For the fifth year in a row, the UO has conferred the most master’s degrees in physics in the country. Twenty six of those were awarded to students in the Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program, part of the Phil & Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.
Physics students in the program are uniquely prepared for careers in industry and national labs. They develop expertise in optics or semiconductors, sharpen their professional development skills and gain hands-on experience through 9-month paid internships. Interns from the most recent materials science cohort have garnered an average annualized salary of $66,200. And if they are like those who preceded them, 90% will have full-time jobs within 3 months of graduation.
"Despite its size, the program felt designed to bring out my individual strengths in both the technical and professional development coursework. It left me with the confidence I needed to seek out opportunities in my career," noted Isaac Woodard, part of the 2021 optics cohort. Woodard will be starting an internship at MKS Instruments in January.
Not only does the program train students on technical aspects of an industrial career, it encourages students and alumni to engage in learning and advocacy in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. Facilitated by Betsy Tanenbaum, senior manager of corporate and alumni engagement, the program hosts a summer workshop series covering topics such as identity, privilege, microaggressions, POC in STEM, LGBTQIA+ in STEM, and mentorship. This past year, over half of students participated in these optional workshops.
Jess Nelson of the 2021 semiconductor cohort said the workshops made them feel “more at home in the program. Being presented with the option of joining the Inclusion and Diversity workshops and the symposium made it clear that leadership is considering my unique perspective and the perspectives of those identities traditionally excluded from STEM spaces.” Jess begins an internship at Microchip in January.
The workshops, coupled with an Inclusion & Diversity Scholarship and a strategic recruitment plan, have led to significant gains in representation. Nationally, only 24% of bachelors degrees in physics are conferred to women. Performing well above that pipeline of candidates, the most recent KCGIP physics cohort is 41% women. Additionally, 22% of physics master’s candidates are from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.
“Helping a diverse set of students successfully transition from studying in academia to working in industry is the most rewarding aspect of my role,” says Dr. Nima Dinyari, director of the optical materials and devices track. “Every year I celebrate their success as they sign internship offer letters three months after starting the master’s program and again when they have completed their applied physics master’s degrees in just over a year.”