OSU Physicists for Inclusion in Science (PhIS)
has had an amazing year! We are a student organization sponsored by the physics
department and our aim is to increase the number of female and underrepresented
minority physics majors on campus by fostering a more inclusive environment. We
have continued working towards that goal this year through a number of
education, mentoring, community building, outreach, and social events.
Our goal in the fall term was to focus on
mentoring and we were very successful. During orientation, we attended the
Women in Science luncheon with the first year women physics graduate students.
We were able to connect with people from other departments and meet and talk
with new students in our department. We also participated in both the Beaver
Community Fair and the College of Science Open House where we gave out candy,
buttons, and stickers to promote our group and signed up lots of new students!
This led to a significant increase in undergrad presence in our meetings. We
kicked off the term with both an undergraduate student mixer and a graduate
student mixer. Both of the mixers were heavily attended and gave us
opportunities to meet and engage with new students in the department.
We had our own table at Discovery Days
this year and made a laser maze demo. We gave it a Halloween theme for extra
spooky fun. We also handed out stickers commemorating the new Nobel Prize
winner, Donna Strickland. Outreach for elementary schoolers was a great
opportunity to mentor outside of our department. Kids and volunteers both
enjoyed this event a lot.
Our biggest mentoring event in the fall
term was our annual coffee breaks.Through this event, we provided the
opportunity for undergraduate students interested in physics to meet and talk
with physics graduate students and faculty members one on one in a casual
setting. This was a great opportunity for mentorship and to discuss research,
graduate school, and diversity-related issues in physics as well as build
community in our department. This is the third term we have organized this
event but the first time we involved faculty members and the feedback we
received was very positive.
The PhIS book club read “Testosterone Rex:
Myths of Sex, Science, and Society” by Cordelia Fine in the fall term, which
aimed to disprove the myth that sex inequalities in society can be attributed
to evolved sex differences in the brain and to men’s high levels of
testosterone. The book was very thorough in the scientific studies it presented
and touched on a lot of topics that are relevant to our own experiences of sex
and society, particularly working in scientific fields. We had a lot of new
members join our book club this term, including students from other departments.
Book club also had faculty involvement; our advisor, Professor Liz Gire hosted
one of our meetings!
In the fall term, PhIS continued to
sponsor a one credit seminar that meets once a week to discuss articles and
essays relating to social topics in physics. The seminar, Social Topics in
Physics (STiP), has a mix of undergraduate and graduate student attendance.
This seminar has been a great way for students to engage in interesting and
Working in STEM is emotionally and
mentally demanding so we made it a goal to check in with each other more often.
As a group, we really want to work on building a sense of community and support
in the physics department. We hosted our first board game night at the end of
the fall term which drew many students from outside of our group and was a fun
break from work and stress.
In winter term, our goal was to focus on
building community in our department. We achieved this through our biggest
event of the year, our second annual departmental dinner. Our dinner was
attended by graduate and undergraduate students, faculty members, and friends
and family of the physics department. This year, we held the event at the HSRC
on campus. The event included dinner, a silent auction, and trivia, all
prepared and presented by members of PhIS. It also featured a display of
self-described identities of members of our department, highlighting the
diverse range of experiences. The event was a big success and lots of fun.
For the third year in a row, PhIS
represented the physics department in the outreach event, Discovering the
Scientist Within. This is a workshop hosted by the Center for Outreach in
Science and Engineering for Youth designed to introduce middle school girls to
careers in science, technology and engineering. For the event, we showed the
girls how to make their own pinhole cameras, pushed them on the hovercraft, had
them solve our laser mazes, and gave them diffraction glasses. We were very
appreciative to once again have Ari Denison help the girls make light-art with
long exposure photography. Finally, as always, we ended the session with liquid
nitrogen ice cream.
In the winter term, the PhIS book club
read “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. As a book about the feelings,
symbolism, and realities associated with being Black in the United States, this
book was a departure from the themes of our recent book club books and was
particularly impactful. It fostered a number of very interesting and important
In the spring term, one of our main goals
was to focus on self-care, which we achieved through a number of self-care
group activities. We had two coloring events in Yunker Library where, as a
group, we worked on a large coloring poster together. Coloring is a great way
to relax and relieve stress and also provided an opportunity to socialize and
build community in our department. PhIS had a movie night and pajama party,
hosted at our advisor, Liz Gire’s house. Everyone got comfy and took their minds
off physics for a bit. When the weather got nice, PhIS went for a hike in Peavy
Arboretum, where we were able to destress and enjoy some of the beautiful local
trails. Finally, as a break during finals week, PhIS hosted our second board
game night in the department and everyone had a blast. We are looking forward
to more events like these in the future where we focus on taking care of our
mental health and creating an environment of communal support.
PhIS has also been continuing our
beautification efforts in order to make Weniger a more welcoming and inclusive
environment for everybody. Check out our newly decorated display cases! There
are boards featuring PhIS, STiP, and the History of Weniger on the 3rdfloor and
a look at “what a physicist looks like” in our department on the 2ndfloor. This
is an ongoing effort and we hope to have more display cases decorated (and
maybe even some more rooms painted) this summer.
PhIS tabled at the OSU Spring Drag Show,
hosted by the Rainbow Continuum, where we were able to increase exposure to our
group while supporting other groups on campus who similarly value diversity and
PhIS also participated in the Astronomy
Open House, hosted by the Astronomy Club. In our room, we had a number of demos
that demonstrated different representations of physics concepts. Attendees were
able to interact with gravity visually through a gravity well, audibly through
sonification, tactilely through 3D surfaces, as well as mathematically through
equations. They also got to interact with waves on a string as well as through
light waves and sound waves. In addition to these demos, we presented a diverse
array of scientists through scientist profiles that we displayed on the wall.
PhIS was able to offer Social Topics in Physics
as a seminar course again in the spring, with growing participation from
undergraduate and graduate students. Make sure to register for STiP in the
upcoming fall term!
The PhIS book club began reading
“Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues
from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway in
the spring term. This book was recommended to us by our 2018 Yunker lecturer,
Laura Greene. The book explores how a handful of scientists spread doubt and
confusion on the scientific consensus around the dangers of issues such as
tobacco smoke and global warming in order to oppose action. It is a fascinating
book that we will be continuing to read this summer.
We held elections this term for the 2019-2020
school year. Our new officers are President Acacia Patterson, Vice President
Gina Mayonado, Treasurer Abbie Glickman, and returning Secretary Mattia
Carbonaro. Our new chairs are Events Chair Georgia Carroll, Outreach Chair
Jaden Downing, Recruitment and Retention Co-Chair Kelby Hahn, and Website Chair
MacKenzie Lenz. Our new advisor is Davide Lazzati. Congratulations to all!
PhIS expanded our social media presence
with our new Instagram. Follow us @osu_phis.
Thank you to all of our members, supporters,
and advocates. We have had a great year and are really excited to continue our
efforts in the upcoming year!
By Gina Mayonado