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Physics program commended, selected for site visit by national organization

RELEASED: Jan. 28, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — The physics and astronomy department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has been selected for a site visit by the American Institute of Physics based on its record of graduating a large number of physics majors and having them find employment quickly after graduation.

UW-Eau Claire graduated an average of 13 physics majors per year during the past three years. Just 16 of the 507 bachelor's degree-granting departments at U.S. colleges and universities graduated more physics majors during that same time period. The department's communication with students about potential careers in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the importance of STEM, particularly on its website, was noted in the AIP's request to gather information about UW-Eau Claire's success.

The letter states: "We were especially impressed by your newsletter with its clear record of alumni achievements and your listing of alumni careers. We very much wish to learn from your department and disseminate that knowledge."

According to Dr. J. Erik Hendrickson, professor and chair of the physics and astronomy department, the numbers of majors and graduates have steadily increased since the dual degree engineering/physics major was introduced five years ago.

"Our students recognize the quality of the degree they are earning and understand that the faculty is here to assist them in their scientific development," he said. "Employers and graduate schools recognize that our students are well-prepared for employment and further education."

The AIP's project, titled "Expanding the STEM Workforce by Equipping Physics Bachelors Degree Recipients and their Departments to Address the Full Range of Career Options" seeks to learn about and promote effective practices to increase the size and diversity of the nation's STEM workforce. The study has been funded by a National Science Foundation grant and will inform the creation of a pilot program to conduct regional workshops for physics faculty and undergraduate students.

The AIP publishes a list of bachelor's-only departments averaging 10 or more bachelor's degrees per year. This is the second straight year UW-Eau Claire has made the list.

For more information, contact Dr. J. Erik Hendrickson at hendrije@uwec.edu or 715-836-5834.

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RD/DW

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