Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics 2020

Just recently, I attended my first ever physics conference–the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP)! For the California region, it was held at the University of California-Irvine (UCI) this year. As a freshman, I was very excited for the chance to go to a full physics conference. Coming into college, that’s not an opportunity I thought I would have this soon.

The poster for the Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics

The poster for CUWiP this year! Photo Credit: https://sites.uci.edu/cuwip2020/

CUWiP is a conference that is held every year at thirteen locations around the country (and one in Canada). It’s hosted by the American Physical Society, and it’s goal is to encourage diversity in physics. Currently, only 20% of physics majors across the country are female, a statistic that is shocking especially coming from Mudd, where the physics major is about 51.6% female (as of May 2019, according to HMC data). The conference aims to change that–by providing panels that are about navigating the industry as a woman, by helping to create networking opportunities, and by offering a space for research presentations. It’s a really great program as a whole. Every year, Mudd sends quite a few people (for a look at what it was like last year, check out this blog post). In fact, we joint hosted the conference in 2018!

UCI has a very nice campus, and I really enjoyed my time on it. There were some very beautiful paths, and the weather definitely reminded me why I like California’s climate! January back in Missouri was not this warm.

A path inbetween trees

UCI has a beautiful campus! This was just one of the paths I saw.

Their mascot is the anteater, which led to some excellent statues/paintings around campus.

An anteater with the word UCI on it.

The anteater is the UCI mascot. This painting of it is very big.

Nine people in front of the anteater mascot

Mudd group by the anteater!

Nine Mudd students went (plus one from Pomona). We were a mix of class years from freshman to seniors. This is my first year at Mudd, so I really appreciated the chance to get to know some of the upperclassmen during the conference. We spent quite a bit of time together over the course of the weekend.

Group bonding with boba. Photo Credit: Mavis Stone

The conference itself had a variety of activities. There were several panels and speakers, whose topics could be split into two categories. First, there were topics like “Careers in Physics”, “Life in Graduate School”, “Recognizing and Defeating Sexual Harassment,” “Building a Community in Your Department,”   and “Defining Success as a Woman in Physics.” These panels/speakers aimed to give us tools for planning our future and being a woman in physics. There were also topics like “Condensed Matter,” “Biophysics,” “Astronomy,” “Plasma,” and “Particle/High Energy Particle;” which showcased current research projects and career opportunities in those areas of physics.

Our group sitting in a large auditorium

Getting ready to hear a speaker! Photo Credit: Mavis Stone

In addition, there was time set apart for student research presentations and posters. CUWiP also provided other opportunities, too. One of the coolest was the networking activity we did. Networking is really important in a lot of different ways, but it can be hard to start doing it. The conference organizers supplied “Bingo” sheets that had different conditions (i.e. “has more than three siblings,” “uses Matlab daily,” “fluent in three or more languages”). The goal was to fill the sheet with signatures of people you met, and then turn it in for a chance to win prizes. Our group represented very well when it came to winning prizes.

Three of us holding our stuffed anteaters

The prizes we won, displayed in ascending order. Photo Credit: Gracie Farnham

Overall, I definitely enjoyed the conference and appreciated the chance to hear some information on what it is like to be a woman in physics and what career opportunities are present. I also had fun getting to know the other Mudd students!

The ten of us sitting on a bench with an anteater statue

The full group next to an anteater statue! Photo Credit: Mae Lee