Dear APS Community,
The recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the ensuing events of this past week are a stark reminder of the long history of racial inequity in our country, and the injustice, oppression, and fear that black people in our country continue to face on a daily basis. They are a reminder that we’ve seen no meaningful change in our country since the killings of Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and countless others. They are a reminder that we have yet to break the chains of institutionalized racism woven into the birth of our country, when black people were property, and our economy and most venerated institutions were built using slave labor. Continued conversations about race and racism are not enough. We must take action to create meaningful change.
First, to be crystal clear: we will not tolerate racism in our APS community. We are building a safe community in which we can productively engage in learning. Not only in the classroom and not only on scientific topics, but on issues like racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion which affect our learning community and promote, or inhibit, our best work as scientists and leading meaningful and productive lives as humans. We have made good progress as a community in understanding each other, revealing our biases, and embracing change for the better. But, we have much work yet to do.
As educators and students in an educational institution, we have an obligation to promote thinking critically about complex problems, cultivating compassion for others, embracing and grappling with uncomfortable truths, and creating solutions for our collective path forward. Our mission together now is more vital and critical than ever, given the uncertainties of living in a pandemic and feeling the fabric of our society coming apart in the face of failure to address continuing inequities.
We don’t presume to have any easy answers here. But we will do our utmost to work with you to make APS and our society a better place in which to work and live. We know that many in our APS community are taking action individually. Today in our faculty meeting, we’ll discuss actions we can take as a department, and we ask you to contribute your ideas. We can only succeed in our efforts if we work together and harness the collective wisdom and experience of our community.
Finally, we know many of you are feeling vulnerable during these uncertain times. Please reach out to us if you feel unsafe or need help. We will do what we can to direct you to needed resources, or just talk. Our doors are open.
Nils, Dave, Kevin, Ann-Marie, John B., Steph, Troy, and Jose
The APS Executive Committee and Staff
In case you missed our virtual commencement ceremony, the video is here.
The Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences is one of the few programs that combines both astrophysics and planetary science, providing a unified view of space sciences; the solar system and comparative planetology; stellar and galactic astronomy; and cosmology. Students are given hands-on experience with telescopes, optics, instrumentation, and computer image processing and modeling.
The department’s general astronomy track lends itself to a career in education, science journalism, science policy, information technology, science management, or technical work where a graduate degree is not required.
The more math-intensive astrophysics/physics track is intended for students who wish to do research and continue on to graduate work in astronomy or planetary sciences. This track also lends itself well to a career in technical work related to the field.
Our PhD program allows graduate students to practice teaching, assist in cutting-edge research, and begin to take part in the larger professional astrophysics community.