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HHC Freshman Samantha Harvey Joins Women in Science, Technology and Mathematics Community-Gets to Explore Argonne National Laboratory

April 23, 2013

Last year as incoming HHC freshman Samantha Harvey was ready to sign up for student housing at Indiana University, she made a decision that may change her life. While most people see home as a place to get away from work, Harvey chose student housing that would immerse her in her area of study.

Harvey was one of 20 IU undergraduates who last year became initial members of the Women in Science, Technology and Mathematics community residential program designed for young women interested in those fields. The students live on the same floor of a residence hall, share in mentoring, tutoring and research opportunities, and occasionally take advantage of special programming that takes them to some of the most advanced science and research facilities in North America.

"When I was signing up for housing, I noticed that there were many different groups that I could choose to live in, and the Women in STM community really stood out to me because I thought that it would be a great place to live and help with my degree," Harvey said.

Her intuitions were right, she said while reflecting on a recent overnight stay and full day of tours and meetings at Argonne National Laboratory with about 20 other IU undergraduate women. Just outside Chicago, Argonne employs 1,250 scientists, and also 650 graduate and undergraduate students, who work on some of the most advanced research topics related to energy, the environment and national security.

"The whole trip was spectacular, and I was particularly interested in the Center for Nanoscale Materials because I am staying in Bloomington for a research internship this summer that is very much related to nanoparticles and materials chemistry," said Harvey, whose internship will be supported by the Women in STM program. "The number of projects that are now taking place at the center is helping to open a whole new area of study, and it's one that I am definitely interested in."

Maren Pink, a senior scientist in the IU College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Chemistry who is also director of IU's Molecular Structure Center, initiated the Argonne visit for the Women in STM, a first for the program. An IU researcher who has long been active in initiatives for women in science, Pink said she imagined a visit to an internationally recognized government research facility like Argonne might serve as an inspiring adventure.

"National laboratories oftentimes appear to be inaccessible and mysterious places, but they are really not," Pink said. "I wanted our female undergraduate students who are aiming at STEM careers to see what they can do with a science degree and acquaint them with research opportunities at various levels in their academic career.

"Meeting distinguished female scientists at three top-notch national facilities located at Argonne and getting to know their career paths, struggles and successes will hopefully inspire our students to pursue research in a STEM field," she added. "In addition, I think this helped to convince them that national laboratories can be very much part of a future career, whether they are an occasional user getting results to support their Ph.D. thesis or research, or work at a national laboratory as a post-doc or permanent staff member."

Feedback from beamline staff was also positive. Yu-Sheng Chen, a scientist who specializes in advanced crystallography techniques, said they were "utterly impressed by the lively crowd asking fantastic questions covering cutting-edge research, career advice and work-life balance topics."

"They seemed thrilled about the prospect of having IU undergraduates back in the future," Pink added.

Women in STM is operated through the Office of the Dean of Students in partnership with Residential Programs and Services and with the support of the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President. Funding for the Argonne trip was provided by the IU Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

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