Outreach     Diversity     Social Life      Contacts     Support Resources

Our Department

We study the Universe both to help solve the world’s problems and to open up new frontiers of understanding for humanity. Our enterprise is inherently global: we rely on the combined efforts of people from all over the world. It is also inherently open-minded: we embrace logical inquiry and empiricism, which unite us regardless of race, gender, sexuality, disability, and religious and political beliefs. We affirm the commitment of the department to maintaining a welcoming and protected space for science and thus for everyone who joins in our shared enterprise. This community page provides contact information for faculty, staff, and students who hold departmental positions that support this mission, as well as links to UNC resources ranging from confidential support to formal investigation of problems. We welcome input on further actions we can take to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in our department and in the larger world of physics and astronomy. We also thank the many members of our department who engage daily in creating a welcoming community.

Activity tables led by the Lopez, Kannappan, and Oldenburg research groups at the UNC Science Expo exploring the optics of feathers and butterflies, making construction paper galaxies with glue and glitter, and conducting laser experiments in a box.


Outreach is an important part of department life. The “Carolina Physics on the Road” demo show visits area schools and public events such as the annual UNC Science Expo, part of the North Carolina Science Festival. Most Friday evenings, astronomers staff the Morehead Observatory Guest Night, offering fascinating presentations and an opportunity to look through the telescope. The online Skynet control system enables anyone to take an astronomical image using one of many remotely controlled telescopes linked into its worldwide education and research network. Research groups, student groups, and individuals give outreach talks and host activity tables at schools, museums, and special events such as the department’s SHAPE symposium for high school physics teachers, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences “Astronomy Days”, and the Women and Math Program’s Marjorie Lee Browne Day. We also welcome visitors into our labs for tours and sometimes research experiences, through the Carolina ADMIRES program for high school students and two summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs (the CAP and TUNL programs).


Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all is key to the mission of the department. Our community is culturally diverse, with students from all over the world and an international faculty representing North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Our faculty is over 20% female (40-50% at the assistant/associate professor level), representing significant recent improvement over the national norm. Nonetheless like other physics departments we still have work to do to improve representation of women and minorities at all levels. We have committed to a sustained effort to remove barriers to success in our department, through self-education about best practices in admissions, hiring, mentoring, teaching, and review/promotion. After reforming our graduate admissions and mentoring, we were selected as an APS Bridge Program Partnership Institution in 2016, and this year we will further modernize our graduate course and exam structure. At the undergraduate level, we are engaged in a continual effort to improve advising, webpages, and other forms of communication, to equalize access to opportunities, mentoring, and networking. Self-education is important to our continued improvement, and in recent years many of our faculty and students have been exposed to materials on unconscious bias, test anxiety, the impostor syndrome, and microaggressions. So far this year we have held department-wide workshops on sexual harassment and LGBTQ sensitivity, and 22 members of the department are now official Safe Zone allies. Additional events focused on community dialogue are planned.” The Diversity Committee will also continue to work on expanding unconscious bias training and implementation of best practices in the realm of faculty and staff hiring, mentoring, and review/promotion.

Social Life

The department social committee organizes six department-wide events: a welcome back picnic, Halloween party, holiday party, winter party, spring picnic, and summer happy hour to celebrate the first year graduate students’ ascension. Additional social gatherings include special staff events, undergraduate club activities for Carolina Women In Physics and the Society of Physics Students, and graduate student outings including an annual trip to Kerr Lake. If you’re new to the department, please ask the Director of Undergraduate or Graduate Studies (as appropriate) and also staff in the main office to be added to all relevant department listservs so you’ll be in the loop about upcoming events. Also, reach out to the contacts below so we know to look out for you!

Faculty, staff, grad and undergrad students dressed in Hawaiian leis for the winter party and wacky costumes for Halloween. Watch out for Duane Deardorff juggling on stilts!


* Duane Deardorff, Director of Undergraduate Laboratories, Chair of the K-12 Outreach Committee deardorf@email.unc.edu
* Amy Oldenburg, Faculty Diversity Liaison aold@physics.unc.edu
* Christian Iliadis, Chair of the Department iliadis@physics.unc.edu
* Jon Engel, Associate Chair for Diversity engelj@physics.unc.edu
* Adrienne Erickcek, APS Bridge Partnership Co-Chair erickcek@physics.unc.edu
* Sheila Kannappan, APS Bridge Partnership Co-Chair sheila@physics.unc.edu
* Greg Smith, Staff Diversity Liaison, Chair of the Social Committee smithlg@email.unc.edu
* Fabian Heitsch, Director of Graduate Studies fheitsch@physics.unc.edu
* Joule Othman, Graduate Student Diversity Liaison gulden.othman@gmail.com
* Frank Tsui, Director of Undergraduate Studies ftsui@physics.unc.edu
* Women in Physics
* Jennifer Weinberg-Wolf, Women in Physics Advisor, Undergraduate Advisor jweinber@physics.unc.edu

Physics and Astronomy Undergraduate Academic Advising (scroll to bottom of page)
Physics and Astronomy Graduate Student Association (e.g., President, Social Officers)

* Denotes member of the Diversity Committee. Each member of the Diversity Committee is ready to hear from and try to help anyone who is experiencing identity-related stress in our department.

Note regarding confidentiality: Certain employees of the university, such as the Department Chair and Associate Chairs, are required to report certain violations (e.g., Title IX) if they become aware of them. If you wish to discuss a concern confidentially and are not ready to report it officially, please ask the person you are approaching what they can keep in confidence.

Support Resources

Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (office that coordinates many campus diversity efforts)
Graduate Student Diversity and Student Success (summary of diversity programs and opportunities for graduate students)
Student Success (resources to support undergraduates, with dedicated sections for transfer and first generation students)
Student Veterans Resources (resources for military veterans)
The Learning Center (services to help students succeed academically, including test anxiety info; see also this)
Accessibility Resources and Service (resources for students with physical or learning disabilities)
SAFE (resources for dealing with discrimination, harassment, violence, and stalking — the SAFE guide clarifies options)
Counseling and Psychological Services (mental health counseling)
Dean of Students Care Team Referral (request help for a student you’re concerned about — non-confidential, see SAFE guide)
University Ombuds Office (completely confidential resource for discussing any type of problem)
Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (private but non-confidential reporting of violations, trainings, etc.)