Bridge master’s program

Develop a bridge master’s program to draw young scholars with exceptional potential

Paths to and through education have become as diverse as the people who follow them. The Physical Sciences Division values this diversity and is committed to enlarging the presence of the nation’s under-represented minority students on the path to a doctorate. A new bridge component for the existing divisional master’s program will institutionalize this commitment, propelling students from a variety of backgrounds to a PhD trajectory.

The bridge program will identify promising baccalaureate students whose undergraduate preparation is not sufficient to qualify them for admission to PSD’s PhD programs and recruit them to a 1–2-year MS program designed to fill critical gaps in their backgrounds through coursework and research. The precedent for this “bridge program” approach in the physical sciences is provided by the successful Fisk-Vanderbilt “Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program” and by non-degree variants. Students would participate in the PSD’s robust Master of Science in the Physical Sciences Division program, which provides a suitable framework for coursework, research, and professional development programming. This program would be supplemented with mentoring and academic support tailored to the participants. Students would receive a MS degree in 1–2 years, depending on their academic background, and, if appropriate, be offered admission to a PSD PhD program.

The long-range goal is to build an effective, financially sustainable program that would annually matriculate ~5 students with the potential to be admitted to a PSD PhD program. According to NSF statistics, ~250 doctoral degrees in physical sciences disciplines are earned annually in the US by under-represented minority students. A program of the proposed scale would, therefore, make a major contribution to diversification of PSD fields.

Students admitted to the program will receive full financial support. Philanthropy will make this possible by providing tuition, stipend, and insurance support; research support; academic support; and programming. The Bridge Program will require significant external funding in order to grow and be sustainable beyond the pilot phase.