saw arrogance as a definitive trait for a strong physics identity. Women who left the major mentioned the culture (arrogance) as one of the main factors for their decision to leave. This study indicates that younger generations of women are still facing the same issues as past generations of women in physics. Future studies should investigate the differences between the discipline cultures that may be affecting the improvement of women and underrepresented minorities in specific STEM fields, thereby tailoring programs and policies to the unique culture within each discipline.


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