Black scientists in quantum physics

R.M. Davis wrote an insightful piece about the legacy of Black scientists in the field of quantum physics and how there’s an issue with getting more Black students into the discipline.

Experts say bringing more Black students into physics, including quantum physics, requires effort at all education levels. 

“This is a pipeline issue,” says James Whitfield, an assistant professor of physics at Dartmouth College. “Pipelines don’t open up just because you want to start getting people from them. You get people into the STEM tracks when they’re in middle school. From there it’s a decade of training until college graduation and another half-decade or more to get a doctorate. 

“But I need applicants for quantum computing now. We’ve got the graduate program up and running. There are job openings. There are faculty positions.”

Whitfield says that getting more African Americans into STEM fields in general could help with recruitment in quantum information science. “I think a lot of it is also just having the expertise to switch into quantum computing,” he says. “If a software engineer or a microwave engineer decides to switch over, retraining him or her takes far less time because the background is already there.”

I’ve covered this situation a lot on the site (There aren’t enough Black scientists and researchers in climate science, There still aren’t enough Black speakers at neuroscience conferences, Supporting Black students as they embark on their STEM journeys). Go read those articles for their respective issues. We need more Black students in STEM and all the work that comes with it. This broken record won’t stop until the system is broken down and a new one is created to help those who need it.

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