Toni Pitts receives Leadership in Diversity Award

Siv Schwink
11/14/2016

Toni Pitts, Coordinator of Recruiting and Special Programs, Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Toni Pitts, Coordinator of Recruiting and Special Programs, Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Toni Pitts, coordinator of recruiting and special programs at Physics Illinois, has received the Leadership in Diversity Award from The Office of Diversity, Equity and Access at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This award recognizes exceptional dedication to and success in promoting diversity and inclusion via research, hiring practices, courses, programs and events.

Pitts started at the University in October 1999 and has been with the Department of Physics for 13 years, where she works directly with prospective, incoming, and current students. Recognizing the great asset a diverse student body is to the department’s culture of creativity and innovation, Pitts has been a champion of outreach and community-building efforts that increase enrollment of students from groups historically underrepresented in physics.

Pitts coordinates the department’s undergraduate recruitment efforts, including student visits, departmental mailings, student call bank, and student/parent visit days. Her efforts have contributed to a 70 percent increase in physics enrollments over the last few years.

She is the primary coordinator of the Saturday Physics for Everyone program, which has given her the opportunity to work directly with about 150 students. She is also responsible for special programs, such as the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics. Pitts also runs the Department of Physics REU program, hosting a dozen students from other institutions at Illinois for a 10-week summer research program.

Pitts also coordinates with other programs, such as the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering and Illini Summer Academies to bring high school students to the physics department to learn more about a future in physics.

Pitts was presented with the award at the 31st Annual Celebration of Diversity on November 11, 2016.

Recent News

  • Accolades
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

Assistant Professor Bryce Gadway of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has been selected for the 2017 U.S. Air Force Young Investigator Research Program. Gadway is among 43 early-career scientists and engineers nationwide to receive this three-year award of $450,000. U.S. Air Force Young Investigators are selected based on demonstrated exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research in scientific and engineering areas identified as strategic to the US Air Force mission.

  • In the Media

A company founded by a University of Illinois physics professor has raised more than $1.5 million in venture funding this year, graduated from the UI Research Park's EnterpriseWorks incubator and this week announced it was selected for a project by NASA.

At its new 12,000-square-foot facility on Kenyon Road near Interstate 74 in Champaign, Inprentus manufactures diffraction gratings, an advanced prism of sorts used in laboratories around the world.

The company was founded by Peter Abbamonte in 2012.

  • Outreach

Because physics has its dark mysteries too, we have appropriated Halloween! Watch our Dark Matter Day video on our YouTube channel!

Watch the short video Dark Matter and hear leading-edge scientists explain what we know about one of the greatest mysteries of our time. What could it be? How do we know it’s there? And what ingenious methods are scientists, working in different subdisciplines of physics and astronomy around the globe, using to detect dark matter?

Astrophysicist Jeff Filippini, astronomer Felipe Menanteau, experimental nuclear physicist Liang Yang, theoretical particle physicist Jessie Shelton, and experimental particle physicist Ben Hooberman provide an accessible overview of some of the most exciting scientific research that is ongoing today.

This educational outreach video was produced by the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, under the direction of U of I Public Affairs Video Services.