Hiram College physics students Norah Ali, Elizabeth Breen, and Samantha Hudson recently attended the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) in Toledo where they presented research, sat in on lectures and panel discussions, and met with fellow aspiring physicists.
Ali, who hopes to one day conduct research at NASA or CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), says meeting and talking with NASA Glenn senior physicist Sheila Gayle Bailey about her aspiration to work for NASA was a conference highlight. “Dr. Bailey looked past the doubt,” says Ali, referring to her uncertainty about making it into the NASA program, “and told me that she knows I can do it. This means a lot coming from a professional in the agency I see my future in.”
Ali, who also is majoring in political science, presented her poster “Experimental Realization of the Hannay Hoop & Bead Anoholonomy.” Her research involved replicating the Hannay Hoop & Bead Anoholonomy in a physical, 3D model. “Anoholonomy is basically [when] you take ‘something’ and put it through different steps, the final state of the ‘something’ isn’t the same as it was in the beginning,” she explains.
Hudson, meanwhile, presented her poster “Studying the Volume Phase Transition of Polymeric Microgels with Dynamic Light Scattering.” She conducted her study last summer through a Research Experience for Undergraduates hosted by Cleveland Sate University and funded by the National Science Foundation. She says the CUWiP offered her an opportunity to engage with the physics community on a broad, yet personal level. Through presentations and panel discussions, Hudson says she was able to hear from and network with university faculty and industry employees who are role models in physics.
“It can be very easy to get caught up in and bogged down by the day-to-day challenges of undergraduate physics coursework, so any time spent appreciating the work of others and discussing the questions facing physics today is invaluable,” Hudson says. “It recharges energy and motivation, and rekindles the love of science that drives us all.”
Laura Van Wormer, Ph.D., professor of physics, says that women students represent 40 percent of Hiram College’s physics majors. She adds that the department encourages and supports all students who major in physics to conduct research, attend conferences, and network with fellow undergraduates.
“This conference speaks especially to our women majors,” Dr. Van Wormer says. “It has been a profound source of encouragement, information, and excitement [for Hiram students to meet] other students like themselves and [realize] they can do physics, in myriad ways.”