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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Kansas High School Women attend the 2017 Women In Science Conference at the University of Nebraska

    Four Kansas high school teachers and eight of their students traveled to Nebraska to participate in the 19th annual Women in Science Conference at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.  The Kansas representatives were teachers, sophomores and juniors from Topeka High School in Topeka Kansas and from Free State and Lawrence High School in Lawrence Kansas. This opportunity was sponsored by the current NSF Kansas and Nebraska EPSCoR Track 2 grant titled “Collaborative Research: Imaging and controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures.” As part of the collaboration's education and outreach initiatives, the Nebraska Women in Science Conference invited Kansas teachers and students to participate.  The conference brings high school girls and their teachers to the University of Nebraska (UNL) campus for a two day science career exploration and networking opportunity. The format of the conference encourages students to “interact with career and academic professional women in science, meet current female science students and other high school girls who are interested in science, and discover countless professions as diverse as biologists, geologists, engineers, food scientists, computer scientists, and those in the medical fields.”
Kansas students touring St. Elizabeth's Medical Center
     The 2017 Women in Science Conference began with a hospital tour at the at the Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center on Friday, March 31, 2017, followed by a banquet featuring Dr. Terri Norton of the Nebraska Engineering Department. Saturday, April 1, 2017, was filled with hands-on activities and lab explorations at the Nebraska Union and the Beadle Center.
     The Kansas students' occupational interests ranged from careers in medicine, forensics, biochemistry and zoology.  Karla Gaines, science teacher from Topeka High School, said her students “loved the hospital tour, the session we attended on breaking bones, and the lab session in the afternoon.” She added “I thought the message of the Key note speaker was fantastic.”  Marci Leuschen, science teacher at Free State High School, said her students’ favorite parts of the conference were “the hands on photosynthesis and respiration lab,” and “The round robin forum where they spoke to scientists.” She also commented “the girls all came away from the conference energized about scientific research.  The car ride home they were talking about the women they met over the weekend and the stories they enjoyed. Shoot – the speakers had me convinced to quit my job and enroll at UNL to pursue a career in research science!” Both teachers indicated that the 2017 Women in Science Conference experience “really solidified their students’ interest in pursuing a career in science.”

Funding for this Collaborative Research Experience was provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures."  The Grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce and prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science.