Women studying physics across Texas and adjacent states will gather at Texas A&M University this weekend for the South Central Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics as part of a broader national push to encourage and support women pursuing scientific and technical careers.

The three-day conference, which starts today (Friday, Jan. 13) and runs through Sunday (Jan. 15), is endorsed by the American Physical Society (APS) and targets undergraduate physics majors from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. The goal is to increase the number of women studying physics and other STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines through improved support, ranging from professional development opportunities to strong mentoring and success examples.

"It is critically important to our state, region and nation that we expand the pool of talent attracted to careers in science," said Dr. Sherry J. Yennello, Regents Professor of Chemistry and associate dean for faculty affairs in the Texas A&M College of Science and one of two co-principal investigators coordinating the event. "This conference serves to encourage women who have already expressed an interest in physics to continue on that career path."

Funded in part through grants from the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Energy, the event is one of a larger, nation-wide series of simultaneous conferences for undergraduate women in physics spanning five additional regional sites: Stanford University; the University of Washington; Yale University; the University of Tennessee; and Case Western Reserve University.

"The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M is a vibrant scholarly environment that has undergone tremendous growth during the last decade," said Dr. George R. Welch, professor of physics and astronomy and head of the department. "But like many physics departments, women remain underrepresented among our majors. This is something we actively try to change through outreach, for example, to elementary and middle school students as well as with events such as this, where we challenge our faculty and our undergraduate women in physics to help us reach out to other young women with the potential to become our future scientists."

The conference will feature a keynote presentation by Dr. Persis Drell, director and professor in the Department of Physics and Astrophysics at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). Drell's presentation, "An Era of Opportunities and Choices: A Physicist's Dilemma," will be delivered live at Stanford and simulcast to all other sites.

Texas A&M's program highlights several additional invited speakers, including APS Executive Officer Dr. Kate Kirby and Dr. Marianne E. Hamm, a 1976 Texas A&M physics graduate and founder of California-based AccSys Technology Inc. who, along with her husband Robert, Texas A&M Class of '77, has established multiple endowed scholarships at Texas A&M to support students pursuing physics degrees. The agenda also features panel discussions, student research talks, laboratory tours, a networking mixer and other social activities -- a jam-packed slate that Dr. Nancy Magnussen, director of Educational Outreach and Women's Programs in the College of Science and project co-principal investigator, says mirrors the real-world experience by design.

"We are hoping that conferences such as this one will encourage young women to pursue degrees in physics," Magnussen said. "Our goal is to provide multiple examples of successful women graduate students and scientists as role models and to give women the resources, motivation and confidence to apply graduate school. At this conference, our graduate student panel will offer insight into the graduate school process, while the career panel will feature women scientists from industry, academia and government."

All conference activities (excluding lab tours) will take place in the foyer of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy or the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium. Click here for the full agenda and additional information on both the conference and Texas A&M Science Outreach.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Nancy Magnussen, (979) 845-5587 or nancy@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

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  • Dr. Sherry J. Yennello

  • Dr. Nancy Magnussen

  • Dr. George R. Welch

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