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Girls in physics?

  1. Mar 18, 2009 #1

    First of all, I hope I will not sound shallow with this questions, but I am sure that most guys in physics at least think about this when choosing a university. After all, we all want to study in nice enviroment, and for me, a decent gender distribution is an important part of a nice work enviroment.

    As we all know, the majority of physics students are boys, which is quite depressing really.

    I am going into graduate studies in Canada. I will be doing astrophysics, which fortunately is one of the areas of physics with the most girls (I think). I applied, and was admitted to UBC, University of Toronto and McGill. My question is: If you study in one of such universities, what is the boys/girls ratio of physics graduate students? Can any one compare this with other universities in Canada or around the world?

    Of course that will not be the main aspect to consider which university I will choose, but it may be a factor to take into consideration
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2009 #2
    If you're wondering about a specific college, why don't you just look at their website? Most departments have a grad student directory.

    I'm not a physics grad student, but as a physics undergrad my graduating class and the class below us was pretty close to gender balanced.
  4. Mar 18, 2009 #3


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    Remember as a grad student you aren't necessarily working closely with other physics grad students, except for seminars/meetings you might not see your fellow students if they are in a different lab.
    Probably the size and overall mix of the institution is more important. (ie. do not go to Imperial College !)
  5. Mar 18, 2009 #4


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    To answer you question at least for physics the ratio is about 15-20% with what looks like a 2-3% deviation with Harvard at the top with 27% I believe.
  6. Mar 18, 2009 #5
    In my department (UIUC) there's 500 undergrads and 20 or less are girls, so about 4%. Among grad students it's a slightly higher ratio, but still very small.

    Why equal gender distribution would be a factor in school choice is beyond me, but good luck finding what you're looking for. There ARE girls in other department, even if it's not physics.
  7. Mar 18, 2009 #6


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    Things have leveled out a bit in the last 40 years. My freshman engineering class numbered 305. The "5" were the women.
  8. Mar 18, 2009 #7

    I was talking to a girl who does computer science, and she said there are 3 girls on her course :)

    She did say, though, that it had it's perks ;)

    To which I responded "I bet you're everybody's best friend, aren't you."

    To which she responded to by walking away...
  9. Mar 18, 2009 #8


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    Also known as - "the odds are good - but the goods are odd"
  10. Mar 18, 2009 #9


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    I can appreciate this question to some extent. I don't see anything wrong with using this as a selection criterion, as long as it isn't the primary one. More of an "all else being equal..." kind of criterion instead. Of course, I'd prefer if the motivation were more that you wanted to find a diverse student population in your department, and were supporting departments that didn't seem to be discriminating against women, etc.

    If you want to meet a lot of women, go to nursing school. :rolleyes: Out of about 130 students, I think there were about 4 male students in this year's class (there might have been more, but that's all that showed up for class for me to remember them).
  11. Mar 18, 2009 #10


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    Funny!, I actually go there to meet women! hahahaha. Well, nursing school and the college of design :rofl:
  12. Mar 18, 2009 #11


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    My physics grad program has about 50 students; less than 10 of us are women. Every class starts out with a few women, but few of them stick around for the PhD; most leave with a masters, and for various reasons. The fact that we're not a top school is probably contributing to the problem - many incoming grad students weren't really sure that grad school was for them. And for many, it wasn't. I was originally at a program that dropped women at a much higher rate - it was a pretty hostile environment for women in general, and I was glad to transfer out of there. Maybe they should have caught on that they were doing something wrong when all the women they 'failed' out ended up getting PhDs in the same field from much better schools.

    Astronomy does have more women - each AAS meeting I attend seems to have many more women than APS meetings. And most of the women in my physics program are studying astrophysics.
  13. Mar 19, 2009 #12


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    So astro it is. :biggrin::!!)

    It reminds me of the australian series "supernova", the episode with venus.
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