Program Details

Penn State University

Updated: September 19, 2018

Total number of tenure-track or tenured faculty


Number of women in tenure-track or tenured faculty positions


[Calculated] Percentage of women in tenure-track or tenured faculty positions


Total number of graduate students


Number of women graduate students


[Calculated] Percentage of women graduate students


Total number of post doctoral associates


Number of women post doctoral associates


[Calculated] Percentage of women post doctoral associates


Is there a family leave policy for graduate students? If so, describe.

Graduate assistants who meet the requirements for parental accommodation will be excused from their regular activities for a period of up to six weeks immediately following the birth or adoption of a child. During this time, individuals will continue to receive the same income and benefits as provided previously by the University.
Approval of accommodation will automatically extend deadlines--for any academic or research reports, class or work assignments, dissertation proposals or related work, and other responsibilities--for the duration of the accommodation period. Faculty and other mentors are expected to work with graduate assistants to make fair and appropriate alternative arrangements during the accommodation period. Individuals should be permitted to defer course grades until the following semester, and deadlines for academic milestones, including candidacy, comprehensive examinations, and final defense, will be postponed or extended for one semester.
Individual parties are required to work collaboratively to ensure these minimums, but should feel free to negotiate additional accommodations. Indeed, additional accommodations may be necessary, especially in medically critical situations.
More information is available at

Is there family health insurance for graduate students? If so, is it included in the stipend?

Graduate Assistants or Fellows are eligible to receive subsidies in the amount of 80% of the annual premium cost for the Graduate Assistant and Graduate Fellow Insurance Plans. The university pays the 80% directly to the insurance companies, and the remaining 20% is paid through monthly payroll deductions.
Insurance subsidies for eligible dependents is 70% of the annual premium expense. As with the subsidy for individual insurances, the university pays 70% of the premium expense directly to the insurance companies, and the remaining 30% is paid through monthly payroll deductions.
Details of the insurance plan are available at, with complete information on prescription, dental, and vision benefits.

Do you have a Woman in Physics Group? If yes, please include link to their website if they have one.

The Penn State Physics Department has an active 'Physics and Astronomy for Women' organization with a web site at where it describes their activities as follows:

PAW is a student club dedicated to advancing the status of women in Physics and Astronomy by providing a network of support and a forum to discuss issues faced by women in these fields. Anyone is welcome to join us for social events, outreach activities, and more!

PAW is a relatively young club that has been blooming in recent years. Established in 2011, PAW has organized and been involved in:

* Professional development workshops focusing on topics such as how to write a resume and how to use business cards effectively
* Many outreach activities
* Various social events
* Lunches with renowned speakers
* Monthly tea breaks to socialize and keep us sane throughout the year =)
* CUWiP - a conference for undergraduate women in physics – hosted at Penn State in 2014
* much more!

PAW also has an active presence on Facebook at

The PAW group was honored with the 2016 Eberly College of Science Climate and Diversity Award.

Do you have a Physics Graduate Student Association? If yes, please include link to their website if they have one.

The Physics Graduate Student Association (PGSA) focuses more on social activities than professional development issues.

What other relevant student groups are there in your institution?

There is an active Graduate (and Professional) Student Association (GPSA) which sponsors a number of social and/or professional development activities throughout the year - more information available at

Graduate students are included on a number of departmental and college level committees.

As might be guessed, at a large public institution there are any number of student organizations, groups, clubs to engage students on a wide variety of personal and professional interests. There are over 1000 undergraduate and graduate student organizations with more information available at

Has your institution ever hosted a Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics? If yes, which year?

Penn State hosted one of the 2014 CUWiP (Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics). More information about that event is still available at

A number of the graduate student organizers of the 2014 CUWiP meeting were also responsible for the inaugural Mid-Atlantic APS section meeting held here at PSU in 2014 -- more information about that event is still available at

Has your institution ever hosted an APS Climate Site Visit for Women and Minorities in Physics?

The Physics Department hosted an APS 'Climate Site Visit for Women and Minorities in Physics' in 2001.

Please describe why someone applying to graduate school who is interested in a female-friendly department should choose your department.

The Physics Department at Penn State University provides graduate students with the opportunity to collaborate with world-class scientists doing cutting-edge research in a wide variety of fields. PSU has active efforts in condensed matter, gravitational physics, atomic, molecular, and optical physics, experimental particle physics and observational particle astrophysics, theoretical particle physics and string theory, and biological physics, including systems biology and computational neuroscience. Female faculty and graduate students play an integral role in essentially all of the research groups in the Physics department. Penn State as a whole has also demonstrated a strong commitment to having women in faculty and administrative positions at all levels, with a number of recent appointments at the faculty, department chair and Dean's level.

All graduate students in the Physics Department benefit from a wide range of support ranging from faculty mentoring, extensive TA training (both at the start of their graduate career and regularly as part of their TA duties), workshops on ethics and sexual harassment issues, and frequent sharing of information (via an active listserve) on issues related to graduate studies, employment opportunities, and departmental activities. Each incoming graduate student is assigned a mentor (outside of their research field) with whom they can consult at all stages of their graduate career. There are two ombudspersons in place (one female, one male) with whom all faculty, staff, and graduate students can consult about any issue. The department administration holds regular 'feedback/input’ meetings with all first year graduate students (twice a year) to hear about any issues which students wish to share about their graduate experience (coursework, TA duties, facilities). All students are required to take a year-long ‘first year graduate seminar’ which focuses on the transition to graduate life, career opportunities, and scientific ethics and communication skills.

There are very active departmental and College-wide `climate' committees, as well as a mentoring program for female physics (and astronomy/astrophysics) students (especially through the very active Physics and Astronomy for Women or PAW group), at both the undergraduate and graduate level, both recommendations made by the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics who visited the PSU Physics in 2001 at our invitation. The PAW group won an Eberly College of Science ‘Climate and Diversity Award’ in 2016 for their work in mentoring other female students (including undergraduate majors).

Physics faculty, postdocs, and graduate students have made use of on-campus day care facilities in recent years.

Please include the name of faculty or staff member and an email they can be reached at for further questions.

Prof. Richard Robinett
Associate Department Head and Director of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies
Physics Department - Penn State University

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