6th Annual Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics comes to Illinois

Siv Schwink
10/1/2012 12:00 AM

Registration is underway for the 6th Annual Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, taking place at six campuses across the nation, from January 18th through 20th.

About 175 undergraduate students and scholars are expected to attend this year’s Midwest regional conference, hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with most talks scheduled in Loomis Laboratory.

A distinguished group of invited speakers will form a career panel, a graduate student panel, and an undergraduate research panel. Other events at the Midwest regional include the liquid nitrogen ice cream social, laboratory tours, and campus tours.

All six locations will share over live video stream this year’s keynote speaker, Margaret  Murnane, distinguished professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and award-winning physicist for her work with ultrafast lasers. Murnane is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2004. She is a recipient of the Boyle Medal, Ireland's highest accolade bestowed on scientists.

Murnane will be presenting from the Colorado School of Mines conference location.

Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise will deliver an address at the banquet. Wise is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine. Wise maintains an active research program in issues relating to women’s health and gender-based biology. She has been particularly interested in whether hormones influence the brains of women and men during development, during adulthood, and during aging.

Physics Illinois undergraduate Shannon Glavin is one of the organizers of the regional conference.

“One of the things that I'm really excited about is our diverse career panel,” said Glavin. “A lot of physics students aren't aware of all of the career options they have, since they're mostly just exposed to academic and research careers. Our attendees are going to have a chance to hear about lots of different options for careers that they might want to go into.”

Glavin said she and the rest of the planning committee are working hard to make sure the conference is a success, and all are excited to be able to host this important career development and networking opportunity for undergraduate women in physics.

“Although over the past few decades, the opportunities for women to pursue careers in physics have greatly improved, the playing field between genders still isn't equal,” said Glavin. “Events like this conference help to encourage us and remind us that there are a good number of accomplished female physics students, even if we might sometimes be the only girl in the room.”

Glavin also commented on the value of fostering diversity among our nation’s top scientists:

“Conferences that promote diversity have the potential to advance the entire field of physics. Whether it's differences in gender, culture, education, or background, having a more diverse group supports more innovative problem solving—and physics is all about problem solving.”

Conference sponsors include the American Astronomical Society, the National Science Foundation, the American Physical Society, MacMillan Publishers, the Argonne National Laboratory, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Society of Physics Students, Airgas, Inc., the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the Universities Research Association, Inc., Eastern Illinois University, Millikin University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Among the speakers confirmed at the Midwest regional are

Hannah DeBurg, graduate student in biophysics at Illinois;

Aida El-Khadra, professor of physics at Illinois specializing in high-energy physics and leader of one of the most successful collaborations working in Lattice Field Theory in the world

Pamela Gay, astronomer, podcaster, educator, and science communicator at the STEM Center at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and project director of CosmoQuest, a citizen-science astronomy research group;

Laura Greene, professor of physics at Illinois specializing in the physics of highly correlated electron materials that superconduct and fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences;

Kawtar HafidiArgonne National Laboratory physicist specializing in the experimental study of quantum chromodynamics, winner of the 2011 Innovator Award of the Chicago Chapter of the Association for Women in Science, and the 2010 Outstanding Mentor Award of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science;

Young-Kee Kim, Deputy Director of Fermi National Laboratory, Louis Block Professor of Physics at the University of Chicago specializing in experimental particle physics, and fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Physical Society;

Arlene Modeste Knowles, Career & Diversity Programs Administrator for the American Physical Society’s Minority Bridge Program;

Sue Larson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Illinois specializing in experimental, field, and modeling investigations in air quality, and director of the College of Engineering’s Women In Engineering Program;

Naomi Makinsprofessor of physics at Illinois specializing in nuclear physics, and analysis coordinator for the HERMES experiment at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg, Germany;

Felicia Martinez,  Illinois alumnus (BS Physics), currently working in the financial industry in Chicago;

Kathy McCloud, program director for the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program;

Joannah Metz, geologist/geophysicist at Shell Oil and Illinois alumnus (BS Physics);

Lisa Reed of the Communications, Education and Public Affairs Division of Argonne National Laboratory, who coordinates graduate-student research aide appointments;

Tierney Smith, physics teacher at Alan B. Shepard High School and Illinois alumnus (BS Physics and M.Ed.);

Emily Sprague, Illinois alumnus (dual bachelor’s degree in physics and piano performance), currently a graduate student in applied physics at Northwestern University;

Cacey StevensUniversity of Chicago graduate student studying soft condensed matter physics;

Lauren McNeil Van Wassenhove,  Illinois alumnus (BS Physics) and University of Michigan doctoral student researching breast cancer progression; and

Sam Zellerresearch scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, spokesperson for the MicroBooNE experiment, and analysis coordinator for the MiniBooNE (E898) experiment.

Recent News

  • In the News
  • Condensed Matter Physics

The other half of the Nobel prize, awarded for “topological phase transitions,” also unites topology and physics, but “topology enters in a somewhat different way,” says Eduardo Fradkin, a physicist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

Relevant here is the fact that topological properties often cannot be determined locally. An ant sitting on a pastry can’t tell by looking around whether the perch is a bun, bagel, or pretzel.

  • Research

Do sterile neutrinos—hypothetical particles that do not interact with matter except through gravity—really exist? If so, this would solve some of today’s major mysteries in particle physics and cosmology. For two decades, researchers around the globe have sought evidence that would prove or disprove the reality of sterile neutrinos, with inconclusive outcomes.

Now, a new result has all but ruled out the possible existence of a light sterile neutrino in a regime suggested by an earlier experiment. Researchers from two major international collaborations—the Main Injector Neutrinos Oscillation Search (MINOS) at Fermi National Laboratory and the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment in the south of China—joined forces, each contributing years of data that, taken together, paint a nearly complete picture. The joint result published in Physical Review Letters has significantly shrunk the hiding space for a light sterile neutrino.

  • Accolades

University of Illinois Professor of Physics and Astronomy Stuart Shapiro has been selected for the 2017 Hans A. Bethe Prize of the American Physical Society (APS). The Bethe Prize is conferred annually to a scholar who has made outstanding contributions to theory, experiment, or observation in astrophysics, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, or closely related fields.

The citation reads, “For seminal and sustained contributions to understanding physical processes in compact object astrophysics, and advancing numerical relativity.”

  • Accolades

Celia Elliott, Physics Illinois’ director of external affairs and special projects, has received the 2016 SPaRC Career Achievement Award, for her significant and sustained contributions throughout her career to the field of research administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The award was presented by the campus’s Sponsored Programs and Research Compliance group on Friday, September 16, 2016, during the SPaRC Retreat at the I-Hotel in Urbana.
Elliott is widely recognized among the department’s faculty as the pivotal resource for all things pertaining to successful grant writing and administration.