My Experience at CUWiP (Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics)

I’m gonna start this off by saying wow, Santa Barbara is beautiful.

A blue sky covers a treelined beachfront outside a building at UCSB

The view from the marine biology building at UCSB

Luckily, this was where CUWiP was this past year (for our region). CUWiP stands for Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, and it is a conference run by the American Physical Society. It is a national event with multiple locations throughout the country.

The poster for CUWiP tells the dates of the conference (January 18-20 2019) and includes pictures of women participating in poster sessions and other activities

The poster for CUWiP 2019

Before this year, I had never gone to any of these conferences. But, many of my fellow physics classmates have participated in the previous years and enjoyed it a lot. This year, there was a big push to get everybody to apply. We ended up having 14(!) of us attending – this was probably one of the highest attendances out of all of the schools. We also boasted at the conference about our class of 2020 physics majors at Mudd because we are 75% women. We knew that this was something to be proud of, but we were especially amazed (and saddened) to hear that the national average is 20% women.

15 of the women physics majors stand and smile together at CUWiP

All of the Mudders at CUWiP (and one friend from Pomona)

The conference was 3 days long. It was filled with speakers, panels, poster sessions, and lots of time to hang out together. On day 1, we arrived in the evening after driving about 3 hours to Santa Barbara. We settled into the hotel (I shared my room with 2 of my physics friends Holly and Mae), then went to the conference for dinner. I would be disappointed if I did not share that this meal (fajitas) was absolutely delicious. During dinner, there were a couple of speakers who welcomed us to the conference. Then, we got to talk to a couple of UCSB physics grad students who were sitting at our table. It was a great opportunity for us to ask about what it’s like to be in grad school and how/why they decided to go.

The conference attendants from UCSB Skyping the other conference attendants at other schools

Day 2 of the conference started out with another speaker (a woman who told us about her research), then we had a couple of panels and coffee breaks. The panels were very informative: I went to one about applying to grad school, one about Condensed Matter physics, and one about Biophysics. I learned a lot about different types of research, what it’s like to work in academia, and how to get involved. In the afternoon, there was a poster session and networking event. I only stayed for a bit of the poster session; my friend and I took this time mostly as an opportunity to explore the campus (surprise, it’s beautiful).

On day 3, we heard from more panels. I really liked the panels this day – they were all people who worked in industry pursuing both research and non-research careers. It was nice to hear from people outside of academia, since most speakers from the first two days were professors and academic researchers. We also heard from an amazing woman who works at JPL and adopts old dogs. This was definitely my favorite day, as it gave me a better perspective of possible things to do after graduation.

I definitely have some critiques about the conference, but overall, I think that it was a great opportunity. I loved hanging out with my fellow physics friends, and it really got me thinking of my plans for after college (which is also kind of stressful). I hope to attend this next year, when I might have a better sense of my direction for the future. Additionally, I hope that the location is just as beautiful as UCSB!

The women physics Mudders hold up the right hand rule

All of us holding up the right hand rule