The Daily Free Press, Tuesday, March 26, 1996
BU Leads Path for Women in Science
by Jennifer Mazza
For one day at Boston University, 300 high school girls
can mill around the campus, visiting science laboratories
and listening to researchers speak about their professions.
No boys allowed.
The Pathways Program is a new program that encourages
young women from Massachusetts high schools to visit BU for
a day and learn about career options for young women in
science, engineering and mathematics. Female high school
students from other high schools in the U.S. are welcome as
The girls have the opportunity to meet and talk with
scientist about their fields of interest. They also tour
BU's laboratory facilities and join in discussions
concerning issues in science, engineering and mathematics.
Pathways '96 will be held on Tuesday, April 9.
Elizabeth Simmons, an assistant professor of physics in
the College of Arts & Sciences and the faculty
coordinator for the Pathways program, said the program is a
great opportunity because girls can meet [women] in their
respective fields which will help them to envision
themselves doing the same type of work. Simmons works with
Cynthia Brossman, the administrative coordinator of the
program. Brossman said that she and Simmons decided to put
the program together in 1994.
"The reason I wanted to start something like this was
because I wanted to give young women a chance to talk
positively about science with other women," Simmons said.
"There's a lot of discrimination of women in the sciences,
and I wanted [the girls] to see how exciting science is and
how much we love what we do."
Amy Mullin, an assistant professor of chemistry at BU and
a co-organizer of the Pathways Program, agreed with Simmons
on the importance of the program.
"If you only imagine a very limited future, then you
don't try to do things," she said. We try to get women who
are in the sciences to lead talks and graduate students and
post-doctorates to give the tour and talk to the girls."
According to Simmons, there has been a huge response to
the Pathways Program so far. For the first year about 75
girls participated. Last year, more than 300 girls wanted to
come, which forced Simmons and Brossman to turn some away.
The facilities available for the program could not
accommodate everyone interested, they said.
"This year we are looking to have about that many
interested again," Simmons said.
BU sends out information about the program to all of the
high schools in eastern Massachusetts and asks teachers to
encourage their female students to visit, Simmons said.
"Not all of [the participants] know yet if they want to
be scientists, but they are at least curious about what it
all means," she said.
Brossman said that when the students come to campus for
the day, they are really enthusiastic about being there. "It
gives them an impression and a taste for college life," she
According to Simmons, the Pathways Program is supported
by the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of
Engineering and the Science and Mathematics Education
Center. Organizations such as the National Science
Foundation also support the program.
Marilyn Feke, a CAS freshman, attended the program two
years ago while she was at Stoneham High School. "I think
[Pathways] helped in my decision to come to Boston
University because I saw that there was some support for
women in science," Feke said.
Simmons and Brossman have observed that outreach programs
such as the Pathways Program have impacted the decisions of
several prospective students to attend BU.
Meredith Hattan, an ENG freshman, attended the program
two years ago. She said she liked it, especially because it
is run just for girls.
"They gave us a little taste about what each of the
departments in math and the sciences did and how a female
would deal in each one," Hattan said.
"I think the ratio of girls to guys is one to four in
this field," she added. "I think in that sense, that these
programs are great. They have to have them in order to get
Mullin explained why boys have not been invited to the
program. "The feeling is that there already plenty of
programs, in the sciences especially, where it is
predominantly boys," she said. "Pathways is designed to be
just the opposite."