We are always looking for outstanding students from all different backgrounds to bring their unique perspective and talents to LMPV – diversity makes us all perform better! Our philosophy on diversity and the approach we have taken to embrace it is detailed below.
1. Vision on the importance of diversity and gender equality.
We strongly believe that working with a diverse team of researchers is essential to create an organization that is effective in creative, cutting edge research, and forms an inspiring and safe place to work. A diverse team of researchers brings in multiple forms of expertise, different ways of working, and interpersonal relationships that together are much more than the sum of their parts. Such an inclusive way of working creates an atmosphere of creative thinking, collaboration and trust that propels research to levels that would never be achieved by individual researchers on their own. Moreover, a safe research culture can make individual researchers rise beyond themselves, leveraging their self-esteem in order to create strong personal growth for each individual.
We also realize that racial, cultural and international diversity create a group dynamic that strongly contributes to success and provides an environment that helps establish new forms of interpersonal relationships that would never form in non-diverse groups. These enhanced personal skills are strongly beneficial to build a successful career and a fulfilling life. These benefits apply to PhD students, postdocs and master’s students in the groups, but also directly benefit the group leaders. A balanced and diverse team brings uncharted talents and expertise that create a continuous learning experience for all members of the group. Next to all these tangible benefits, we also find that our diverse team makes the daily routine more colorful and joyous.
2. Efforts made to promote diversity and gender equality.
Hiring LMPV researchers: the LMPV department was founded in 2012, and over the past years we have gradually built it up to its present size, composed of 5 group leaders, 30 PhD students, postdocs, and master’s students, technicians and guests; a total staff of about 50 people. In hiring the PhD students and postdocs of the LMPV program we have always actively sought a diverse group of candidates. Our staff of PhD students and postdocs is fully gender balanced, with a 50/50 distribution between men and women. This is exceptional for a physics program.
Benefit of the doubt: In searching for candidates with gender, race, and background that are underrepresented in the LMPV department, we give candidates in those categories the benefit of the doubt: we invite them for interviews even if their application package does not immediately convince us. Often we have been surprised by candidates that turned out to be excellent, while their application did not give that impression at first sight!
Awareness: All LMPV group leaders took part in diversity training. We make sure to transfer the message about the importance of diverse teams and ways to achieve them to our group members. For example, we share the way we scout and hire talent, and we explicitly express our desire to create safe working environments where everyone feels safe in our group discussions.
Teaching: We all teach in the photovoltaics class of the Advanced Materials and Energy Program (AMEP) of the University of Amsterdam. In our classes we create an atmosphere of collaboration and trust, making everyone feel welcome and seen. We explicitly express the values of inclusiveness that we have established at LMPV. As a result, a large fraction (typically 50%) of the master’s students in the PV course select LMPV to carry out their master’s internship project.
Our team of group leaders and female associates: We are a group of five group leaders (three men, two woman), four of which (two men, two women) were hired as tenure-track group leaders. While funds were limited to further extend the number of groups (and thus fully balance the gender distribution) we have actively searched for female partners whom we have incorporated into our program as guests: Prof. Elizabeth von Hauff (VU), and Dr. Paula Bronsveld (TNO). They were offered an office at AMOLF to enhance interaction with the LMPV program.
Female (inter-)national collaborators: For our collaborations we actively search for female group leaders. We have ongoing collaborations with Professors Maria Loi (RUG), \Anna Fontcuberta i Morral (EPFL), Giulia Tagliabue (EPFL), Jovana Milic (EPFL0, Martina Schmid (Univ. Duisburg/Essen), Sophie Meuret (CEMES), Jenny Nelson (Imperial College London), Shujuan Huang (UNSW, Sydney), Anito Ho Baillie (Univ. Sydney), Annamaria Petrozza (IIT Milan),and Eline Hutter (UU). They all serve as a source of inspiration for the female talent in our department and in this way help them consider an academic career.
Role models: We make sure senior female LMPV team members can serve as a role model for other women in our organization by assigning them to institutional tasks that are visible, such as chairing the colloquium. When one of us took a sabbatical leave, a female PhD student and postdoc were asked to serve as interim group leader during the absence, thus forming leadership role models.
International initiatives: In our international collaborations, we stimulate diversity. For example, in our most recently awarded EU Proactive international collaborative project a women’s program is incorporated, with a dedicated budget, to attract female guest researchers who can serve as role models.
LMPV workshops: The LMPV program organizes quarterly meetings at AMOLF in which all LMPV researchers get together to exchange research results. Every meeting has an invited speaker from outside AMOLF, and we aim at alternating between male and female speakers. Every year in June we organize a workshop for the Dutch photovoltaics community with 4 international keynote speakers with a good gender balance.
Balancing family life: We actively express the notion that it is perfectly normal to have a family while being active as a researcher. We explicitly stimulate part-time work and the taking of maternity and paternity leave for group members with children.
Racial diversity: Much of the above focuses on achieving a gender-balanced department. A parallel challenge is to achieve more racial diversity in our department. We stimulate this by actively searching for racially diverse candidates in our hiring process. When we are unsure about the education of candidates from other countries, we do not discard the application, but actively seek information about the specific institution, for example by asking a team member from that country.
3. What is the success of the efforts? What has been achieved?
3.1. Gender balance
On 1-12-2021 the LMPV cohort of PhD students and postdocs was fully gender balanced with 13 men and 13 women. This is very unusual for a physics-based department, given the large gender imbalance in the population of physics master’s students. It testifies to the effectiveness of our many activities to achieve better gender balance in research.
3.2 Racial/international diversity
We have attracted a diverse mix of race and nationality in our program. Of the 53 PhDs and postdocs trained at LMPV (the 26 above and 43 that have already finalized their tenure at LMPV), a total of 63% are of international origin; 34% are of non-Western-European descent.
3.3 Balancing family life
The group leaders Alarcon, Garnett, and Ehrler and Polman, all had children during their tenure track time, thereby serving as role models for combining family life with work. They have taken or are taking maternity/paternity leave and worked part-time for a period of many years to take care of their children, serving as an example for others. Two female LMPV PhD students had a baby during their tenure at LMPV and two postdocs have children. Examples of female postdocs who had children during their time at LMPV and moved on as professors (Eline Hutter, UU) were, and still are, important role models to our PhD students. These are all part of a culture in which we promote a healthy family life.
4. How to safeguard diversity in the future?
The unique culture that we have built in the LMPV program over the last 8 years is now firmly enshrined in our way of working. With a 50/50 gender balance in our cohort of PhD students and postdocs, we have set an example, and as a result we now attract a continuous stream of women who apply for positions at LMPV because they see the benefits of working in a balanced team. As group leaders, we incorporate our values of diversity and inclusiveness in the classes that we teach to master’s students at the UvA. This creates an attractive place for master’s students to carry out an internship with the LMPV program, where they are further trained in our mode of working.
5. How is the policy disseminated?
As described above, this is a mode of working that we, as the four group leaders, have developed together, based on many discussions that we have had as we have built our department. The “dissemination of the policy” is thus naturally taking place through our mode of working. We hope the description on this website can serve as a source of inspiration for other departments and institutes in the Netherlands and abroad.