Women in STEM Symposium Provides Students a Chance to Shine

The Women in STEM Research Symposium returns to UT on March 21, bringing together students, faculty, and researchers for a day recognizing and strengthening the role of women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

The event, now in its third year, has grown to include people from other universities and features talks, presentations, and discussions in various rooms of Hodges Library on issues impacting women in STEM fields.

“The unique thing is that it’s a local professional conference meant to highlight the phenomenal research being conducted here at UT,” said Mallory Ladd, a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow and doctoral candidate in UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. Ladd is co-head of the group organizing the event, Pipeline: Vols for Women in STEM.

“Our goal is to one day expand it to a regional conference,” she added.

Attendees will be able to browse the scholarly contributions being made by UT women in STEM and see firsthand the importance of diversity in scientific discovery and innovation.

Fellow organizer Kate Fullerton said another goal of the symposium is to make people more aware that STEM education also includes areas of study that are sometimes left out of the discussion, such as nursing and psychology.

“Most people who think of STEM think of those individuals who work in traditional lab settings surrounded by beakers of chemicals,” said Fullerton, a graduate student in the Department of Microbiology. “But the nurses in hospitals taking care of patients and the anthropologists studying sociocultural influence on disaster relief also fall under the STEM umbrella, and we want to embrace the diversity of STEM education with our symposium.”

Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, professor of medicinal chemistry and dean of graduate studies at the University of Toledo, will give this year’s keynote address, while the day will conclude with an event sponsored by the UT Commission for Women: a showing of Miss Representation, a 2011 documentary on the misrepresentation of women in media.

Students will take part in both poster and oral presentation competitions related to research being done by women in STEM fields throughout the course of the day, with prizes being awarded in each category.

This year will also see the return of the Margaret “Tina” Riedinger Societal Impact Award, named in memory of a longtime member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UT and supported with a cash prize given by her husband, Bredesen Center Director Lee Riedinger.

“She encouraged hundreds of young students to pursue physics and was an inspiration to women in STEM fields,” said Ladd. “The award will go to an individual or team who has led or significantly contributed to research or innovations that could have a positive impact on society.”

Pipeline, a student organization and committee of the Commission for Women, has grown to more than 75 members. The Division of Student Life named Pipeline the best new student organization of 2016, while the symposium received the “Innovative Program of the Year Award” from UT’s Center for Student Engagement.

The group has launched new subcommittees focusing on data and statistics, a professional development program aimed at connecting students and faculty, and a mentoring program that connects upperclass students with incoming students to help ease the transition to college and provide support on academic, personal, and professional levels.

Students and faculty can learn more about the event and the group by following its Facebook page or on Twitter @pipelineutk.

CONTACT:

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)