New Student Research Foundation Study Finds that Students from All Backgrounds Feel the Same Way about Physics

In 2017, the Student Research Foundation asked 16,129 American high school students how they felt about the STEM subjects they were studying. The research was conducted in collaboration with our STEM Research Consortium partners, the American Association of Physics Teachers, National Girls Collaborative Project, and the National Association of Biology Teachers.

Although students from different socioeconomic backgrounds had different levels of interest in pursuing careers in STEM, the study found something interesting . . .

An equal percentage of students from all socioeconomic groups – 6% – really likes studying physics.

As a subset of STEM students, these “Physics Fans” have an affection for physics that is somewhat unusual.

Physics seems to be the great equalizer! Let’s take a closer look.

An Equal Percentage of Students from All Socioeconomic Groups Likes Physics

Of all the STEM subjects the survey researched, only physics was equally likely to be the favorite subject from students who come from historically underrepresented groups (URGS) and overrepresented groups (ORGs). Members of the URG cohort included students from less wealthy families, female students, and Hispanic and African-American students. Members of the ORG cohort are mostly Asian and White students who come from more well-to-do households.New Research Identifies "Physics Fans" Who Have an Affection for Physics

Yet Overall, Fewer Members of the URG Category Aspire to All STEM Careers

Overall, 63% of all male students aspire to STEM careers, compared to only 26% of females.

But now, things become more complex. These are the percentages of different racial and ethnic groups who aspire to all STEM careers:

  • 62% of Asians
  • 50% of Whites
  • 44% of Hispanics
  • 35% of African-Americans

As those percentages show, STEM ambitions differ among members of different groups. But an equal percentage of members of all groups are Physics Fans. We can only wonder why.

Students Who Are Confident about their STEM Abilities Are More Likely to Aspire to STEM Careers

The study also found that 72% of all male students are apt to have high confidence about their STEM abilities, compared to only 37% of female students. Also, members of ORG groups are significantly more likely to have confidence in their STEM abilities than are members of URG groups.

But again, attitudes toward Physics remain pretty consistent across male and female students, and across members of different racial and ethnic groups.

Is Physics the Magic Bullet in the Future of STEM?

The researchers who conducted the survey had an important suggestion for increasing the numbers of students who are planning STEM careers. They recommended . . .

“Encourage Physics Fans to see their favorite subject can be their life’s work – and change the face of Physics.”

Are you a future Einstein or are you looking to explore options other than Physics? We Invite You to Explore All Your Career and College Options . . .

Participate in the National Career & College Pathway Study to gain new insights about making educational decisions that align with your interests, passions, and aptitudes. Students who complete the free career test for high school students will receive information on college and career opportunities which match their interests.

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New Student Research Identifies "Physics Fans" - Student Research Foundation