Expanding Your Horizons Conference Inspires Girls to Pursue Science Careers

LANL News:

For the past 20 years, Los Alamos National Laboratory employees have been presenting the Expanding Your Horizons Conference for young women. With the help of sponsors like Los Alamos National Laboratory, the LANL Foundation, Tech Source, and Los Alamos National Bank, the conference presents students with information and encouragement for pursuing education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
During the course of the day-long conference, the young women hear inspiring talks about women and their careers, participate in two hands-on workshop presented by female scientists and engineers, and are exposed to large numbers of female role models. Our goal is to encourage young women of all ethnicities to pursue education opportunities that will prepare them for science and engineering careers.

And inspired they will be. According to our workshop evaluations, 87 percent of the girls say that the conference positively influenced their thinking about their future, and 89 percent said it improved their perception about science careers.

Our conference involves students from all over northern New Mexico, with students from more than 15 schools in at least five counties attending, including Los Alamos, Taos, Sandoval, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe. Many of these schools have a large number of students from low-income, disadvantaged families and in many cases this is one of their first opportunities to understand the attainability of science careers and to interact with female scientists.

Furthermore, our demographics indicate that we are reaching a very large number of minority students. Our attendance last year included 43 percent Hispanic, 6 precent Native American, 3 percent Asian, and 1 percent African American, which indicates that we are doing an excellent job of meeting our stated objectives.

But perhaps most gratifying of all, is seeing the girls change before our eyes. At the beginning of the day, most of the young women are shy, nervous, and uninvolved; by the end of the day, they are talking excitedly about what they have learned and sharing with friends old and new their experiences and ideas. Truly, we have succeeded in expanding their horizons.

We ask each girl to tell us what they expected and what they got – many times what we hear is “I expected boring lectures, I got fun exciting stuff – I got to build a robot, I got to see the craters on the moon through a telescope, I got to analyze my own DNA, I got to make an ooey gooey polymer.” Or, as we on the organizing committee say, transportation – $1,500, lunch for 200 girls – $1,500, kindling the spark of excitement about a science career in a young woman’s mind – priceless!

For our 2014 conference, we will be holding the conference at the Santa Fe Convention Center to provide access to many more girls. We will now be including students in 5th through 10th grades and we will be able to offer up to 200 young women the opportunity to explore, learn, and be inspired. The conference will be held Thursday, March 6. The registration deadline is Feb. 11.

For more information about Expanding Your Horizons for students, teachers, and parents, visit http://nmnwse.org/lawis/eyh/index.shtml or contact Josefina Salazar at
josefina@lanl.gov or 505.667.2701.

To volunteer to help with Expanding Your Horizons, contact Susan Coulter at skc@lanl.gov.