College of Science

Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in Physics

Cal Poly Pomona Hosts Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) 2018

 

Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Science partnered with Harvey Mudd and Pomona College to host the American Physical Society’s (APS) Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics Conference (CUWiP). The three day conference is held simultaneously at 12 sites across the U.S. and Canada. The conference CPP participated in had the highest attendance of the 12 sites with over 200 women attending and our site streamed the keynote speaker, Patricia Burchat (Stanford) to the other 11 sites. The conference took place Friday January 12 through Sunday January 14 and Cal Poly Pomona hosted the Sunday activities which included a panel on careers in physics, a career exploration fair and breakout sessions on a wide variety of career options. The keynote on Sunday was Professor Schlichting whose work is focused on understanding planetary origins. The day concluded with a science show and ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

Two of the Cal Poly alumni who volunteered at the event were also part of Abramzon’s plasma research group. One was Yasmina Rousan (’16, physics and astronomy) who liked the research because she felt it added practical application to the theory she was learning. The conference was her third and Rousan, who works as an electrical technician at a power plant, drove in from the central valley to volunteer and serve on the panel, “Is Industry for Me?” The other alumni was Jase Nosal (’17, physics and astronomy) who represented his company, Supply Chain Optics at the career exploration fair. Both cited Cal Poly’s physics program and learn by doing philosophy as essential to preparing them for their careers. Their advice to current students was to get involved outside of class, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, diversify your interests and seek the support and help of your colleagues.Two of the Cal Poly alumni who volunteered at the event were also part of Abramzon’s plasma research group. One was Yasmina Rousan (’16, physics and astronomy) who liked the research because she felt it added practical application to the theory she was learning. The conference was her third and Rousan, who works as an electrical technician at a power plant, drove in from the central valley to volunteer and serve on the panel, “Is Industry for Me?” The other alumni was Jase Nosal (’17, physics and astronomy) who represented his company, Supply Chain Optics at the career exploration fair. Both cited Cal Poly’s physics program and learn by doing philosophy as essential to preparing them for their careers. Their advice to current students was to get involved outside of class, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, diversify your interests and seek the support and help of your colleagues.

What’s unique about this year’s conference is the cooperation of the three colleges. None of it would’ve been possible without the hard work of Professor Nina Abramzon and the unwavering support of the Physics and Astronomy department and the College of Science. With former Physics department chair, Professor Emeritus Steven McCauley’s support, Abramzon and Professor Emerita Mary Mogge began planning the event with a contact at Pomona College. After those discussions took place Harvey Mudd asked to join as well. Abramzon was instrumental in acquiring sponsorships and brought in JPL/Nasa as a platinum sponsor and General Atomics and Lawrence Livermore National Labs as silver sponsors. The CPP Office of Undergraduate Research participated as a bronze sponsor. Early on in the event planning she enlisted the help of third year Cal Poly Pomona physics and astronomy student, Sara Margala who was able to bring the perspective of an attendee into the planning of the 2018 event. Margala is the president of the Women in Physics club on campus. Her duties at the conference included overseeing about 20 volunteers and she was grateful for the support of her male colleagues from the physics club who also helped. Margala sees physics as a good foundation for any STEM field and is interested in condensed matter and materials. She’s part of Abramzon’s plasma research group and is investigating how cold plasma affects the surface energy of metal.


Physics and Astronomy student Sara Margala
Sara Margala, president of CPP Women in Physics club.

 

 

Alumni Yasmina & Jase
Alumni Yasmina Rousan ('16, physics and astronomy) & Jase Nosal ('17, physics and astronomy).

Two of the Cal Poly alumni who volunteered at the event were also part of Abramzon’s plasma research group. One was Yasmina Rousan (’16, physics and astronomy) who liked the research because she felt it added practical application to the theory she was learning. The conference was her third and Rousan, who works as an electrical technician at a power plant, drove in from the central valley to volunteer and serve on the panel, “Is Industry for Me?” The other alumni was Jase Nosal (’17, physics and astronomy) who represented his company, Supply Chain Optics at the career exploration fair. Both cited Cal Poly’s physics program and learn by doing philosophy as essential to preparing them for their careers. Their advice to current students was to get involved outside of class, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, diversify your interests and seek the support and help of your colleagues.

One attendee and volunteer who found ample support from her colleagues at the CUWiP conference is third year Cal Poly Pomona physics and astronomy student, Bianca Cruz. She attended last year’s conference and said it was life changing. Cruz’s interest in physics began with a near fatal electrocution she endured as a teen. The experience and subsequent medical treatment inspired her to learn about the physics behind what happened. As her interest in physics grew she found what many women in the field find, that as they progress in their education they find themselves in classrooms dominated by male students. This experience caused her to question herself. She wondered whether she was good enough and relates that she experienced imposter syndrome, which was the topic of a session at this year’s event. But Cruz’s experience at last year’s event was empowering because she found herself with a group of women, many of whom struggled with similar feelings. She felt a sense of community at the CUWiP conference and was inspired to hear from female role models who have successful careers in the field.

 

Physics and astronomy student Bianca Cruz.

Bianca Cruz, 3rd year physics and astronomy student.

 

 

Inspiring women to pursue advanced degrees and careers in physics is what CUWiP is all about and it’s a mission that is very important. The percentage of women who earn bachelor degrees in STEM disciplines is less than 40% but in physics that number is less than 20%. In terms of doctoral degrees, women attain slightly more than 50% overall but in physics that number drops back down around the 20% mark. It’s clear that more needs to be done to encourage women to pursue degrees and careers in physics and CUWiP is a good start. For more information and updates on future conferences visit: https://www.aps.org/programs/women/index.cfm Conference site: https://cuwipsocal2018.org/

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