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Chemistry & Physics Double Major Receives TEAM-UP Scholarship

Houston-native Keslyn Stonum is one of only 31 African American students majoring in physics or astronomy nationwide to receive a TEAM-UP Together (TU-T) scholarship totaling $10,000. The award provides direct funding to scholars and physics and astronomy departments for initiatives focused on ensuring African American undergraduates thrive and obtain their degrees.

Physics and Chemistry Double Major Keslyn Stonum
Physics and Chemistry Double Major Keslyn Stonum working on summer research.

The TEAM-UP Together awards are part of the multimillion-dollar scholarship program that provides direct funding and support to African American undergraduate students majoring in physics and astronomy. A collective action initiative, TEAM-UP Together is a partnership between the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Astronomical Society, the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and the Society of Physics Students.

Stonum, a junior double majoring in Physics and Chemistry, participates in faculty-led research projects and is a member of TLU's Society of Physics Students chapter.

“I chose to study physics to have a basic understanding of the world around me,” she said. “To me, the TU-T scholarship is an assurance that African American physicists and astronomers belong in the physics and STEM community.”

TLU Physics Department Chair Dr. Toni Sauncy says the AIP TEAM-UP Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy project represents years of critically important work for understanding how higher education can best support and encourage African American students in physics and increase the disproportionately small numbers of students who complete bachelor’s degrees in Physics or Astronomy.

“The final report of the TEAM UP Task Force presented a compelling case for actions that should be taken to accomplish those goals,” she said. “Not only is the report chock full of photos of TLU students, TLU has awarded a larger-than-average number of Physics and Applied Physics degrees over the past decade to African American students who have gone on to successful careers in physics and engineering. This award is recognition that our relatively small physics program attracts, supports, and retains strong and competitive students like Keslyn who compare well with students from across the nation. As one of only 31 students awarded in this inaugural project, it is a real recognition of her potential.”

“These students have demonstrated their passion and drive for physics and astronomy, and we are thrilled to celebrate their achievements while helping to ease some of their financial burden,” said Arlene Modeste Knowles, TU-T project manager. “This is an exciting step toward our goal of doubling the number of African American students earning bachelor’s degrees in physics and astronomy by 2030.”

For decades, the percentage of African Americans earning degrees in physics has been egregiously and persistently low—reaching just three percent in 2018 according to an AIP survey. To address this issue, TU-T is comprised of two programmatic elements. The initiative supports students throughout their undergraduate journey and academic departments who implement programs to effect systemic change.

In addition to direct funding, this game-changing, equity-focused initiative will provide undergraduate scholars mentorship, research experiences, and a supportive community in which to thrive academically and to connect with others.

Awardees come from undergraduate institutions across the country, including seven Historically Black Colleges and Universities and one Predominantly Black Institution. Ten of the students are majoring in astronomy and astrophysics-related disciplines, while 21 are physics majors.