In a press release Monday, Saint Mary’s announced that the Henry Luce Foundation awarded the College a 5–year, $498,000 grant to create the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professorship in Physics.
“The grant will be used to hire an early-career female assistant professor in physics, adding a tenure track line that builds on the growing strength of STEM education at Saint Mary's,” the press release said.
President Katie Conboy said in the press release that the grant parallels the College’s efforts over the past decade to provide a high quality education to students in fields of science, math and engineering. Additionally, in the past five years since the physics program began, Conboy said Saint Mary’s has awarded 31 physics degrees to students.
“This grant from the Henry Luce Foundation allows us to build on our reputation as one of the best institutions in the U.S. for undergraduate women to study physics,” Conboy said in the press release.
According to Ian Bentley, an associate professor of physics at Saint Mary’s and project director for the grant, the new professorship will become the third full time professor dedicated to teaching physics at the College. With another professor, the College will be able to offer “new research and coursework opportunities,” the release said.
Bentley also said the physics program aims to address the existing gender gap in STEM fields, and it has been successful so far at garnering interest among students.
“The physics program at Saint Mary's College is vital for actively confronting the gender gap in physics and engineering,” Bentley said in the release. “Our physics major began 5 years ago and we have substantially higher than expected interest in the program, particularly because of how well it pairs with the College’s Dual Degree in Engineering program with the University of Notre Dame.”