By: Brokk Toggerson
Leaders of the UA Women in Physics Club won three awards this Spring. Raisa Trubko won a GPSC award for Leadership. Sarah Jones won a Physics award for Service. Most recently, the entire Women in Physics (WiP) club won the WISE award for Excellence in STEMM Diversity. PhD student Trubko said her motivation to found WiP in 2013 was “to help all students, especially women and other underrepresented minorities, feel more included in the physics department as well as to raise awareness for issues related to gender inequality in STEM fields. We have gotten a lot of support for the UA WiP club from the Physics Department faculty, staff, students, and post-docs of all genders.” Professor Alex Cronin said “The UA Women in Physics club officers have drummed up a bundle of energy and organized lots of very useful events for our department such as career seminars and brown bag lunch discussions." They also organize outreach activities in the Tucson community to help get kids interested in physics.
As part of their mission to raise awareness, UA WiP hosted a series of brown bag lunch discussions where faculty, students, and colleagues got together to discuss recent articles related to women in STEM and the STEM work environment. “These brown-bag lunches are a great venue to talk about cultural topics and deep issues that are important for any scientific community,” said Cronin.
The UA Women in Physics club promotes diversity in scientific workplaces by hosting career-seminars with speakers from companies such as Google and Boeing, and academic organizations such as The Joint Quantum Institute and the Institute for Theoretical Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics. Recently, 20 students with the UA WiP club toured Raytheon's facility here in Tucson to investigate opportunities for physicists and to discuss how corporations address diversity issues. “I received many positive comments on how much the students enjoyed the Raytheon tour and found the Google and Boeing events very useful,” said UA WiP president, PhD student Sarah Jones. “We plan to tour other companies in the region to help students from UA Physics network with more industry leaders.”
The Physics Department Head, Sumit Mazumdar said “I am extremely grateful to the Women in Physics club for their efforts to promote diversity and for their community outreach activities. Physics in particular has had a bad rep for a long time for being women-unfriendly, and the club's activities here are instructive for us while also projecting an inclusive image of our department. The outreach activities of the club bring home the message that science is for everyone, - a very valuable lesson at a time when scientific awareness will play a greater role than ever in improving the quality of life worldwide.” Mazumdar continued, “I would like to also take this opportunity to thank our generous donors, in particular alumnus Dr. John Engel, who make it possible for the department to sponsor the club's activities.”
Outreach Coordinators, PhD students Jenna Bergevin and Nathan Lysne said “In addition to the events we host for the students in the UA Physics Department, we also feel it is important to organize and participate in community outreach events as a way of enhancing the visibility of women in STEM fields, especially physics. This is why we engage with students at local Tucson schools and teach them about physics concepts like Newton's Laws of motion in a fun and interactive environment with demos and activities.”
“I like WiP’s dual focus on professional development and community outreach. I've been able to learn more about STEM careers as well as teach kids about science,” graduate student Sophia Chen said. “It's really cool that in addition to doing exciting physics research, the members of WiP are able to engage multiple communities in such a relevant way."
A complete list of Women in Physics's activities and additional information can be found at their website.