Physics Students Share Their Experience at the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics


A group of thirteen students at CUWiP pose for a photo.

Thirteen students from Western’s Physics department attended the American Physical Society’s annual Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics from January 19 – 21.

CUWiP is a three-day conference designed for undergraduate physics majors with the goal to help undergraduate women continue in physics by providing them the opportunity to experience a professional conference, information about graduate school and professions in physics, and access to other women in physics whom they can share experiences, advice, and ideas with.

We asked the students what the most impactful experience they had while attending CUWiP was. Here’s what they said:

“It is hard to narrow down the most impactful experience from CUWiP. I really valued the binding that happened between the attendees, but mostly between all of the WWU students who attended. Being in a different environment like led to new conversations and friendships that I wouldn’t have formed otherwise, and I am grateful to know everyone better! From the conference specifically, I found myself in awe of the impressive women in very successful physics careers. I think it was beneficial to see some of the opportunities that are out there that I maybe thought were impossible or just didn’t know of yet. Meeting the people who have had those opportunities was very inspiring!” 

—  Alli Pfohl, Senior 


“The most impactful part of CUWiP is being in a room full of people who understand the struggles we face in STEM. Seeing and hearing women share their experiences of how they got to where they are and how they overcame struggles is very impactful."

— Leah Vizmeg, Senior 

Madeline Luther

“The most impactful experience for me was the student research presentations. I have a hard time visualizing what working in physics could look like post-graduation. Getting to see and hear people at around the same level of education as me display a deep understanding of current research was very grounding. If these young women could not only grasp complex topics but contribute to them, then there's nothing in the way of anyone else doing it too. It was also nice to see examples of the type of research going on right now and how specific the research topics are. And I always enjoy learning about Trans-Neptunian objects!” 

— Madeline Luther, Senior 


“The most impactful part of the conference for me is tied between listening to Jocelyn Bell Burnell recount her experience discovering pulsars and the difficulties she faced, and simply being surrounded by people who share the love of physics and face similar challenges in the physics field.”  

— Lee Grace Goodrich, Senior 


“The most impactful experience I had at CUWiP was talking to people like Dr. Erin Good and Dr. Joey Key about their careers. It was nice to get to know the different paths people with physics degrees can take in a casual setting. At the last CUWiP this was slightly formalized, in that we had assigned seating for all of the dinners with two mentor figures at each table. At this CUWiP seating was adhoc, which made me feel more comfortable talking to them.” 

— Kenneth McKinney Senior

Mason van Vleet

“The most impactful experience I had while attending CUWiP was hearing Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell speak LIVE! I made a PowerPoint about her and her discovery of the pulsar last year for my 60's Lit class, and ever since then she's been one of my favorite astrophysicists! She spoke about having MILES upon MILES of paper read outs of waves that she had to look over before discovering the Nobel Prize winning fluctuation of radio waves that showed a Pulsar! That on top of the speaker (Dr. Amy Reines from  MSU-Bozeman) who gave a dinner talk about SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLES AND DETECTING TINY ONES!! It was so so so so so cool! Overall it was an amazing conference and I made some excellent connections!!” 

— Mason Van Vleet, Junior


“While attending this year's CUWiP, I was most inspired by the talk from the keynote speaker, Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Burnell was the first person to discover pulsars, and told us her story about how it happened. She's a great storyteller and public speaker, and I think it's incredible that we could have such an influential person come speak to all of us at the conference. Learning about these kinds of advancements in the field always makes me excited for whatever will come next, and I wonder if I can be a part of its discovery like Burnell was." 

— Eleanor Sutton, Junior