UW Hosts Women in STEM Conference May 14

More than 650 junior and senior high school female students from across the state have signed up to learn more about science and its various disciplines on the University of Wyoming campus.

A white woman in a blue jumpsuit and plastic gloves holding up a syringe. In the background, there is lab equipment. Two girls are looking at the woman in blue.
Kathryn Sandum, a UW graduate student studying biomedical science, discusses practicing real science techniques by examining mouse brains and learning how addiction impacts the brain during a workshop at the 2023 Women in STEM Conference at UW. Photo by Megan Candelaria.

The Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Conference, scheduled Tuesday, May 14, from 8:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m., is designed to spark students’ passion in STEM fields and provide the students with mentors and role models. The conference, now in its 24th year, was formerly known as the Women in Science Conference.

“This is a great opportunity for young women to get excited about STEM and to learn about all of the possible career paths in STEM,” says Megan Candelaria, an assistant research scientist in UW’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and associate director of the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium. “Our goal for this conference is to provide role models for young women and provide them with information about majors and careers in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology.”

While women make up about 48 percent of the workforce, Candelaria says women constitute only around 34 percent of the STEM workforce, and this difference is even more pronounced in fields such as engineering and computer science, where women make up around 20 percent to 25 percent of the workforce.

The conference will offer 36 hands-on workshops. Each participant will engage in three workshops and will meet professionals who do “science” daily in their careers, Candelaria says.

Volunteers from UW and regional organizations will present workshops on a variety of science- and technology-related topics, including plant immunity; creating a new fish species; surviving in outer space; images in microscopy; falconry; LED circuit board keychains; animal science; prepping fossil fish; Wyoming wildlife diseases; plasma; genome gathering; tardigrade hunting; computer coding; and what ice cream floats and groundwater have in common.

A girl wearing a band t-shirt with long brown hair dissects a fetal pig.
Akasha Landry, a Mountain View Middle School student, is all smiles as she dissects a pig at the 2023 Women in STEM Conference at the University of Wyoming. This year’s Women in STEM event is scheduled Tuesday, May 14, from 8:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m. at various locations on the UW campus. Photo by Megan Candelaria.

Other workshops will cover building energy projects; wind energy engineering; pollinators and bee house crafting; neurobiology of rodent behavior; playing Pictionary with artificial intelligence; computing with Arduinos; energy resources in Wyoming and the U.S.; a planetarium program; cycles of nature; space weather; wildlife tracking; do-it-yourself STEM stations; Operation: Martian Lander; exploring plants through music and art; user identity verification through noninvasive brain signals; DNA sequencing; and a STEM mobile science lab. Additionally, UW Admissions will provide a campus tour.

“It’s really about getting the information out there,” says Dawn Moon, an outreach supervisor at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and a 2014 UW graduate with a bachelor’s degree in zoology. “I went my entire undergraduate years convinced I was going to veterinarian school because the only options I knew for working at a zoo were either zookeeper or veterinarian.

“Not having zoos in Wyoming, I wasn’t exposed to the variety of career paths available at these facilities,” she continues. “Now, it’s really important to me as an educator to present all of the options so that girls can pursue the path that most interests them.”

Currently, workshops are scheduled to take place in the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center; Biological Sciences Building; Classroom Building; College of Agriculture Building; College of Arts and Sciences Building; College of Engineering Building; College of Health Sciences Building; Education Annex; Engineering Education and Research Building; Geological Museum; Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium; Innovation Wyrkshop; Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility; Physical Sciences Building (including use of the SciDIY Makerspace); Ross Hall; Science Initiative Building; Williams Conservatory in the Aven Nelson Building; Wyoming Union; and on Prexy’s Pasture.

Welcoming and closing remarks will take place in the Wyoming Union.

Major supporters of this year’s conference are the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium; UW Office of the President; School of Energy Resources; Wyoming IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE); Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources; Office of Academic Affairs; College of Business; College of Engineering and Physical Sciences; Department of Ecosystem Science and Management; and School of Computing.

To date, female students from the following communities and schools have registered to participate in Women in STEM:

  • Casper: Centennial Middle School, CY Middle School and Dean Morgan Middle School.
  • Cheyenne: Central High School, Johnson Junior High School, McCormick Junior High School and South High School.
  • Douglas Middle School.
  • Glenrock Junior/Senior High School.
  • Green River High School.
  • Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow (HEM) Junior/Senior High School.
  • Laramie Middle School.
  • Mountain View Middle School.
  • Saratoga Middle/High School.
  • Yoder: Southeast Junior High School.

Schools may still sign up to be on the waitlist and will be allowed to register if space opens, Candelaria says. Laramie High School and Rawlins Middle School are currently on the waitlist.

For more information about the Women in STEM Conference, go to www.wyomingspacegrant.org/k12programs/women-in-stem/.

This story was originally published on UW News.

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