Behind the Scenes of a Conference for Women in STEM

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Behind the Scenes of a Conference for Women in STEM


Emma Cartney and Emma Chambers, SPS Members, Allegheny College


Emma Chambers shares her research with attendees during the conference poster session. All photos courtesy of the Allegheny SPS chapter.

Allegheny College’s Women in STEM conference is a local biannual event modeled after the larger Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) hosted by the American Physical Society. Our goal is to increase inclusivity in the science disciplines. 

The conference has evolved from a physics-focused event to include a wider range of STEM topics, and it is geared toward students from groups underrepresented in STEM who are on campus and attending area high schools. The one-day meeting includes guest speakers from a variety of backgrounds, panels featuring Allegheny undergraduates and alumni, and a poster session.


Keynote speaker Nicola Dent, CEO of Optical Filters, talks about her experience working in industry. 

While planning our most recent conference, the search for speakers proved difficult—Allegheny is in a rural community in northwestern Pennsylvania—but we ended up with a full lineup. We reached out to Optical Filters, a company with a location in town, and Nicola Dent, the CEO, enthusiastically agreed to speak. As our keynote speaker, she provided insight into the industrial and business side of science. Fulya Kıroğlu, an astronomy PhD candidate at Northwestern University, joined us virtually to talk about her research and experience as a woman in astronomy. Our third speaker was courtesy of Skype a Scientist (, a program that connects scientists from almost any field with students from kindergarten to college. Beth Hudak, a research chemist at the Naval Research Academy, met with us and shared what it’s like to work on scanning transmission electron microscopy in a national laboratory.

A few Allegheny alumni also gave talks at the conference. Juliana Sebolt, a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, talked about her work with quantum computers; Alexis Pleskovitch talked about her Allegheny senior thesis project and how we can promote inclusivity in STEM, both inside and outside the classroom; and Heidi Mach talked about teaching primary education before entering graduate school.  


Alexis Pleskovitch talks about women in STEM.

During the poster session, four undergraduate students presented research they had conducted at Allegheny or during a summer research opportunity, on topics in biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology. The session allowed fellow undergraduates and high school students to see some of the research opportunities available on campus and beyond.

During breaks, meals, and crafting sessions, participants mingled and networked with one another. Many expressed gaining valuable insight into the opportunities available at Allegheny, in graduate school, and in the workforce. We enjoyed planning and hosting this event and seeing its positive impact on our community.


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