Kathleen Kelly G’15, the event's head local organizer, agrees with Schwarz. “Renee Horton was fielding questions back at her hotel until one in the morning,” says Kelly, a graduate research assistant at Syracuse.” It goes without saying that everyone was moved by her story.”
The weekend featured eight other workshops, whose topics ranged from applying to graduate school, to network building, to writing about research. Common to all of them was what Schwarz described as a “steady stream of questions” from attendees that “broke down into smaller groups for more in-depth discussion.”
For Kelly, one of the more poignant moments occurred near the end of the conference, when everyone pledged to keep in touch. “There was a question at one of the workshops that turned into a discussion about how all of the participants, panelists, and speakers could keep the conversation going, even after they returned to their home institutions,” she adds. “That’s when I realized the conference was a success.”
Yudaisy Salomón Sargentón, an administrative assistant in Syracuse’s physics department, says CUWiP was rewarding for organizers and attendees alike. “It’s fulfilling to be part of a project that encourages, supports, and advocates for women to be themselves and to thrive in an environment where they’re the minority,” she says, alluding to science’s “white-man-in-lab-coat” stereotype.
Attendees were also treated to presentations about cutting-edge research. For instance, Cristina Marchetti, the William R. Kenan Professor of Physics at Syracuse and a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences, talked about up-to-the-minute developments in soft matter—specifically, how she uses theory and computation to better understand the behavior of swarms of active matter, from cells and bacteria to flocks of birds.
“We wanted participants to soak up as much information as possible,” says Schwarz, whose own work focuses on the mechanics of cell biology.
Other highlights included a keynote address by Ginger Kerrick, NASA’s first female Hispanic flight director, who spoke via satellite from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), and a plenary address by Rhonda Peters James, an Intel executive who stressed the importance of personal branding and networking.
Amber Lenon ’16, a research assistant in Syracuse’s physics department, found the speakers particularly helpful. “I learned that it’s 100-percent okay to be different, to be confident in the choices that you make, to have a good group of mentors," she says. "I also learned that it's okay to occassionally struggle."
For Kimberlyn Bailey, an undergraduate at both Le Moyne and SUNY Oswego, the weekend provided fresh insight into the impostor syndrome, a recently coined phrase referring to high-achieving people, mostly women, who are afraid of being “found out” or exposed as a fraud. “I learned how pervasive and unfair this syndrome is—the feeling that everything you’ve earned is a fluke, rather than an indication of your talents and merits,” Bailey says. “Having heard from powerful, inspiring women who have overcome impostor syndrome, I’m in a better position to overcome it myself.”
The conference culminated with a college and job fair, featuring representatives from more than a dozen organizations, including IBM, Corning, Cryomech, Cornell, and Penn State. Afterward, there was panel discussion whose participants reflected the breadth and depth of physics scholarship: LaToya Crayton ’06, a medical physicist at a USMD cancer treatment center in Dallas; Wanda Padula, a physics teacher at Liverpool High School in New York; Linda Barton, an associate professor of physics at the Rochester Institute of Technology; and James.
Additional support for the Syracuse CUWiP came from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice President for Research, IBM, INFICON, Cryomech, and Boston Scientific.
Other CUWiP sites were Black Hills State University; Georgia Institute of Technology; Old Dominion University and Jefferson Lab; The Ohio State University; Oregon State University; the University of California, San Diego; UTSA and Southwest Research Institute; and Wesleyan University.