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First Conference for Women to Pursue Careers in Physics in Partnership Between IAEA and the American Physical Society

The IAEA is organizing three days of webinars as part of the CUWiP - three-day regional conferences held annually in parallel at multiple universities across the United States and Canada.

The IAEA is organizing three days of webinars as part of the CUWiP - three-day regional conferences held annually in parallel at multiple universities across the United States and Canada.

The IAEA is joining the American Physical Society (APS) to hold an edition of the APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) in cooperation from 21 to 23 January 2022. The conference, which aims to increase the representation of women in nuclear physics, builds on the success of a webinar series launched at the beginning of last year to promote careers in nuclear sciences for women.

“The IAEA is working hard to promote gender parity in nuclear sciences, applications and technologies,” said Melissa Denecke, Director of the IAEA Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences. “By partnering with organizations such as the APS, we amplify our voice to establish a stronger female workforce in the natural sciences.”

CUWiP are three-day regional conferences held annually in parallel at multiple universities across the United States and Canada. Due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, CUWiP 2022 will consist solely of virtual meetings. The IAEA is organizing three days of webinars as part of the programme. The event will be opened by the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. The goal of the IAEA/APS partnership is to leverage the digital opportunity, to scale the CUWiP mission and make it more inclusive, diverse, and reach more people, said Denecke.

“Our primary goal of CUWiP is to increase the likelihood that women and gender minorities studying physics will pursue a career in this field,” said Kai Wright, Program Manager of CUWiP. “Offering this experience at the undergraduate level is critical to building networks, helping them see the many research and career opportunities available to physicists, and demonstrating that they are part of a community. A vital role of the CUWiP is to bring students from campuses that have fewer female peers and role models in physics into the growing community of women physicists.”

Over 400 registrations for the joint IAEA/APS event from across the globe – from Albania to Colombia and from Egypt to Indonesia – have been received to date. Registration will remain open until 21 January.

The programme will explore two main themes: Learn and Connect. Under Learn, prominent women in the field of physics will talk about their careers and share their experiences and advice with the audience, while the Connect theme will showcase opportunities for internship/fellowship programmes, including the IAEA’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme (MSCFP), as well as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) and Community College Internship (CCI) programs, providing an overview and panel interactions with former fellows.

Donna Strickland, one of three Noble Prize recipients for Physics in 2018, will be the keynote speaker at CUWiP 2022.

Here are some inspiring insights from women physicists, who will participate in the event:

Marcia Cristina Bernardes Barbosa, Full Professor at Federal University of South Rio Grande and Director of Brazilian Academy of Sciences: “In high-school I had the opportunity to use the lab during nights and I could explore the excitement of discovery. One day at the laboratory I was building a brick oven made with a resistance. Something went wrong with my connections and I generated an electrical super charge, and the electricity of the school was shutdown. I disconnected the oven, I turned on the lights in the school and I fixed the oven, understanding my mistake before the school director had a chance to react in all the confusion. This excitement of learning under pressure led me to science. Then I decided to go to university to pursue a career as a physicist. I want to understand the universe. On the first day of the physics class, I realized that we were eight girls out of eighty students and at graduation I was the only girl. I knew I did love physics and that I would work hard to become a physicist, but I also knew I would work equally hard to change the atmosphere to attract other women to physics.”

Saskia Mordijck, Assistant Professor of Physics at College of William and Mary, United States: “Since I started studying engineering in Belgium, I have been part of typically a cohort of ten percent women. Maybe because of bullying in middle and high school by the usual group of mean girls, I didn't mind at first being surrounded by men. During my PhD, there were only two other women, and we were all so different that we never really built any deep friendships. In recent years, as our numbers are slowly growing and through social events outside my own subfield, I have had the pleasure to meet many more women. Some of them have become good friends, and I am discovering a level of community I hadn't experience before. I wish CUWiP had existed when I was a student, it would have allowed me to connect to other women at other institutions and it would have reduced the loneliness I did experience in hindsight.”

Elizabeth Simmons, Executive Vice Chancellor and Distinguished Professors of Physics at University of California: “Pursuing a field one is passionate about and can be creative in gives the best chance of finding a career one will want to follow for a long time. That’s what made me want to work in physics. Yes, I encountered bias and yes, I was clearly going against expectations for what women should study – but in the end, I found a host of wonderful mentors and supporters who helped me maintain my confidence. It’s important to seek out mentors who will be supportive and honest, who will see the value in you and help you become a better physicist. With time, you’ll become a mentor yourself, and help give back to the community.”

Tzany Kokalova Wheldon, Director of the Positron Imaging Centre at University of Birmingham, United Kingdom: “Women and physics go well together — there is no doubt about that — but following your dream you may doubt yourself. That’s OK, always remember that the path you’ve chosen is a learning one and questioning everything and everyone (including yourself sometimes) is part of the job. Dream, and dream big because you are our better future and you are not alone. We are here to support you.”

Last update: 04 Nov 2022

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