Hundreds of women gathered at three simultaneous conferences for undergraduate women in physics held January 16-18 at Yale University, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and the University of Southern California.
The conferences gave undergraduate women a chance to hear research talks, present their own research, learn about graduate school and career options, and network with other women in physics.
These conferences have been going on for several years. The University of Southern California held its first conference for women undergraduates in 2006, and has been holding them annually since. In 2008, Yale and UIUC held their first annual conferences. The three conferences were organized separately but focus on the same goals. The conferences were supported by NSF, DOE, and the universities that hosted them.
About 130 women undergraduates from around the Midwest attended the conference at UIUC.
In addition, a growing number of universities are forming organizations for women in physics. For instance, the Society for Women in Physics at UIUC has meetings and invites speakers to talk about career options and other topics.
At the UIUC conference Monica Plisch, APS assistant director of education, gave a keynote talk in which she described the role of APS in improving education and promoting diversity, highlighting the many programs APS offers, such as awards and scholarships for women, childcare grants, minority scholarships, lists of female-friendly departments, professional development workshops for women, and the PhysTEC programs to prepare future teachers. About half of the students at the conference said they were members of APS, according to Plisch.
Plisch was especially excited by the enthusiastic participation of so many women at the conference, as well as seeing seven female faculty members at the university, a contrast to only one female professor when she attended as an undergraduate. “I really feel like the face of physics is changing,” she said.