People - Written by on February 6, 2012

Women in Physics Attendees Tour Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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ORNL staffers share career and internship information with the next generation

Kate Evans, an ORNL computational scientist, speaks to attendees of the Third Annual Southeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics.

The percentage of female physicists at ORNL increased greatly on January 13 as 107 female physics students from 50 universities and institutions toured the ORNL campus. The undergrads were attending the Third Annual Southeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (SCUWP), a four-day event held on the University of Tennessee (UTK) campus, as part of the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics held concurrently at six academic locations across the nation. Hai Ah Nam, a computational scientist a the OLCF, and Channa Palmer, ORNL university recruiter, led the SCUWP group through tours of ORNL’s historic Graphite Reactor, Spallation Neutron Source, OLCF, and the Everest Powerwall, a 30-foot screen for scientific visualizations.

“The goal of the SCUWP is to increase recruitment and retention of women to physics and to improve their career prospects,” said Christine Nattrass, postdoctoral researcher at the UTK Physics Department and chair of the conference organizing committee. “Most of these young women studying physics had never been to or met someone who worked at a national lab. By incorporating a tour of ORNL into the conference, these women gained a better understanding of opportunities available at national laboratories.”

After the tour, students were welcomed to a lunch and talks by Jim Roberto, associate laboratory director for science and technology, Michelle Buchanan, associate laboratory director for physical sciences, and National Center for Computational Sciences Director Jim Hack, who shared the diverse and ground-breaking research occurring across the lab. The students also got practical advice from a panel of ORNL staffers on careers at a national lab and application information for the many internship and job opportunities at the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, Research Alliance in Math and Science, and Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

Nam said, “It was really important for us to expose these budding new scientists to the many career possibilities stemming from their education in physics. What better place than a national lab, Oak Ridge National Lab, to see how diverse people and skills integrate together to solve a national need. At the end of the day, by seeing the lab and listening to ORNL scientists, hopefully the students got a sense of how science makes a huge impact on society and could picture themselves here.” —by Sandra Allen McLean