Laboratory researcher Adrianna Reyes-Newell, right, shows students how laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy works. The ChemCam instrument on the Curiosity rover uses this technology to investigate the composition of Martian rocks. Courtesy/LANL
- Two-week program from Los Alamos National Laboratory aims to inspire and increase diversity in STEM fields
The third annual Los Alamos National Laboratory Summer Physics Camp for Young Women recently concluded in Pojoaque, giving the 22 students from Northern New Mexico communities a grounding in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, introducing them to role models, and showcasing the wide range of STEM opportunities available at the Laboratory.
“The free camp aims at empowering local young women to explore a future in STEM by showcasing topics through demonstrations and hands-on experiments and lectures,” said Anna Llobet, camp organizer and Laboratory researcher. “The camp also connects the participants to female and male role models who share their career paths and explain what the day-to day-work looks like. The ultimate goals are to inspire the youth in our neighboring communities and increase the diversity in STEM fields generally, and in the Lab’s workforce in particular.”
A total of 94 volunteers (60 of whom were female) led demonstrations and hands-on experiments and gave talks on concepts including electricity, magnetism, atomic structure, particle physics, space exploration, computing, and modeling. The campers, from 14 high schools across Northern New Mexico, also had the opportunity to learn how to solder or build and program their own computer.
“I have learned so much in the past two weeks, and every day has opened my eyes further to what I can accomplish,” said student Judith Allison from Santa Fe. “I loved meeting all the female scientists and hearing their stories and what they went through to get where they wanted to go.”
The educational leaders were DOE Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow Pascale Creek Pinner and Los Alamos Middle School science teacher Megan Rains.
“While 45 per cent of the students were strongly considering a college future in STEM before of the camp, only 55 per cent of the students reported having any family members working in STEM fields, indicating a strong need for STEM role models in our local student population,” said Llobet.
To underline the wide range of STEM careers available, especially at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the camp visited Laboratory research facilities including Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy Lab, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, and the New Mexico Consortium Biolab.
Students also received guidance on professional development, including resumé and interview tips, as well as information about student internships at the Laboratory and opportunities at local colleges.
“This has truly inspired me even more to pursue a STEM career and maybe even get a full-time job at LANL,” said camper Ariana Garcia, who attends Capital High School in Santa Fe.
Joining the Laboratory as sponsors were the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, New Mexico Consortium, and Pojoaque Valley School District, which hosted and supported the camp at Pojoaque Valley High School, and Los Alamos Public Schools, which supported the camp and sponsored one of the lead educators.
Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Triad, a public service oriented, national security science organization equally owned by its three founding members: Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS), and the Regents of the University of California (UC) for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.