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PPPL Mission: Inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM fields

The 2017 Young Women’s Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) on Thursday, March 23, will offer seventh-to-tenth grade girls the chance to meet working scientists and STEM professionals and hopefully inspire them to consider STEM careers themselves.

While the percentage of women in science and engineering has increased in the past decades, women still constitute less than 30 percent of all science and engineering occupations, according to a 2015 report by the National Science Foundation. Women are particularly scarce in certain science fields, such as engineering, computer science, and physics.

“The mission is to break the stereotypes that these girls have in their minds already at such a young age that women don’t belong in the science fields or girls aren’t as good as boys in these subjects,” said Deedee Ortiz, a program administrator of PPPL’s Science Education office and the organizer of the event. “The event aims to show them they’re looking at themselves in the future when they meet these women scientists.”

The conference, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) at Princeton University’s Frick Chemistry Laboratory, will have more girls than ever before with more than 625 attending from all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They will take part in more than 25 activities and exhibits on topics ranging from neuroscience to robotics..

The keynote speaker is Aprille Ericsson-Jackson, an aerospace engineer at NASA, who is currently the instrument manager for a proposed mission to bring dust from the Martian lower atmosphere back to Earth. Ericsson-Jackson was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard University. She received the 1997 Women in Science and Engineering Award for the best female engineer in the federal government. She speaks frequently about the need to encourage girls, especially girls of color, in STEM fields.

The breakout speakers are:

Valeria Riccardo, the head of engineering at PPPL. Riccardo, who has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, is the former chief engineer for the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, the UK’s national laboratory for fusion research.

Jyoti Sharma, a wireless engineer who works in research and development for Nokia. Sharma, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, is the chair of the IEEE Women in Engineering, Northern New Jersey Chapter of the IEEE. She will discuss, “Why does STEM need you?” 

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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