Nav Bar

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 well.

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 said.

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 females involved."

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."


Past Sponsors | Our Press
Participants | Organizers | Sponsors | Resources | Directions | Home