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KNOXVILLE —The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is hosting a conference to encourage women studying physics to buck the trend by staying in their technical fields and succeeding in their careers.

The Southeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, a three-and-a-half-day conference for undergraduate physics majors, will be held Thursday, January 12 through Sunday, January 15. This conference aims to increase the number of women in physics by providing support to female physicists.

“Women and minorities make up about 60 percent of the US population, so it is of critical importance to our nation that this portion of the labor force be skilled in science,” said Christine Nattrass, conference organizer and post-doctoral researcher in the physics department.

Studies indicate many women leave the field due to various reasons, such as stress on family and personal life, low pay, and lack of support from educators.

The conference is part of a series of conferences for undergraduate women in physics across the country. More than 130 students from more than fifty institutions within the Southeast will be attending.

“Women made up almost half of high school physics students in 2001, but only 22 percent of bachelor’s degrees in physics were awarded to women in 2003,” said Nattrass. “It’s also been found that women in physics have lower salaries than men.”

By helping young women with career development, the conference intends to keep young women in technical fields and help them be more successful in their careers. The conference also hopes to reach many groups of students who are severely underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math in this region.

“Many of the students in the Southeast are the first in their family to go to college, so this support system and encouragement is crucial for them to continue with their studies and become invaluable assets to society,” said Nattrass.

There are also several events which will address minority women in physics, including a panel on minorities in physics and a lunch with minorities in physics.

The program includes research talks by faculty, panel discussions about graduate school and careers in physics, presentations and discussions about women in physics, laboratory tours, student research talks, a student poster session, and networking opportunities. About twenty-five speakers and panelists with a breadth of experience from across the nation will attend.

For more information, including a schedule, visit

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460,

Christine Nattrass (865-974-9020, 865-241-9709,