Women in Science at Yale — working alongside Associate Dean for Science Education Sandy Chang and the Yale Science and Quantitative Reasoning Center — has developed an ongoing lecture series to increase interactions among women in science at Yale at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels.

As an organization that promotes the interests of women in STEM and supports female scientists, WISAY already boasts a well-established mentoring program that connects undergraduates to graduate students and graduate students to postdoctoral researchers. But to further enhance their programming for undergraduate women in science, the group hosted the first “Research Chats” event on Feb. 1. A total of 29 students and researchers from a variety of disciplines and academic levels attended this inaugural event, which invited a graduate student and a postdoctoral researcher to speak about their research and their paths within science.

“The goal of the event was twofold: One was to encourage undergrads to talk to grad students and postdocs more, and the other was to encourage young female scientists to go further into the sciences,” said Valerie Su GRD ’21, a board member of WISAY and one of the main organizers. “There is about equal representation between males and females in undergrad and graduate school. But there’s a large shift in the faculty ranks where it’s mainly male-dominated, and we’re hoping that this will help to fix this problem.”

At the Research Chats event, Veronica Galvin GRD ’20, from the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program, and Nivi Samudrala, a postdoctoral associate in mechanical engineering and materials science, gave 25-minute talks about their research and academic journeys.

The speakers were eager to share their experiences with undergraduates, according to Ayomiposi Loye GRD ’20, who sits on the WISAY board and helped organize the event, adding that other graduate students and postdoctoral researchers also attended the event to answer questions from the younger students.

“There are so many graduate students who still remember what it was like to be in college and all the joys and struggles that come with it,” Loye said. “As graduate students, we’re always excited to pass on the knowledge that’s been given to us by our mentors and to walk with someone as they go through their college experience.”

Because undergraduates do not interact much with graduate students, the event was designed to create structural support for those relationships, Loye said.

Last December, Chang reached out to the organization with the idea to create an event to better connect female undergraduate and graduate students in science. He envisioned an opportunity for doctoral students to talk about their research and their journey to graduate school.

“It’s really important for women to feel like there’s mentorship and a camaraderie of other women scientists at Yale who are interested in their success,” Chang said.

He and the Yale SQRC then provided WISAY with guidance, financial support and a central space — a room in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall — accessible to all students, Loye said.

The WISAY organizers were inspired by the format of the research-in-progress talks that are regularly held in the graduate school, but hoped to make this program more informal, which is part of the reason the group decided to name the series “Research Chats,” according to Su.

Loye agreed, adding that most departmental research talks are aimed at graduate students. She said she hopes that by having more of these events, WISAY can expose students to the breadth of research being done by graduate students and researchers at Yale.

WISAY and Chang are planning to host this event at least once or twice a semester, according to Loye. Chang added that he hopes to continue to work with WISAY to develop and host more programs to foster mentorship for undergraduates, as well as to improve female undergraduate participation in STEM.

“First-year female students may feel like they’re in this environment where almost all of their science professors are men,” Chang said. “From the lectures, I want Yale women undergrads not only to see that there are women science professors but also to see successful women scientists at a junior level — when they’re graduate students, postdocs, at every level of their career.”

WISAY also hosts a Distinguished Woman in Science Award each year, bringing in a prominent woman scientist from outside the University to talk with students about her research and career path.

Amy Xiong | amy.xiong@yale.edu