This weekend, over 170 women from 55 campuses across the Northeast came together on Yale’s campus for the American Physical Society’s annual Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CuWiP).
Held from Jan. 16 t0 18, the conference was run simultaneously with seven other CuWiPs around the country for the ninth consecutive year. Organized by a team of 10 students, led by Megan Phelan ’15 and physics professor Sarah Demers, the conference drew women passionate about their future work in physics for a weekend of discussion with their peers.
“I hope [attendees] realize that people who have gone on in physics have all struggled,” Demers said. “One challenge is that people jump pretty quickly to the idea that I’m not good at this, and women are more likely to give up because they don’t see themselves as a typical physicist.”
Physics professor Meg Urry gave a talk about why there are so few women in physics, arguing that gender bias is a main cause of the disparity.
“I’m tired of seeing women disappear from physics,” Urry said on.
According to multiple students interviewed, Urry’s talk was a highlight of the conference.
Other speakers also emphasized the existence of a gender bias against women in physics and other disciplines. Demers noted that many female physics students feel guilty about receiving extra support because of their gender. However, Demers said that any support given to female students exists to combat an implicit bias against them.
Julia Cline, a senior at Williams College and an attendee of the conference, said in her grade there are only two female physics majors out of 17 in total.
Students and organizers interviewed said the conference brought together a community of women passionate about their physics research.
Phelan said she hopes that attendees felt inspired by the conference speakers and that conversations about women in physics persist after CuWiP.
“There are almost 200 people here, and over a thousand in total at the simultaneous conferences,” said physics major Carolyn Zhang ’17. “It’s been great to find a community of women who are pumped about their research or their studies.”
Demers added that she hopes the attendees feel less isolated as female physicists than they did before the conference.
“I’m really glad I decided to come,” Dartmouth sophomore Meg Lane said. “It’s inspiring to hear the stories and paths of the women faculty.”