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DOE video on PPPL’s Angie Capece aims to encourage girls in STEM fields

PPPL associate research physicist Angie Capece urges young women to pursue their passion in science and technology fields in a short video interview on women in STEM fields on the U.S. Department of Energy website.

In the video, “WomenInSTEM: A Physicist Focuses on Scientific Advancement,” Capece (pronounced “ka-pea-see”) discusses how much she enjoys her research on plasma-surface interactions.  She researches material science and plasma surface interactions, specifically the use of lithium coatings on metal surfaces in support of the National Spherical Torus Experiment. “It’s exciting because you get to play with things and see right in front of your eyes how things work,” Capece says in the video.

The video was filmed in February when DOE videographer Matty Greene and Ben Dotson, the DOE’s project coordinator for digital reform, came to PPPL to film the video, “Creating a Star on Earth,” which was posted to the website in March and also featured Capece.  She was also the subject of an article on the DOE website that was posted in March.

Inspired by Voyager

Capece recalls in the video how her interest in science began early in her childhood. “I was fascinated by the Voyager mission,” she explains, referring to NASA’s unmanned space missions into outer space. She went on to join the local Aviation Explorer Post in Allentown, Pa.  The video shows a photo of Capece as a teenager poring over a map during a meeting of the group. (Capece provided a few photos of herself for the video)

The video shows photos of Capece walking by NASA’s Atlantis and another photo of her inside the space shuttle. The photos date back to her work as a college student at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There, she worked on the solid rocket boosters and the thermal protection system for the space shuttle orbiter.  She also helped analyze a thermal tile from the space shuttle Columbia debris to determine the cause of failure. She went on to work as a graduate student at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. She came to PPPL in 2012 after receiving a PhD from the California Institute of Technology where she researched plasma-surface interactions in hollow cathodes for electric thrusters.

Serving as a role model

Capece says she is happy to serve as a role model in a video that encourages young women in the STEM fields. “I think it’s great that the DOE is doing videos like this,” she said. “You’re showing someone that went through middle school and high school and college and has been through all these hurdles and is now at this laboratory working on this cool stuff. It shows that it’s possible.”

Capece’s father helped foster her interest in science and technology from an early age by always encouraging her to figure out how to assemble furniture or fix things around the house. Capece said she would like to see more effort to discourage the kind of stereotyping in which parents offer girls dolls while encouraging boys to play with trucks. “It’s subtle things that I think prevent women from going into science,” she said.

In the video, Capece tells girls that the future of the U.S. depends on scientific advancement. She urges girls to take plenty of science classes in high school and then go on to find their passion in college, graduate school and especially in their careers. “Do something that interests you because ultimately you want to be motivated when you come to work every day,” she tells young women. “And it’s much easier to be motivated when it’s something that you truly love and you’re truly passionate about it.”


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

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