About Polaris

What is Polaris?

Polaris is a partnership between undergraduate and graduate physics and astronomy students at The Ohio State University dedicated to fostering a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible undergraduate physics experience in the OSU Departments of Physics and Astronomy. We are a student-run organization developed in collaboration between graduates and undergraduates.

Our focus lies in the augmented retention of underrepresented and non-traditional groups in the physics and astronomy bachelors of science programs by providing professional and academic mentorship for those groups. We seek to aid undergraduate students in creating and maintaining an inclusive and supportive learning community. 

Our Goals

Polaris strives to improve aggregate retention of underrepresented students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at OSU. If you come from an underrepresented or marginalized group, you may face additional challenges along the way. The Polaris organization can be a great resource for you, especially if you identify as: 

  • BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) 
  • Hispanic/Latinx 
  • AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander) 
  • A Person with a disability/chronic illness/neurodiverse identity 
  • LGBTQIA+ (including transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex) 
  • Women and Gender Minorities 
  • Low income, first generation and/or non-traditional student 

To do this, we hope to improve three key factors that lead to increased student retention:

  1. Science Identity
  2. Self-Efficacy
  3. Sense of Belonging

Polaris Initiatives

To achieve our goals, Polaris currently runs two programs within the Physics and Astronomy Departments at OSU.

The Undergraduate Residential Summer Access (URSA) Program

The URSA Program is a two-week residential early-arrival program for incoming under-represented students interested in Physics and/or Astronomy. During URSA, students are introduced to OSU’s campus, participate in cohort-building activities and social events with peers, engage with interactive lessons and workshops, and complete a mini group-project.

URSA takes place during the first few weeks of August prior to the Fall semester. For more information about URSA, including how to apply, follow the link to the URSA page.

The application form for URSA 2024 is now live!

Applications are due July 8th, 2024!


The Polaris Mentorship Course

The Polaris Mentorship Course is a year-long course (1 credit for each semester) which pairs 1st & 2nd year under-represented undergraduate students in Physics and Astronomy majors with graduate student mentors. In the fall semester, we address topics including imposter syndrome, science communication, and belonging as a scientist. In the spring, students are exposed to topics in professional development and work with their mentors on a mini research project culminating in a poster session at the end of the semester.

To enroll in the Mentorship Course, look for PHYSICS 2050.01 (Fall) and PHYSICS 2050.02 (Spring) when registering for courses. For more information, follow the link to the Mentorship Course page.

Polaris Supporters

Polaris is a member of the Access Network, a consortium of similar student groups at nine universities. We are supported by the Physics Department, the Astronomy Department, The College of Arts & Sciences, Professor Laura Lopez, Professor Annika Peter, and Professor Chris Hammel.

Getting Involved

The Polaris leadership team is involved in many projects within the Physics and Astronomy Departments, and we are always looking for members of the academic community (undergraduates through faculty) to aid in advancing our goals.

If you are aligned with our goals of improving retention of underrepresented students in Physics and Astronomy, committed to cultivating a diverse and equitable academic environment within these Departments, and interested in advancing Polaris initiatives, please follow the link to the Polaris – Getting Involved subpage.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about Polaris initiatives, programming, or other organizational content, please reach out to the Polaris leadership team at OSUPolaris@osu.edu.


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