Polaris Mentoring Program

Polaris Logo

Polaris Mission Statement

Polaris is a partnership between undergraduate and graduate physics and astronomy students at The Ohio State University dedicated to fostering a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible undergraduate physics experience in the OSU Departments of Physics and Astronomy. We are a student-run organization developed in collaboration between graduates and undergraduates. Our focus lies in the augmented retention of underrepresented and non-traditional groups in the physics and astronomy BS programs by providing professional and academic mentorship for those groups. We seek to aid undergraduate students in creating and maintaining an inclusive and supportive learning community. 

Polaris Goals

Polaris strives to improve aggregate retention of underrepresented students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at OSU. To do this, we hope to improve three key factors that lead to increased student retention:

  1. Science identity
  2. Self-efficacy
  3. Sense of belonging

To achieve these goals, Polaris currently runs two programs.

The URSA Program

A two-week summer residential pre-arrival program for incoming under-represented students interested in Physics or Astronomy. The URSA 2022 Program will run from August 6 – August 19.

The application link is located here, once it is available. The deadline for the application is Friday, July 1, 2022.

Unfortunately, due to the overlap with international student orientation, we are not able to accommodate international students at URSA. International students are still welcome to participate in Polaris during the school year.

The Polaris Mentorship Class

A year-long course (1 credit for each semester) that pairs 1st- & 2nd-year students with upper-level mentors. PHYSICS 2050.01 (Autumn) and PHYSICS 2050.02 (Spring). New for the 2022-23 school year, we will be offering two sections of the course.

Polaris is a member of the Access Network, a consortium of similar student groups at nine universities. We are supported by the Departments of Physics and Astronomy, The College of Arts & Sciences, Professor Laura Lopez, and Professor Annika Peter.

Learn more about Polaris and URSA below! To contact the Polaris leadership team email OSUPolaris@osu.edu



Students working in the Polaris Classroom

The Polaris Mentorship Class is a year-long course for students in their first two years in OSU physics, math, and astronomy. The goal of the program is threefold: firstly, students will come to understand the status of diversity and inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and the benefits and challenges that people from various backgrounds bring to STEM as students. Secondly, students will understand how to successfully maintain a mentor-mentee relationship, including developing goals, communicating effectively, and harnessing mentorship as a step to research or academic success. Finally, students will be given time with mentors during each class period to work effectively on achieving the goals they have established. Some class days will be devoted to career development, skill building, and planning. As part of the course, students will be paired with mentors who are upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.


Course # PHYSICS 2050.01

The fall semester of the course will focus on OSU resources, diversity and inclusion in STEM, and issues faced by underrepresented groups. Each class period will consist of a presentation or activity on some topic followed by small/large group discussions. Examples of past classes include:

  • Study Skills and Academic Resources
  • Mental Health and Work/Life Balance
  • How to Talk about Diversity and Inclusion in STEM
  • Imposter Syndrome and Stereotype Threat
  • Implicit Biases

Course # PHYSICS 2050.02

The Spring semester of the course will devote more time to career development and student projects. We will discuss summer research/internships, graduate school, and careers pursued by people with Physics and/or Astronomy degrees. Students will be introduced to research at OSU by completing a small research project with their mentor during the second half of the semester. The Polaris course will culminate with a poster presentation about the students' work. 

To enroll, contact your undergraduate advisor


Polaris mentors are graduate and upper level undergraduate students in the Physics and Astronomy Departments. Mentors are required to attend a mentor training workshop at the beginning of the fall semester, attend and participate in the weekly Polaris course meetings, develop and guide mentees through a small research project (with support from leadership).

Being a Polaris mentor or URSA volunteer is a great way to give back to the Physics/Astronomy community and to develop mentoring skills. If you are interested in getting involved in Polaris, please contact us!


The Undergraduate Residential Summer Access (URSA) Program is a two-week summer residential program for incoming first-year or transfer students taking place directly before the beginning of the Autumn semester. Through URSA, students will be introduced to OSU’s campus, physics and astronomy facilities, and graduate student participants. We will discuss topics surrounding the nature of science, how to deal with likely first-year problems, and how diversity and equity interact with STEM. Students will complete a scientific group project, utilizing the skills learned throughout the program. On the weekends, URSA facilitators will lead social and team-building activities.


URSA's goals include:

  • Modeling science as it is practiced
  • Building a peer and near-peer community
  • Teaching skills for effective group work
  • Building a metacognitive and meta-affective toolkit with participants
  • Sharing knowledge about diversity and equity in scientific institutions

Unfortunately, due to the overlap with international student orientation, we are not able to accommodate international students at URSA. International students are still welcome to participate in Polaris during the school year.