Fermilab held its first Wonderful Women in STEM Conference for high school girls on Sept. 22 as part of the Hispanic/Latino Forum group, which is part of the diversity and inclusion program at Fermilab. Griselda Lopez, Aria Soha and Minerba Betancourt organized a day for high school girls and their parents to visit the lab and interact with experts in STEM fields. The girls received hands-on experience of what it’s like to work in a national lab in engineering, computing or physics, and parents received a tour through the lab installations.
The day began with an introduction from the director of Fermilab, Nigel Lockyer. Scientist Anne Schukraft gave a wonderful keynote address highlighting the lab’s scientific program. The students were then treated to a lively cryogenic demonstration by Tanaz Mohayai and James Santucci.
The students then separated from their parents for a breakout session of their choosing. The engineering track, led by Aria Soha, gave the students an opportunity to design, build and test their own model car. The computing track, led by Krista Larson, Jenny Teheran and Maria Acosta, had students apply computational concepts such as problem decomposition and pattern matching to solve a mystery of lost particles. In the physics track, led by Erica Snider, Minerba Betancourt and me, students used real MINERvA data to identify and classify various neutrino event displays and make histograms of interaction properties.
All of these activities gave students a chance to apply their creative, scientific, and problem-solving skills under the mentorship of Fermilab scientists, engineers, and graduate students.
Following the activities, the parents and students met in Ramsey Auditorium for a panel discussion with females in STEM at Fermilab. The panel included MINERvA co-spokespersons Debbie Harris and Laura Fields, engineering physicist Aria Soha, Lederman fellow Kirsty Duffy, computer scientist Margaret Votava, and Fermilab Chief Information Officer Liz Sexton-Kennedy.
The panel discussion concluded with direct questions from the students. The take-home messages of the discussion were the importance of finding a good mentor, that a career in STEM is within everyone’s means, and that the pursuit of STEM is one of life’s most rewarding journeys.
Mehreen Sultana is a graduate student at University of Rochester and co-led the physics track breakout session.