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APS Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

Wanted: Undergraduate women interested in physics for January conference

By Jeanne Jackson DeVoe 

Applications are being accepted for the 2017 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) Mid-Atlantic regional conference to be held Jan. 13 to 15 at Princeton University. The conference will focus on workshops aimed at providing tools to encourage women to remain in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The event for some 200 undergraduates is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University. It is being organized by PPPL Science Education program leader Shannon Swilley Greco and others. The conference is supported in part by the DOE Office of Science and the National Science Foundation.

“The primary focus is to give participants the tools they need to remain in STEM,” Greco said. “Part of that is to expose them to the opportunities available but also to help them combat the effects of gender stereotyping and the feelings of isolation that might come from being a member of an underrepresented group,” Greco said. “This is done through practical workshops and intimate discussions, as well as networking and providing resources that help to build a support network and a community of women in physics.”

With less than a third of all physics majors pursuing careers as faculty at colleges and universities, workshops will discuss physics careers “beyond academia.” The conference will expose physics majors to the wide array of choices available to them in STEM fields, not only in academia but also in industry, technology transfer, and science education, among others. 

Students can apply for the conference online at cuwip.princeton.edu by the deadline of Oct. 14. The conference also has a facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cuwipprinceton. Preference will be given to female undergraduate physics majors from the Mid-Atlantic area and Puerto Rico who have never attended a CUWiP conference before.

The conference is one of nine CUWiP sessions in the United States, plus one in Canada, that are being run simultaneously. The keynote speaker is Nergis Mavalvala, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose remarks will be broadcast live from Massachusetts to all the CUWiP sites. Mavalvala worked on the Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) at the California Institute of Technology, which this year detected cosmic gravitational waves. Her research is focused on developing instruments for gravitational wave detectors.

Conferencegoers at the Princeton conference will come from six states (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Vermont) and Puerto Rico and will take part in workshops on careers, work-life balance, and diversity. Students pay for transportation (which they are encouraged to get from their departments) plus a $45 fee. The costs of the conference, lodging, and meals are covered. Most of the conference will be held at the University. PPPL will host tours of the Laboratory during the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 13.

One special feature of the Princeton conference will be a workshop in plasma physics, which Greco has dubbed “CUWiP Plus,” for about 20 participants as an extension of the conference. The workshop, funded by the DOE, will help PPPL recruit visiting faculty and recruit students for PPPL’s Student Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI), Community College Internship (CCI) and the DOE’s Visiting Faculty Program. The workshop will be one of three such events that PPPL plans for 2017.

Some of the rotating conference sessions will focus on gender bias and how it may affect women’s careers. These include a workshop on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues called “Out in STEM.” Plenary speaker Meg Urry, the Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Yale University, director of the Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Yale and past president of the American Astronomical Society, is known for her efforts to increase the number of women in physics.

Greco and Lyman Page, the chair of Princeton’s Department of Physics, applied to host the conference more than a year ago. Greco was inspired by a conference at Rutgers University in January of 2015 in which she was took part in a panel discussion. She has been planning for the conference ever since.

Princeton University departments contributing to the conference include the Departments of Physics and Astrophysical Sciences; the Center for Complex Materials; the Office of the Provost and others.

Students can apply online at cuwip.princeton.edu by Oct. 14.

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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