Physics- A Space for You

Share This:




Physics- A Space for You


Kayla Stephens, SPS Programs Manager

“Once I got into space, I was feeling very comfortable in the universe. I felt like I had a right to be anywhere in this universe, that I belonged here as much as any speck of stardust, any comet, any planet.”
– Mae Jemison

As the first African American woman astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison is no stranger to the disparities present within the physical science community. Attending Stanford University in the early 1970s at the age of 16, Jemison persevered using her youthful optimism to succeed in a world of discrimination and where the odds were not in her favor.1,2 Although Jemison is viewed as a role model, specifically for young women of color, she suggests that it takes people from all ethnicities and backgrounds to recognize that any child can excel in any field given the opportunity.3

The first African American woman in space, Dr. Mae C. Jemison. Photo courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The Society of Physics Students continuously strives to create a community where everyone, regardless of cultural background, gender identity, or sexual orientation, feels as comfortable as Jemison did as she orbited in space. SPS recognizes that although there have been great improvements over the past years within physics and astronomy, the work is far from over. The advancement of equity, diversity, and inclusion is not just simply opening doors but focusing on creating environments that are proportionately representative of all student demographics and support practices that meet the needs of diverse learners.4 Ultimately, it’s important that we work to make sure that anyone can see themselves as a scientist and provide tools allowing students to reach their full potential.

The feature stories in this issue highlight contributions and initiatives of SPS members that exemplify the goal of providing adequate opportunities to anyone that is interested in physics. You will read about how the SPS chapter from Missouri Southern State University is impacting their local community by stimulating passion for physics in pre-K to adult learners, look at efforts to make astronomy inclusive and accessible to the blind and visually impaired, and explore various perspectives on how to foster inclusive physics spaces. You’ll also read about how research is informing best practices for teaching physics and about how the SPS National Council has recently adopted two new inclusivity statements: Diversity, Inclusion and Ethics and Common Rooms, Department Health, and Identity. We hope these stories inspire you to consider what you can do to create a more inclusive physics community.


  1. Amy Finnerty. “Outnumbered: Standing Out at Work.” The New York Times, July 16, 2000.
  2. Mary Challender. “First Black Woman Astronaut Tells Insight.” Des Moines Register, October 16, 2008.
  3. Warren E. Leary. “Woman in the News; A Determined Breaker of Boundaries – Mae Carol Jemison.” The New York Times, September 13, 1992, section 1, p. 42.
  4. Kenne A. Dibner, Margaret L. Hilton, and Mark B. Rosenberg, eds. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, Board on Science Education, and Committee on Developing Indicators for Undergraduate Stem Education. “Goal 2: Strive for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” In Indicators for Monitoring Undergraduate STEM Education, 87–110. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2018.

More from this department