Who runs the world of science and technology?

Well, women should have at least half a say in that.

“50 percent of the world is female, statistically 50 percent of STEM jobs should be held by women,” said Olivia Cypull, a physics and math double major from Baldwin, Maryland.

Cypull was one of five JMU women who attended the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics on January 15 at Old Dominion University. The conference provides opportunities for women to advance in STEM fields. Participating with Cypull were Yvonne Kinsella, Devin Buennemeyer, Tara Jobin and Gillian Schuneman. They joined more than 200 other women to network, learn and share ideas.

The students are working on various research projects, including the jamming of droplets in emulsions and the interactions between gold and acrylic. Cypull’s poster on soft matter physics was awarded best in show out of the 40 posters presented. Judges cited the poster for its conciseness, depth of information and interesting topic material.


“I’ve presented my research before but this was my first time presenting as a poster,” Cypull said. “I didn’t even know there was a competition aspect to the poster session until it started, so I wasn’t really mentally prepared. So I just went with it and tried my best to explain.”

The conference showcased information about graduate schools and physics professions, and provided the opportunity for attendees to hear from other women of all ages in physics.

“Some suggest that women and men approach scientific problems differently, so in that regard I do think it’s important for both genders to be more equally involved, as different approaches to problems will result in a more productive scientific community,” said Kinsella, a physics major from Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Cypull also mentioned that the conference was great for making connections—she found an REU (research experience for undergraduates) that is perfect for her.

“We got to hear about the experiences of women from many different fields of physics, from science journalism to industry science to academia,” Kinsella said. “There were also opportunities to learn about different fields of physics that we may not have been exposed to otherwise.”

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