WISE has provided me with the opportunity to listen to the experiences of other women in STEM fields outside of my own. Over time, it has become apparent to me that it is critical that we understand that the identity of woman scientist does not exist in isolation of other identities. I think it is critical that we expand on issues relevant to underrepresented scientists. Furthermore, as a woman in physics, I would like to lend my personal experiences to the group. The UNC physics department does not have a very large presence at WISE, and I believe women in physics have some valuable perspectives that could motivate group discussion. Finally, I would like to bring my enthusiasm for STEM subjects and use this to inspire outreach. Though my field of graduate research is nuclear physics, I am also a programmer and a licensed ham radio operator with experience in electronics. As a TA, I taught the analog and digital electronics lab courses for undergraduates. I feel I can lend a novel perspective to this group with these overlapping interests.
My experience in graduate school was particularly isolating, as I was one of two women in my year in the physics graduate program. I want to make sure that incoming women do not feel the level of isolation that I did, as it can be quite detrimental to mental health. I would like to see mental health issues addressed and make sure that we continue to provide social outlets for incoming students.
I want to learn from other women and underrepresented groups about the particular challenges that they face. My vision is to see that women are supported and have a network of people whom they can rely upon. I also want to make sure that we are an inclusive community that is eager to listen to all views. I seek to expand my own education with regard to other experiences. For example, one step I have taken in this regard is to attend a Safe Zone Training Program for LGBTQIA+ for my department.
I would, in particular, like to engage with the community through outreach that benefits women in STEM. As an undergraduate, I volunteered for a program called ARTEMIS which taught science and engineering to high school girls. I would like to make use of the UNC Makerspace for similar outreach purposes. In my first year at UNC, I was involved in the creation of the makerspace. I would like to continue to develop the connection to the makerspace, because I believe makerspaces can provide a low pressure environment in which students who may not feel as confident in their abilities are better able to be creative and take risks without fear of judgment.
I would like to see more involvement from the physics department in women’s issues. I think we could still expand the membership of this group. In particular, I have ties to women in the computer science department that I think may be interesting. Women in the UNC CS department hold a hackathon called Perl Hacks for women which is open to undergraduates and graduate students. I think collaboration with them could lead to some productive changes.
In conclusion, as a member of the WISE board of directors, I would like to develop our connections to other science communities such as physics, the makerspace and CS programs. I want to address issues such as mental health and how to deal with harassment in our field. Finally, I strive to learn from other women about their experiences so that we can better confront issues relating to overlapping identities such as being an LGBTQIA+ student or underrepresented minority.