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Feb. 5, 2008 :: State’s Leading Female Scientists Share Career Advice With Students

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Surrounded by the interactive learning environment of Science Museum Oklahoma, more than 20 of Oklahoma’s top female scientists gathered Tuesday in Oklahoma City to share their ideas with a group they rarely get to meet: 500 Oklahoma middle and high school students.

Logo: Oklahoma EPSCoR.The two groups collaborated as part of the 2008 Oklahoma EPSCoR Women in Science Conference, a workshop created to spark the interests of future scientists.

Students traveled from as far as Lawton, Madill and Tulsa to spend the day with Oklahoma meteorologists, doctors and engineers – all of them women – and to ask their advice about future careers.

The Women in Science program began in 1997 and was originally designed for professors and college students. But the program’s popularity exploded last year when it opened to middle and high school students and their teachers.

“It appears we’ve found an unaddressed need,” said Shelley Wear, special programs coordinator for Oklahoma EPSCoR. “We had 493 people attend last year, and this year, we had to put schools on a waiting list.”

The students spent the morning in Q-and-A formats with the scientists to get advice on future careers. Students could choose from hearing about frontiers in the human body, the applied and physical sciences, or the environment. Even medical and graduate students participated in the discussion to give the young students a glimpse into college life.

In the afternoon, the students had lunch with scientists and recruiters so they could network and seek further advice. Oklahoma colleges set up 29 recruitment booths at the event and were eager to meet budding young scientists and persuade them to study at their schools.

The conference concluded with students charting personal paths that lead to their future careers. Cari Lousch, a counselor from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, helped the students complete workbooks and provided information on classes they need to prepare for college and careers.

Following the conference, the students explored Science Museum Oklahoma for free.

The conference was sponsored by the State Regents, Science Museum Oklahoma and Oklahoma EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), a program funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.