The Rocky Mountain Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

by Alexis Lagan, student

This year has had a unique energy to it. Maybe it was due to the exciting things happening on campus. Perhaps it began in January, when the University of Utah had a surge of Women from all over the nation meeting together for the National Undergraduate Women in Physics Conference. The University of Utah was this year’s host for the Rocky Mountain region. The conference was filled with great speakers and inspiring discussion panels from familiar faces and from women across the country.

The key note speech, which was addressed over a webcam to conferences meeting everywhere, was given by Ms. Debra Fischer. Ms. Fischer is an astronomy professor at Yale University. She spoke on her research and discoveries in exoplanets, an ever expanding and enthralling area of astronomy. She spoke with confidence of her knowledge in her field and grace. When asked what her greatest challenge was as a woman in science, she simply said herself. She followed up by saying that due to the stereotypes she had heard all her life of challenges and struggles she will face because she is female, she didn’t have enough self-confidence to persevere. When she realized and let go of those negative thoughts, she was able to overcome anything she set her mind to, even when those around her believed otherwise. She set the bar high for women in science to reach towards, but gave them the steps to be able to strive towards it.

A favored portion of the conference was the poster presentation. It was a great opportunity to see what many of the other students were doing in their fields of study. There were great presentations from all over including University of Colorado, University of British Columbia, and California State University. Utah was well represented having four students from the University of Utah with great presentations. There were also great workshops and question panels for the women attending to get some much needed advice from peers, professors, and grad students. They provided insight for the attendees on how to look for and apply for REU programs and how important undergraduate research is when applying for graduate programs.

Azucena Yzquierdo from California State University, Channel Islands presents her poster to Sophia Dimas from the University of Utah, at the The Rocky Mountain Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics.

Something noted that was refreshing were the male attendees. Although the title is “Women in Science”, this annual conference does not discourage men from attending and taking part in the celebration of successful and confident women in the science fields traditionally held by males. They were very respectful to the women, and the women had the same respect for the men. No one dominates or discriminates for any reason, a lifestyle every one seeks.

The conference certainly brought a renewed and bright energy to campus. It helped begin the year with a spring in the step of all those who attended and spread to all the campuses of the students that attended. This vigor still carries through us as we step into this new academic year.

Women in Physics and Astronomy (WomPA) strives to foster a sense of community among women in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, encourage networking and mentoring across disciplines and career stages, educate ourselves and others about issues important to the advancement of women in STEM fields, and increase the visibility of women in physics and astronomy.

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