Physics Colloquium
Dr. Geoff Potvin
Clemson University
Department of Engineering & Science Education

Geoff Potvin


Towards an Understanding of Graduate School Success and Its Impacts on Scientific Careers

102 Cardwell Hall
March 25, 2013
4:30 p.m.

Graduate-level physics has been understudied in comparison to other levels of education, in part due to its small size and due to the complexity of the graduate experience.  Graduate programs often continue to be organized in ways which have developed organically over decades, rather than as the result of an intentional, evidence-driven cycle of research, assessment, and practice.  This has resulted in stagnant growth, retention rates, degree completion times and especially low representation of women and other traditionally marginalized students. Further, the factors that lead to successful graduate outcomes remain the subject of much speculation and private empiricism.  Drawing from research on student motivations, graduate school outcomes, and career productivity [1-4], I will present evidence for factors that are critical to the development of productive physicists (which are often overlooked in graduate school), explore the impact of the graduate school experience on the careers of physicists, and discuss directions for future reform efforts.   


[1] G. Potvin. The back page: Thinking seriously about doctoral education in physics. APS News, 21(4):8, 2012.  

[2] G. Potvin and R.H. Tai. Examining the relationships among doctoral completion time, gender, and future salary prospects for physical scientists. Journal of Chemical Education, 89(1):21 – 28, 2012.  

[3] Z. Hazari, G. Potvin, R. H. Tai, and J. Almarode. Relating motivational orientation to indicators of success for physical scientists. Journal of College Science Teaching, 41(4):90 – 98, 2012.  

[4] Z. Hazari, G. Potvin, R. H. Tai, and J. Almarode. For the love of learning science: Connecting learning orientation and career productivity in physics and chemistry. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res., 6(1):010107, May 2010.  


Geoff Potvin has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering & Science Education at Clemson University since 2008, and is the inaugural Graduate Coordinator of Clemson’s PhD in Engineering & Science Education. He teaches courses in undergraduate mathematics and physics as well as graduate STEM education.  Previously, he completed a doctorate in theoretical physics focusing on gravitational aspects of string theory at the University of Toronto and held a postdoctoral position in science education at the University of Virginia.  


Refreshments in CW 119 at 4:15 p.m.