Dr. Sytil Murphy, assistant professor of physics at Shepherd University, and Dr. Jordan Mader, assistant professor of chemistry, have been awarded a $4,145 grant from the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium to help fund a one-day science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) conference at Shepherd for girls in grades five through eight in the fall.
The purpose of the conference, "Seeding Your Future," is to increase the interests and abilities of middle-school girls in STEM-related fields and professions through hands-on activities facilitated by Shepherd faculty and students who believe in engaging girls in STEM at a young age.
"Our hope is that through positive interactions with scientists and aspiring scientists the girls will realize that they are more than capable of doing science and that it is fun," Murphy said. "We hope that ultimately this increases the number of girls who continue to enjoy science in school and some of these girls choose STEM careers or to be science teachers."
Dr. Colleen Nolan, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, said Murphy and Mader are providing opportunities for the Shepherd community to encourage and support girls to retain their love for science and to also kindle the spark in girls who may not yet have a passion for science.
"I'm excited that two of our women science faculty members have received funding to engage middle-schoolgirls in science and that a large number of SNS&M faculty members are willing to develop and teach activities in this workshop," Nolan said. "The ability to reach out to young girls is critical if our state and nation are to continue to be global leaders inscience and mathematics."
Murphy said she and Mader have participated in similar events at other institutions.
"We know how rewarding these conferences are for all involved. We are overjoyed that we are able to bring this event to Shepherd. With luck it will become an annual event," she said.
Conference details will be available later this summer.
Mader earned her bachelor of science and doctorate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Murphy earned her bachelor of science from Monmouth College and her master of science and doctorate from Montana State University.