Women in STEM

Essence Boyd – Copy Editor

Liquid nitrogen cascaded in a cloud over a vessel of sugar and heavy cream, an attention-grabbing demonstration highlighting women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Last Wednesday’s event was hosted by the Office of Campus Recreation, stating there is a lack of representation for women in the STEM fields.

It was an opportunity for students to see what this university offers in STEM.

Katherine Perez, physics graduate student and Ellen Scanley, nanotechnology laboratory technician, made fresh vanilla ice cream for the audience using nothing but the cream, sugar and liquid nitrogen. The sweet treat captured an aspect of science sometimes forgotten: fun.

Abigail Rodgers, graduate student, said she received her undergraduate degree in biology here, and is pressuring her masters in the field as well.

“There is a bias, inherently people believe men are better at science which isn’t true,” said Rogers. “If you apply yourself to anything you can be good.”

The lack of representation, said Hannah Koh, graduate assistant for the Division of Research and Innovation, causes students to be overlooked, as they feel misplaced in an environment with no one that looks the way they do.

“We feel more comfortable when we see people when can recognize,” said Koh. “To see more women in the field, you feel more comfortable compared to you being the only woman in the entire office.”

Some students claimed to see a change in the amount of women in the STEM fields, but Rogers said this university still has a way to go.

“Southern can just continue to promote women, including them in promotional material,” said Rogers. “If there are more women in scientific roles, then it inspires people to do science in the future because you just need to have exposure.”

Besides the lack of representation in the field, there is a lack of knowledge of what career options are available once receiving a degree, according to Christine Broadbridge, executive director of research and innovation and physics professor.

“Not everyone needs to become a scientist,” said Broad- bridge. “That does not have to be their career, but I think that everyone should be scientifically literate.”

Idongesit Udo-okon, a senior, geography major, agreed that it is important to make sure women know the options they have in the STEM fields.

“The only things that are being given out to them are to be a nurse or be a teacher,” said Udo-okon. “That’s not the only option.”

Perez said women of STEM are just as dedicated as men, if not more, to making a change in the field.

“We do community outreach… we want to promote more girls and minorities to be able to participate and take advantage of the opportunities,” said Perez, “so we make these STEM clubs and STEM research across the campus.”

Perez said the goal is for women at this university to feel more welcomed, and to be comfortable doing the research and lab work that they are passionate about.

“My dream is really for people to have that well-rounded education,” said Broadbridge. “That’s why I’m so passionate and involved in it.”

Photo Credit: Jenna Stepleman

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