The American Physics Society (APS) has recognized Cal Poly Pomona as a top school for physics students, ranking in fourth place for students earning a bachelor’s degree in physics and second place for underrepresented minority (URM) students.

Based on data from 2015 to 2017, APS found that the university has an average of 26 physics graduates and three physics URM graduates per year.

Hector Mireles, professor and chair of the physics and astronomy department, said the department is expecting the number of students in physics earning bachelor’s degrees to increase.

“The success our department has at Cal Poly Pomona will probably lead to high school students thinking about applying, and as more students enroll, our undergrad numbers should increase,” he said.

Mireles said the support the department provides to its students is invaluable. 

 “Coming into our physics and astronomy department, students can expect complete understanding and full support from our professors and faculty members,” Mireles said.

Cal-Bridge North scholars visiting the University of California Santa Cruz last September. (Courtesy of Alexander Rudolph)

As a diverse school, the university helps support URM students in their journey to achieve higher education, specifically in the sciences, which is why it is home to the Cal-Bridge Program. 

Cal-Bridge provides many opportunities for URM students pursuing careers in physics and astronomy. Most opportunities consist of workshops, mentors, tutors and financial support. 

Alexander Rudolph, founder and director of Cal-Bridge, started the program five years ago to help URM students achieve higher education in science.

“The purpose of the program is to increase the number of under-represented groups to get [doctorates] in physics and astronomy,” Rudolph said.

Cal-Bridge Scholars are in the program for three years total: two as undergrads and another year if they go to graduate school.   

Sixteen CSUs have the program. He said the program is already quite successful.     

“We’ve had three classes graduate since the start of the program,” Rudolph said. “Twenty students applied for Ph.D. programs, and 19 of them got accepted.” 

Sierra Garza, a fourth-year physics student with a minor in astronomy, said she has received plenty of support from being part of the program. 

“They provide two mentors, one from my home campus and one from a UC, whom I meet with bimonthly to keep them informed of my progress with my courses,” Garza said.

Garza said she finds the program helpful in her mission to be accepted into graduate schools in the field of science.

“There are monthly workshops that cover a range of topics such as Python programming and graduate school preparation,” she said.

Python programming is a programming language used in coding.

Evan Nunez, a fourth-year physics student, said the program was one of the main reasons he applied to the university.  

“Cal-Bridge was definitely integral in the decision to apply and continue my research in astronomy,” he said. “The workshops provided by Cal-Bridge are incredible and fundamental in my research. The financial support Cal-Bridge provides is outstanding as a student in science, and the mentorship is more than helpful.” 

The program recently received $5 million in additional funds that will enable it to accept more students and the deadline to apply is Aug. 9 of this year. 

For more information on Cal-Bridge, visit CPP’s Department of Physics and Astronomy’s website or email phyastdept@cpp.edu.

3/13/2019 6:28 p.m.: This article has been updated

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