Toni Pitts receives Leadership in Diversity Award

Siv Schwink

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

  • Research
  • High Energy Physics
  • Particle Physics
The lead ion run is under way. On 8 November at 21:19, the four experiments at the Large Hadron Collider - ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb - recorded their first collisions of lead nuclei since 2015. For three weeks and a half, the world’s biggest accelerator will collide these nuclei, comprising 208 protons and neutrons, at an energy of 5.02 teraelectronvolts (TeV) for each colliding pair of nucleons (protons and neutrons). This will be the fourth run of this kind since the collider began operation. In 2013 and 2016, lead ions were collided with protons in the LHC.

Anne Sickles is co-convener of the ATLAS Heavy Ion Working Group, which will use these data.
  • Outreach
  • Quantum Information Science
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
  • Quantum Physics
  • Quantum Computing

A two-day summit in Chicago taking place November 8 and 9 has brought together leading experts in quantum information science to advance U.S. efforts in what’s been called the next technological “space race”—and to position Illinois at the forefront of that race. The inaugural Chicago Quantum Summit, hosted by the Chicago Quantum Exchange, includes high-level representation from Microsoft, IBM, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently joined the Chicago Quantum Exchange as a core member, making it one of the largest quantum information science (QIS) collaborations in the world. The exchange was formed last year as an alliance between the University of Chicago and the two Illinois-based national laboratories, Argonne and Fermilab.

Representing the U of I at the summit are physics professors Brian DeMarco, Paul Kwiat, and Dale Van Harlingen, who are key players in the planned Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST) on the U of I campus. The U of I news bureau announced last week the university’s $15-million commitment to the new center, which will form a collaboration of physicists, engineers, and computer scientists to develop new algorithms, materials, and devices to advance QIS.

  • Accolades

Loomis Laboratory has been awarded a third-place prize in the Energy Conservation Incentive Program of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This program, administered by Facilities and Services, both funds and recognizes efforts to reduce energy consumption through facilities upgrades. A plaque commemorating the award will be mounted in the Walnut Hallway. The award comes with a $26,000 prize for additional energy projects.

  • Research
  • Quantum Information Science
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is making a $15 million investment in the emerging area of quantum information science and engineering, a field poised to revolutionize computing, communication, security, measurement and sensing by utilizing the unique and powerful capabilities of quantum mechanics.