Candace Carducci ’15 and Mimi Sakarett ’15 recently attended the Northeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at Cornell University, affording them an opportunity to network with faculty, peers and professionals who study or work in physics.
The annual conference, which was one of several simultaneously held across the United States, brought together undergraduate women to share their scholarly work and advice, as well as their academic and professional experience with physics.
Through focus on education and careers, all of the conferences encourage interest in physics, particularly for undergraduate women. The conferences also call attention to the underrepresentation of women pursuing careers in physics and engineering in the United States, despite a talented pool of women.
“The conference was a great opportunity to talk to other undergraduate students who are studying physics and who are even majoring in other disciplines,” says Carducci, a double major in physics and computer science. “It was interesting to find out what other people are working on and what physics majors are doing after graduation. It was also a great setting for sharing ideas and sparking interest.”
Carducci says she was particularly glad to meet with peers and talk to like-minded students about their current academic work and interests. Currently, Carducci is working on a project with classmates for the National Solar Spectrograph Competition, which will be held in May.
“My work at HWS helped to prepare me for the conference because my studies have given me an excellent base of knowledge,” Carducci says.
At Cornell, the conference offered lab tours, panel discussions, research talks by a professional faculty, presentations about the successes of women in physics, student research presentations, and of course the interaction between women in this common field of study to network and share ideas.
Sakarett says attending the conference was not only a great experience, but it was also influential. After participating, Sakarett applied for an internship at Geneva General Hospital. She has since decided to shadow doctors in radiology, noting that’s where the fields of medicine and physics overlap.
“I have learned so much from these amazing physicians and I never would have chosen to shadow them had I not attended the conference,” Sakarett says. “I am also now considering the combination of M.D. and Ph.D., which was not at first on my horizon.”
Assistant Professor of Physics Ileana Dumitriu says the conference not only helped to bolster interest in the sciences, particularly physics, but also was the perfect venue for networking and highlighting the career opportunities one may pursue after receiving a physics degree.
“There still are not as many women working in physics professions as men,” Dumitriu says. “But there are many successful women working within the discipline and in related careers, and we continue to see a growing interest from female undergraduates.”
Today, the United State’s rank compared to other countries in the proportion of women filling these careers is lower in many cases, and so the wealth of knowledge must expand by introducing more talented females into these pathways. New developments in the sciences by promoting women in these fields will then make the U.S. competitive again.
The conferences strive to inform undergraduate women of their contributions to this community and how to reach their potential through career building workshops, research opportunities, and graduate school fairs. Two graduate students at USC who organized the first conference in January 2006 recognized the need of the transition of undergraduates in physical sciences and engineering.