The few the proud: Juliana Sebolt, ’20, Grace Rohaley, ’20, and Olivia Krieger, ’19.
Held at 12 different locations around the United States and Canada each year, the American Physical Society Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics aims to spread awareness about the lack of women working the physics field, as well as connecting women who are studying the profession.
Sebolt, Rohaley and Krieger had the opportunity to attend the New Jersey conference this year on Jan. 21. The head of the department at Allegheny is Dr. James Lombardi.
More than 100 women were able to attend the location in New Jersey, and over 1,800 women attended the various locations across the United States and Canada.While at the conference, all of the attendees were able to listen to guest speakers and participate in workshops. This year’s keynote speaker for the New Jersey conference was Fabiola Gianotti. Other speakers included Jamie Valentine Miller and Emily Rice
In addition to their schedules of workshops and speakers, the three women were able to connect with their randomly assigned roommates.
“I enjoyed having the random roommate, for me we sat down and just talked about our schools and how different each of our physics departments were since she had gone to a much larger school than Allegheny,” Sebolt said.
High school students from various districts also had the opportunity to participate by attending the student-led poster sessions.
Rohaley presented during a poster session about “Biocompatible, Biodegradable and Responsive 3D LCE Cellulose Nanocrystal Composite Scaffolds.” In her presentation, Rohaley talked about how biodegradable foam can aid in the printing of 3D printed organs.
Krieger also presented at the poster session. Her work was on “High Pressure Studies on the Strength of Heavy Rare Gas Solids Ar, Kr and Xe.” Her presentation discussed the nature of bonding within condensed matters and the reactions of rare gas solids.
All of the work presented during these sessions was researched during various internships and research programs. Krieger was proud of her work and said it had a positive outcome for both she and Rohaley.
“We also were each awarded the best poster award for our respective areas of research,” Krieger said. “Only four people total got this award, and so, Allegheny was represented very well.”
The women said they were excited for the opportunity to meet with others from their fields of study, and have open conversations about not only their respective subjects, but also being women in the physics field.
Sebolt, Krieger and Rohaley decided to attend the conference because the physics department at Allegheny is small. This is especially apparent in regards to the ratio of female professors to male professors, since there is only one full-time faculty member within the department, Adelé Poynor.
“Only about 20 percent of the physics field is women,” Rohaley said. “This shows a lack of women for us to look up to.”
While at the conference, all three women said they were inspired, and think every woman should attend if presented with the opportunity.
Still stressing how empowering the conference was, the three women said attendees were able to speak about their own work, listen to women from across the country and learn about their experiences within their respective scientific fields.
Sebolt, Rohaley and Krieger said their favorite memory from the weekend was listening to a panel of three women speak about their experiences in the physics field.
“The panel was my favorite, since each of the women came from such different backgrounds,” Sebolt said. “They weren’t even all physicists so we were able to ask much more personal questions.”
The panel, the women said, was enlightening because every answer was formed by a diverse viewpoint.
The biggest takeaway from the weekend for the students was the empowerment they gained from meeting their female role models. Even though science was the primary focus of this convention, the three women agreed, empowerment was the real benefit. By attending this conference, they were even able to find new role models.
The students also felt welcomed by other conference attendees, and even felt that they could direct personal questions at speakers regarding their individual journeys.
The women all agreed that in a highly competitive field such as physics, it is essential to have these types of strong women as role models.