Women in STEM event highlights gender struggles in predominately male field

VERNON. Vernon High School held the event in May to introduce young women to STEM and the female scientists who have made it their passion.

Vernon /
| 17 Jun 2022 | 11:07

Early in May, dozens of young women at Vernon Township High School participated in the annual STEM conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).

Hollyce Schoepp, PhD., VTHS science teacher who helped organize this event at the high school, said, “Women make up almost half of the U.S. workforce; however, they are vastly underrepresented in STEM courses and careers. This underrepresentation presents a serious barrier to their empowerment and contributions to the STEM pipeline. What we are trying to do here in Vernon is to create an awareness of STEM opportunities and an atmosphere of support.”

During the day-long event, the students were able to meet female scientists and engineers from around the country virtually. There were also several exhibitions, including a chemistry demo with Professor Katherine Wagner, of Princeton University. Dr. Eva Kostadinova, an assistant professor at Auburn University’s Department of Physics gave the keynote speech, which focused on her journey to becoming an interfacial plasma scientist, which included studying how charged dust particles self-organize into structures in plasma environments on Earth. Currently she is investigating how materials behave when exposed to a very hot plasma, which will help scientists develop heat shields for space crafts.

In the end, VTHS student Emily Getz summed it up, “I learned so much about ladies in STEM and how I could be a part of it. It was really cool learning about how rockets are made and how these women pushed through everything to become what they are today!”

In addition to PPPL, Princeton University and numerous science organizations also helped make this event possible. Their common goal is to spark girls’ interest in STEM-based fields such as engineering and computer science, as statistics show that women still lag behind men in these fields.