Seeking girls for science and math careers

There are precious few events that steer young women specifically toward careers in the sciences and math.

But exactly such an event is coming up this Saturday at Hamblin Hall at West Virginia State University in Institute at this year’s “Expanding Your Horizons” conference.

The event is specifically open to girls in grades 6 through 8 and features female mathematicians, scientists and engineers to serve as role models and possible future mentors.

“The idea is to get girls in middle school excited about the possibility of careers in science and engineering,” said Amy Keesee, president of the West Virginia Chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS-WV), which organized the conference.

There will be a variety of hands-on workshops to get girls intrigued by the sciences.

“That’s a great way to learn what its like to do some science. There’s going to be one about exploring Mars, there’s going to be one that’s learning about the sun and storms in space,” Keesee said.

“There’s going to be another workshop on nanoscience and there’s going to be a workshop on exploring your genetic history.”

In addition to exposing girls to science and math career options, the event is just as much about introducing them to women already in the midst of such careers.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Barbara Liedl, an Associate Research Professor with WVSU’s Gus R. Douglass Land Grant Institute.

Leidl is a geneticist who is currently working on breeding greenhouse tomatoes for improved flavor and pest resistance.

“In general, there’s sort of stigma against girls being smart in some ways,” Keesee said. “A lot of women are going to college and that’s really great, but there’s a lot of research about unconscious biases about what roles women can play. So we are trying to instill the excitement and the possibility about what girls can do so they can consider planning on taking classes in high school in order to pursue those kinds of fields.

“We just hope that they’ll have an excitement about learning science in general. Some of them may realize they want to pursue a career in science. Some may be thinking about science as a career and realize some new opportunities.

“We definitely want everyone to realize how exciting science is.”

Admission to the conference is $5 per girl and people are encouraged to register online at

There are also workshops for parents who are admitted free for the day, including “The Admissions and Financial Aid Process,” and “How To Encourage Your Daughter’s Interest in Science.”

Conference instructors include a total of 10 to 15 volunteers, including faculty members from Marshall and West Virginia University and some people from the NASA facility in Fairmont.

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