Highlights of the Michigan State University CUWIP

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Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences

Highlights of the Michigan State University CUWIP


Gabrielle Feeny, Zone 7 AZC & SPS Member, Kettering University

Gabrielle Feeny. Photo credit | SPS National.As a senior physics major, this was my last chance to attend one of the annual Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP). I was excited to go so I could speak with other women in physics and learn about graduate schools and potential career paths. I was hoping this might help me figure out what I would like to do after I graduate.

Sprinkled throughout the conference were a number of workshops and panel discussions about just what I wanted to learn—preparing for the future. They included topics such as what you can do with a physics degree, how to apply to graduate school, how to write a resume, and so on. For me, the most impactful workshops were “Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing” and “Impostor Syndrome.” In the former, participants acknowledged that academia can be a high-stress environment and discussed ways of coping and approaching overwhelming tasks. I have already put some of these strategies to use. In the latter, we played a game that helped me realize just how much I’d been affected by imposter syndrome, and we learned strategies to minimize feelings of inadequacy.

Another highlight of the conference was the plenary talk by Dr. Erica Snider. She shared her story of personal growth from a physics student into a project lead at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). Toward the end of her talk, she shared with us her passion for diversity and equity, particularly concerning women and LGBTQ+ individuals. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it was encouraging and awe-inspiring to hear the success story of someone like me and to learn that there are people within the physics community advocating for our inclusion and acceptance.

The conference included many other fantastic activities, such as tours of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, a poster session, a serenade by the university’s all-physics student choir, and a “physics slam,” during which a handful of professors gave 10-minute talks and attendees voted on the best presentation. Overall, I had a wonderful time. I couldn’t have felt more included, and I gained a lot of insight into the career opportunities out there for physics undergraduates.

More than 150 women attended the Midwest regional session of the national Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics on Jan. 18–20. Photo credit |  Harley J. Seeley, University of Michigan.

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Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences