February 13, 2020
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Charles McGruder, III. Dr. McGruder is an experimental astrophysicist that has made it his priority to facilitate the entry of people of African descent across the diaspora into astronomical research.
Charles McGruder graduated from Caltech with a B.S. in Astronomy. Rather than stay in the US to complete his graduate studies, McGruder obtained his Ph.D. from University of Heidelberg in Germany in Astrophysics in 1972. Upon completion of his degree, Dr. McGruder became the first African American to study extragalactic systems.
Today, Dr. McGruder is the William McCormack Professor of physics department at Western Kentucky University. He heads a group of astronomers at his university who primarily are interested in active galactic nuclei but also gamma-ray bursts and extrasolar planets. His department has been very successful in securing funding that involves undergraduates in faculty-mentored research.
Legacy - Improving Physics Capabilibies on the African Continent
Dr. McGruder has made it his priority to facilitate the entry of young African Americans into astronomical research. After graduation, Dr. McGruder worked in sub-Saharan African countries. Dr. McGruder is a former president of NSBP and has been very involved with improving the state of physics on the African continent as the chair of the NSBP's international committee. He was very instrumental in the development of the African Astronomical Society.
Dr. McGruder has been especially active with the growth of astronomical research in South Africa. In South Africa, the National Astrophysics and Space Sciences Program (NASSP) – was created to train South African students to ensue the development of high level physics skills within SA. The program specifically takes graduates with bachelor's degrees in math or the physical sciences and prepares them to obtain Ph.D.s in astrophysics and related disciplines. However, there were no Black SA astronomers to serve as mentors and instructors. Dr. McGruder worked with other African American astrophysicists within NSBP to serve as mentors and instructors for this program. In the very next year after NSBP participation in the program, the number of black students in NASSP jumped dramatically.