38th Annual MLK Celebration Leadership Award Recipient: Edmund Bertschinger

Edmund Bertschinger

Professor and Department Head, MIT Department of Physics

38th Annual MLK Leadership Award

Edmund Bertschinger is a physicist, professor, and head of the Department of Physics. He is recognized with an MLK Leadership Award for leading both his department and the Institute to foster a culture of inclusion.

“Professor Bertschinger has proven himself to be tireless and passionate in ensuring that every group has a voice,” Provost Chris Kaiser would say a year later in 2013, when announcing Prof. Bertschinger's appointment as MIT’s Institute Community and Equity Officer (ICEO).

Bertschinger joined the MIT faculty in 1986. He served as head of MIT’s astrophysics division from 2002 to 2007, becoming head of the Department of Physics in 2008. One of Bertschinger’s priorities as department head has been mentoring and supporting women and minorities, and he has actively sought perspectives on diversity within the department.

“Through the years, I have been inspired by many at MIT who have articulated to me a strong desire for our culture to be one of inclusion and caring,” Bertschinger said.​

As head of the physics department, Bertschinger has established initiatives to create a more inclusive environment and to attract more women and underrepresented minorities. By 2012, women would constitute 38% of MIT’s graduating seniors in physics, compared with a national average of 21%. The number of underrepresented minorities receiving degrees in physics at MIT would also increase.

“I have been impressed by Ed’s sincere commitment to increasing equity at all levels,” said biology professor Hazel Sive, associate dean of science. “As department head, Ed has made a strong effort to encourage a diverse set of outstanding students to seek training in physics, and has worked to promote a respectful climate within the department. These are key steps toward more equitable representation of different demographic groups amongst physics faculty at top universities.”