Katie Ram, Nina Madsen and Katie Christensen attended the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) which was held in Los Angeles at Harvey Mudd College, Pomona College and Cal Poly Pomona during the winter break. Here’s what they thought about it:
Katie Ram: With good fortune, I had the privilege of attending the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) for the third time. Each conference has provided a unique experience that has shaped and influenced my experience in the physics community.
My first year, I discovered the vast diversity of fields available to someone with a physics degree. Many misinformed peers had convinced me that I would only be able to teach or work in a lab, but at CUWiP I learned of many other careers and spoke with physicists working in everything from industry to astrophysics to law.
The Pacific physics department is a remarkable place for its students. Here I have found support and encouragement, and I rarely, if ever, felt foreign to the physics community. However, during my year studying abroad in Chile, I was not only an actual foreigner, but one of maybe 5 women in a physics class of over 100 students. That eye-opening experience and some discouraging statistics led me to question what sort of environment I would be entering after graduating from Pacific. However, a second venture to CUWiP motivated me to continue in my path. I was encouraged by the presence of 200+ women physicists, and learning about imposter syndrome helped me overcome underlying self-doubt. Panelists and peers shared not only their research, but their stories on overcoming gender stereotypes and insecurity.
This last CUWiP was helpful to me as an upcoming graduate. In addition to sessions on various graduate school options, I partook in discussions on work-life balance. A solid work-life balance is essential to a sustainable lifestyle and career, but Ph.D. programs and careers in science are notoriously difficult environments for establishing such an equilibrium. A diverse panel of physicists explained their personal routines and strategies for creating a work-life balance. Already experimenting with some of their approaches, I hope to incorporate some of their ideas into my lifestyle as I journey into my career.
Overall, CUWiP has provided me with the resources, information, and motivation that I needed when I needed them. I highly encourage any women physics students to attend, as the conference may reshape their perception of a career in physics.
Katie Christensen: The women in physics conference was very informative. Everyone who spoke had a clear message and was helpful to many of the women there. It was great seeing and hearing from successful women in the physics field, and reassuring to hear that their career path wasn’t as manicured as one would expect. It was comforting to be surrounded by hundreds of women who were all excited about physics. Regardless of the small population of professional women with physics degrees, and the adversity some women in physics might have faced, many of them have been successful in building WIP societies at their universities and getting other people, not just physics students, interested in STEM topics. Overall, the conference was well put together, and very successful in spurring drive in women to persevere in the world of physics.