“I can say without hesitation that it has changed my life. The sort of career that I want to have is much closer than a hazy dream now. It feels real, like something I can reach out and touch if I work hard enough at it.”
The APS CUWiP at Oregon State University was one of nine Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics that took place simultaneously across the United States on 15-17 January, 2016. At the OSU CUWiP, 140 undergraduate women physicists from the Northwest gathered at LaSells Stewart Center to present their research, to tour science facilities, participate in workshops, and to network with women professionals and with their peers. They spent an evening over dinner asking professionals from industry, academia and national labs about the many different careers they might pursue.
The weekend began with tours of science facilities in Corvallis, including Hewlett Packard’s analytical labs, OSU’s Physics labs, Electron Microscope facility, TRIGA reactor, Robotics Lab and the Hinsdale Wave Research Lab.
Participants heard an inspiring description of What Access Really Means by Mary James, Dean of Diversity at Reed College. Together with 1400 peers from the other CUWiP sites across the country, they heard Ginger Kerrick describe how her physics degree led her to the position of Capsule Commander at NASA. Natalie Roe, Director of Physics at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, described how research from the sub-atomic scale to the astronomical scale proceeds at her National Lab. Laura King, from Hewlett Packard, led them through an example of a STEM-in-the-private-sector career path from a startup company to large-scale industry. The questions from the participants kept coming, and one student summed up her experience afterwards, “I can say without hesitation that it has changed my life. The sort of career that I want to have is much closer than a hazy dream now. It feels real, like something I can reach out and touch if I work hard enough at it.”
The students engaged in selected workshops that fit their interests. They chose among workshops to help them chart a path through graduate school, to craft a compelling resume, and to present their successes confidently. Some learned about interactive teaching techniques and others explored the transition from community college to a four-year college and how to take advantage of the opportunities to prepare for the next step in a career. Another student said: “There were so many great takeaways from this conference and I am extremely grateful and appreciative …”
The poster session / resource fair was a great success. The students brought their research to Corvallis and spent an afternoon presenting it to their peers and to the many volunteers from regional colleges, universities and companies who came to support the event. LaSells was abuzz with science! There was plenty of time for discussion and networking. Over lunch, the students discussed the concerns of being women in science and took the microphone to address their peers and report their conversations. A science trivia night and a “BAH-fest” added some science fun to the proceedings and more time to make new friends. The students left with the confidence that they will be successful in a field still dominated by men, some new skills and knowledge, and a network of women peers.
CUWiP was organized locally by the Oregon State University Physics Department under the leadership of co-chairs Janet Tate and Allison Gicking and a team of twelve dedicated graduate students. National funding for the event came from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy Office of Science through a grant to the American Physical Society. Major local funding came from ONAMI, the OSU Research Office, and the OSU Division of Student Affairs. Many other OSU offices contributed generously as did local companies and individuals. A list of the sponsors is at http://physics.oregonstate.edu/cuwip/sponsors/