Bringing together the female physicists of the future

The second Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics in the UK (CUWiP UK) took place at the University of Oxford last month. During the conference, one hundred students from all over the United Kingdom and Eire were hosted at Lady Margaret Hall, a college founded in 1878 to educate women as “equal citizenship of the mind”, and at the Oxford Department of Physics.

CUWiP UK is modelled after CUWiP, a program started at the University of Southern California in 2006 by Dr Amy Mathey and Dr Katie Mussack Tamashiro, who were graduate students at the time. The programme was subsequently further developed by US faculty, and the enrollment has grown to about 1,200 US students a year.

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All of the attendees and speakers at CUWiP UK 2016

CUWiP UK 2016 included talks from top female scientists sharing not only their science but also the journeys they followed in developing their stellar careers, panel discussions looking at graduate career paths and opportunities for women after they leave university, and workshops for students to strengthen their interview and CV skills.

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CUWiP UK 2016 visit to ISIS, a facility operated by the STFC at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus

The students visited facilities at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, and many laboratories in the Oxford Department of Physics, and those particularly interested in medical physics were given the opportunity to explore the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the Churchill Hospital.

The three panels focused on careers in physics at national laboratories, on academic careers, and on careers outside academia. A Café Scientifique allowed discussions on a variety of physics topics in a very relaxed atmosphere. A workshop gave useful information on the best way to write a CV and interview for a job.

According to the student participants the conference was a life-changing experience as immersion in an environment of successful female physicists and enthusiastic female students was a powerful antidote to the isolation many students feel in their male-dominated classes at their home institutions.

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CUWiP UK 2016 visit to Oxford Particle Physics Microstructure Laboratory

Attendees remarked that they found the panels extremely helpful since they provided information on the many diverse opportunities opened by a physics degree. The delegates found the interaction with the panelists and the speakers uplifting since it highlighted that careers can take different routes and follow different timescales.

Many emerged from the conference with a renewed confidence in their capabilities, a belief in their potential as physicists, and a stronger commitment toward achieving their career goals.

The students were able to network between themselves and with more senior women, and left the conferences with a heightened sense of community. As a participant of CUWiP 2016 said: “in order to encourage more women to go into physics, there needs to be more women in physics in the first place.” The CUWiP UK series is supporting this new generation of female role models and physics leaders.

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Daniela Bortoletto

Daniela Bortoletto

Professor at University of Oxford
Daniela Bortoletto is a professor of particle physics at the University of Oxford and a senior Kurti fellow at Brasenose College. She leads the organizing committee of CUWiP UK, which is mainly composed of members of the Oxford Women in Physics Society.
Daniela Bortoletto

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