UCF physics doctoral student Brian Zamarripa recently landed a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to study the gender disparity in the field of physics.

According to the American Physical Society, fewer than 20 percent of undergraduate and doctoral students who earned degrees in physics in 2013 were women.

Zamarripa hopes to change that. He wants his work to support women’s interest in physics and their continued advancement. With parents hailing from Mexico, Zamarripa is part of a minority population himself. He believes his own experience as a minority can help him advocate for other underrepresented individuals, such as women.

Zamarripa found his way to UCF by participating in the American Physical Society’s Bridge Program, which is designed to assist underrepresented minorities in their pursuit of physics graduate degrees. https://sciences.ucf.edu/physics/graduate/ucf-bridge-program/. He started the doctoral program in the UCF Department of Physics last summer.

He earned a bachelor’s of science in physics from the University of Texas at El Paso before enrolling at UCF to pursue a master’s degree. He is a graduate teaching assistant and is working on a variety of physics education.

The NSF fellowship will allow Zamarripa to study the differences in students’ attitudes toward physics. He said some studies show undergraduate men and women differ in the way that they think about physics. One of his goals is to figure out what keeps women interested in physics and to promote those factors through workshops or other initiatives.

“Being able to positively change something for other people is my dream,” Zamarripa said. “I love this work and want it to make an impact.”