Final Reflections: Moving Forward

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Friday, September 4, 2015


Shauna LeFebvre

As I am getting settled in at Union for my senior year, I can't help but to think back on the summer.  It seems like just yesterday I was moving into the apartment in D.C.  I'm so grateful for all that I've experienced this summer. There are two things from this summer that stick out the most in my mind.

The first is the importance of outreach and its role in science education.  Before this internship, I thought of outreach primarily as an activity to do with fellow SPS members.  It was a chance to get off campus and have fun with cool science tricks.  Now I recognize that, in addition to that, outreach is really about the audience of the outreach event.  Outreach plays an important part in getting kids excited about science.  I never realized what an impact that I could have on future generations of scientists.  After we do an outreach event, the kids will not remember our names. They might not even remember that we were physicists.  But they will remember how much fun they had while doing science.  They will remember how excited they were to learn something new.  If those memories stay with them and motivate them to become a physicist themselves, or a scientist in another field, or even just to continue pursuing a higher education, then we have done our jobs well.  The thought that I have helped even one single student find the motivation to learn and apply that knowledge to make the world better has made me feel much more confident about my own path in life.  I can't wait to bring what I've learned about outreach back to the SPS chapter at my school and helping the community surrounding my college.

The second thing I've taken away from this summer is the confidence to continue pursuing my career in physics.  I know it's been said before, but the field of physics is such a boys' club.  I've felt a lot of pressure to do well because I'm female.  I've felt the need to be the best at everything so no one could say I was there just to fill a diversity quota.  And when classes got harder it was difficult for me to ask for help, because I didn't want to look like the stereotypes about girls were true.  It has taken me longer than I would like to admit that all of these concerns are in my head.  All of my professors are supportive and the other students won't think twice about helping each other with the homework sets.  My internship with SPS has shown me that I can run with the big dogs.  I've met many inspirational ladies (including my mentors and the other interns!) that taught me that gender is not as big of an obstacle as my own self-doubt has been.  Now I know that I can handle grad school, and as long as I work hard I deserve the title of “physicist” as much as anybody else. 


As I have said many times before, I had so much fun this summer!  The SPS internship program gave me great experiences that I won’t soon forget.  I look forward to what the future will bring now that I’m walking down this path more confidently.  And now, as much as I love reminiscing about the past, it’s time for senior year!     

Shauna LeFebvre