Conference to Highlight Math and Science Careers for Girls

More than 100 seventh and eighth grade girls will hit the Midwestern State University campus November 16 to learn about women who have careers in fields traditionally dominated by men. Girls from Barwise, Christ Academy, McNiel, Notre Dame, and Zundy schools in Wichita Falls and from Archer City, Burkburnett, Forestburg, Muenster, and Petrolia will attend the Math, Science & U Girls' Conference where they will be introduced to job possibilities by professional women working in math, science, and technology.

This is the 13th year for the conference, hosted by the female faculty and staff of the College of Science and Mathematics (COSM) at MSU. Approximately 15 women majoring in disciplines in the COSM will serve as assistants for the conference. Computer Science Professor Catherine Stringfellow and Math Professor Michelle Knox are conference co-chairs.

This year's theme is "Red-E 4 Math & Science." Kristi Carlucci, Director of Education at the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City, will be the luncheon speaker, and MSU Provost Dr. Betty Stewart will give the welcome.

The girls will take part in four workshops, each directed by women who work in a math or science field. Workshop leaders will be MSU engineering graduate Carrie-Ann Taylor, now an engineer at Echometer; Kandyce Bohannon, computer science/math graduate and software engineer at 3M in Austin; Kim Mitchell, senior manager of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma; and Stephanie Johnston, director of Breast Center of Texoma.

The workshops are geared to let the girls have some fun while seeing the science used by the professional women. Past workshops have been conducted by forensic scientists, meteorologists, geoscientists, computer science teachers, statisticians, mathematicians, fighter pilots, and a veterinarian. Some of the entertaining experiments the girls have performed include an egg drop to study physics, a crime scene evaluation, and drawing bones on feet. With the help of Information Technology, girls have even dismantled a computer and put it back together. The hands-on workshops also help the girls explore and interact with other students and teachers.

COSM faculty and staff assisting with the conference are Dr. Ranette Halverson, Dr. Tina Johnson, Antoinette Brown, and Richard Simpson (computer science); Lynn Jones, Sandra Belcher, Dr. Linda Fosnaugh, and Clara Easterling (mathematics); Dr. Magaly Rincon-Zachary and Asma Javed (biology); Dr. Rebecca Dodge (geosciences); Tricia Greear (COSM); Dr. Tommye Hutson and Dr. Susan Cooper (education); and Maggie Ma (Chinese program).

The conference started 17 years ago with the help of a faculty research grant. Halverson, Assistant Math Professor Marsha May, and Associate Math Professor Linda Fosnaugh wanted to find a way to keep seventh- and eighth-grade girls interested in math and science classes. Through Math, Science & U, young girls can talk to women who have made careers in those fields. "They see women who are doing these things," Stringfellow said. "This opens doors to what's out there in math, science, and computer-related fields."