Physics Professor Elena Kuchina is flanked by Thomas Nelson students visiting Jefferson Lab. They include (l-r) Patrick Ngabo Kanywabahizi, AS Engineering program sophomore; Aubrie Davie, AS Science program graduate; Carley Seay, AS Science program graduate and Xiomara Cuno Lavilla, an AS Science program sophomore.
Thomas Nelson Physics Professor Elena Kuchina along with students and recent graduates attended the American Physics Society Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP), a three-day event for physics majors that takes place nationally at 12 locations.
This year’s regional sessions took place Jan. 18-20 at the Williamsburg Lodge. The conferences aim to help undergraduate women continue in physics by allowing them to experience a professional conference, inspiring them to attend graduate school and exposing them to professions in physics. The conferences also gave participants an opportunity to network with other women in physics and share experiences, advice and ideas, noted Kuchina.
The 2019 conference was organized by William and Mary (W&M) faculty and students supported by many institutions and organizations. Kuchina, who was on the organizing committee and is a science faculty representative on the Louis Stoke Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program at Thomas Nelson, invited students to benefit from the experience which included research talks; workshops and discussions about women in physics; student research talks and a poster session; and a visit to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.
In addition to touring Jefferson Lab, students were also exposed to graduate school and a career fair, inspirational talks and panels and tours of W&M Physics and Applied Science departments.
“It was important to demonstrate that there are many different ways that women come to physics,” said Kuchina, “and there are even more possibilities for the women with bachelor’s degrees in physics: guests with careers in industry, the medical field, science writing, laboratory research, even jobs on Capitol Hill testified to that during the conference.”
For Thomas Nelson Sophomore Xiomara Cuno Lavilla, the experience was enlightening. “The 2019 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) was an incredible experience that inspired women, postdocs and undergraduates, who demonstrate a passion in the field of physics,” said Cuno Lavilla.
“I even had the opportunity to present my research poster on physiology and biophysics that I did during a summer internship. As an immigrant, first-generation student, Latina and car-accident survivor, I felt that I was not suited for pursuing a career in science. I no longer feel alone in following my passion for science, and I know that my calling is to do research in biophysics.”
Xiomara Cuno Lavilla participated in a poster presentation during the Jan. 18-20 conference.
Cuno Lavilla thanked Thomas Nelson for “opening a door for my education.” She appreciates the Louis Stoke Alliance for Minority Participation for affording the opportunity to gain encouragement from CUWiP.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, LSAMP aims to diversify the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics workforce by increasing the number of underrepresented minority students earning higher education degrees. Several two- and four-year schools in Virginia and North Carolina are LSAMP partners.