Argonne National Laboratory

Conference for young women aims to encourage pursuit of science careers

By Angela HardinApril 13, 2015

More than 350 of some of the Chicago region's brightest young women will converge on the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory on April 16 to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The young women from 40 high schools will be attending the 28th annual one-day Science Careers in Search of Women (SCSW) conference at a time when the Obama administration and research organizations are eager to grow and diversify the STEM workforce. Always looking forward, Argonne hosts this annual conference as part of an ongoing effort to increase the pipeline of women researchers into Argonne and other laboratories around the nation.

It's difficult to consider a career in a field that you've not been exposed to, said Carolyn Phillips, a computational scientist in Argonne's Mathematics & Computer Science Division, who will deliver the SCSW 2015 keynote speech. Her address, entitled "Figuring it out," refers in part to her journey to becoming a scientist.

"It was not a straight line, but involved exploring my interests in several different areas before I found the right fit for my passions," Phillips said. In fact, she only considered a career in science after attending a STEM summer camp during high school. The STEM camp allowed her to meet university students and researchers, whose work she found exciting.

"I saw science and math not only as something I could pursue, but also something I could be passionate about," Phillips said. "After that experience, I became driven to find my own place in the world of scientific research."

Phillips has observed that "high-achieving and driven high school students often feel like they need to have the next 10 years of their lives planned out to be successful. Discovering that you don’t actually want to do what you planned or encountering obstacles along the way feels like failure. The truth is that, if you are high school student today, the career that you eventually choose may not even exist yet. What was a data scientist 10 years ago?"

Phillips encourages "attendees to be active participants in the day. Ask questions. Ask the women you meet how they came to be at Argonne and why they chose their area."

Meridith Bruozas, manager of Argonne's Educational Programs and Outreach Office urges SCSW 2015 attendees "to use the day to help them identify their strengths and interests and possible STEM career paths."

"Simply put, there is need for more women to embark on STEM careers," Bruozas said. "A diverse scientific workforce that includes more women will bring new perspectives and approaches to research and problem solving that can be brought to bear on some of the challenging scientific problems of our time."

Nationally, women outpace men in earning graduate degrees, yet they pursue STEM careers at a much lower rate than men, even though women in STEM fields are paid 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM fields, according to information from the Federal government.

SCSW is co-sponsored and organized by the Women in Science and Technology or WIST ― a lab program established to recruit, retain, and promote women in an effort to diversify and strengthen Argonne's scientific workforce ― and the Communications, Education and Public Affairs Division at Argonne.

More information about the annual conference and Argonne's other educational activities is available at the Educational Programs page.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. 

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest 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.