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DE-SC0011076: APS CUWiP+: Supporting the Success of All Undergraduate Women+ in Physics

Award Status: Active
  • Institution: American Physical Society, College Park, MD
  • UEI: CE5JV8E9K4S3
  • DUNS: 020408001
  • Most Recent Award Date: 05/15/2024
  • Number of Support Periods: 11
  • PM: Cantoni, Claudia
  • Current Budget Period: 05/02/2024 - 05/01/2025
  • Current Project Period: 05/02/2023 - 05/01/2026
  • PI: Bailey, Crystal
  • Supplement Budget Period: N/A

Public Abstract

APS CUWiP+: Supporting the Success of All Undergraduate Women+ in Physics 

Dr. Crystal Bailey, American Physical Society (Principal Investigator)

Dr. Farah Dawood, American Physical Society (Co-Principal Investigator)


In 2020, only 25% of undergraduate physics degrees were earned by women, and over the last two decades this percentage has essentially plateaued. Increasing the participation of women in physics is critical to addressing U.S. workforce needs in STEM. These women are unlikely to have been taught physics by many women and often may be the only woman in their class, leading to feelings of isolation. In addition, almost 75% of undergraduate women in a national sample reported experiencing sexual harassment in a physics environment. Women who are part of multiple marginalized groups, including women of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community, experience even greater challenges, facing negative climates and reduced access to peers or mentors who share their personal background.


The American Physical Society (APS) Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) are a continuation of a grassroots collaborative effort of physicists from around the country that has organized conferences for undergraduate women annually since 2006. The number of participants has increased from 29 students at the first one to almost 2,000 participants across 14 regional conferences and 1 virtual conference in 2023. To put this in perspective, an average of about 2,100 women graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics in the U.S. in a recent three-year period. Moreover, organizers have succeeded in attracting underrepresented minorities (URM) at a higher percentage than their representation among physics bachelor’s degree recipients. The conferences provide an opportunity for women to hear inspirational talks by female physicists; participate in workshops and panel discussions on summer research, graduate school, and physics careers; learn about issues facing women and first-generation college students; and develop networks and informal mentoring relationships. CUWiP organizers strive to create a welcoming environment for all, including women and gender minorities.

The overall aim of this project is to realize substantial gains in the fraction of bachelor’s degrees in physics granted to female students, toward the vision of gender parity. In pursuit of this aim, we articulate the following goals for this project, which includes CUWiP conferences and related activities (CUWiP+): (1) Provide experiences for undergraduate women that strengthen their persistence and career choice in physics through CUWiP+ (2) Make CWUiP+ available to and inclusive of all undergraduate women in physics, and (3) Support ongoing engagement of women in CUWiP+ throughout their undergraduate career. We will do this by organizing conferences for 2,000 participants annually for the next three years and providing support for conference organizers to plan events with effective and fully inclusive programming. In addition, we will encourage participants to be active in local Women in Physics (WiP) groups, offer virtual programming throughout the year, and provide opportunities for leadership experience and skills development in building a community led by and for women in physics. 

The proposed CUWiP conferences and related activities (CUWiP+) aim to broaden the participation of women in physics by providing information, resources, networks and motivation to pursue advanced degrees and/or careers in physics. The broad geographic distribution of the conferences promotes access and facilitates the recruitment of students from underrepresented minority groups and from local community colleges. This project will build on past successes to further increase recruitment of women of color and community college students. We will also offer training on founding and growing WiP groups, which will amplify the effect of the conferences by involving women in long-term activities that support their persistence. In addition, virtual programming will further increase access for individuals with travel or other constraints and enhance networking opportunities. By offering the opportunity for nearly every female physics major to participate in a CUWiP+, our aim is to see the fraction of bachelor’s degrees in physics granted to female students make substantial gains toward the vision of gender parity.

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