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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Event to introduce girls to math, science careers”

    The sounds of more than 200 middle and high school girls will displace the dull hum of computers in the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center tomorrow.

    Students from five counties in Southern Arizona will be attending the Expanding Your Horizons conference, a national event the UA has hosted locally for the past 26 years.

    The UA’s Women In Science and Engineering program will run the conference.

    “”I think it’s really important to really reach out to especially middle-aged girls,”” said Kathy Powell, a WISE program coordinator. “”Up until middle school, boys and girls are equally interested in science and math, and at middle school we really start to lose girls.””

    The conference was created to introduce girls to the many professions that fall under the umbrellas of math, science and engineering, Powell said.

    “”A lot of times, people kind of limit their possibilities by what they are aware of,”” Powell said. “”If we can really make them aware of all of the opportunities and how important (studying math, science and engineering) is, I think it can have a significant impact.””

    WISE is providing UA students to serve as mentors for a group of girls throughout the day.

    Each mentor will be assigned five to eight girls and offer advice on what classes to take and reasons they chose their respective majors, said Hilary Beggs, a WISE events coordinator.

    Following a keynote speech by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at 8:30 a.m., each girl will have the opportunity to participate in two of 13 available workshops in the first half of the event.

    After an hour lunch break, they may attend one of eight career panels featuring graduate students and business representatives who give personal testimonies about their experiences in their fields.

    Fushi Wen, a plant pathology graduate student, has volunteered for the past three years as a panelist. She became interested in botany and ecology while she was growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution of the early 1970s. Wen remembered working in the garden with her mother to take her mind off the surrounding political turmoil.

    “”In the beginning (working with plants) was an escape,”” Wen said. “”But, now, I love it.””

    She said experimenting in science can be as much fun as any game and wants to emphasize this point for the girls in the same way her adviser, plant pathology professor Martha Hawes, did for her.

    The workshops, running from 9:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will feature sessions provided by various Tucson businesses and UA faculty, staff and students. The 75-minute long sessions provide the girls hands-on experience in various professions of math, science and engineering.

    Though the structure of the conference remains the same each year, workshops and lectures are molded to fit the hot topics as expressed by feedback from participating students.

    In the past few years, more forensics workshops have been called for, Powell said.

    This year, there will be three forensics workshops, provided in part by the Tucson Police Department.

    The involvement of the Arizona Solar Racing Car Team is also new and will offer an outside activity building solar ovens. Engineering A to Z is a workshop to be held by the Engineering Ambassadors group. It will cover professions from designing roller coasters to making lip gloss.

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