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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: 08/30/2022
  • Number of Support Periods: 9
  • PM: Pechan, Michael
  • Current Budget Period: 05/02/2022 - 05/01/2023
  • Current Project Period: 05/02/2020 - 05/01/2023
  • PI: Plisch, Monica
  • Supplement Budget Period: N/A

Public Abstract

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

Monica Plisch, American Physical Society (Principal Investigator) Renee Michelle Goertzen, American Physical Society (Co-Investigator)


Increasing the participation of women in physics is critical to addressing U.S. workforce needs in STEM. Only 21% of undergraduate degrees in physics were earned by women in 2017, and this percentage has been stagnant or declining in most years since 2002. These women are likely to have been taught by few, if any, female physics professors and typically are one of only a few women in their class, leading to feelings of isolation. Further, almost 75% of undergraduate women in a national sample reported experiencing sexual harassment in a physics environment. Women who belong to multiple marginalized groups, such as women of color and those in the LGBT community, experience even greater challenges, including more negative climates and reduced access to peers or mentors who share their background.


The American Physical Society (APS) Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) are a collaborative effort of physicists across the nation that aims to increase the participation of women in physics. The number of conference attendees has grown from 29 students at the first one in 2006 to more than 1,800 students across a dozen sites in 2020. By comparison, nearly 2,000 women graduate with a bachelor’s degree in physics each year in the U.S., indicating CUWiP reaches nearly all undergraduate women in physics. Moreover, the conferences have attracted underrepresented minorities (URM) at a higher percentage than their representation among physics bachelor’s degree recipients. The conferences provide an opportunity for undergraduate women to hear inspirational talks by female physicists; present their own research at a student poster session; participate in workshops and panel discussions on summer research, graduate school, and physics careers; learn about navigating issues facing women in physics, including URM women and first-generation college students; and develop networks and informal mentoring relationships.


This project builds on past successes to pursue the following goals: (1) increase the likelihood that women studying physics will persist in a physics major and pursue a career in physics, in particular helping women in physics learn about tools and strategies to help them thrive and attending specifically to the needs of women with multiple marginalized identities; (2) continue developing a body of evidence-based conference principles (EBCP) and support conferences organizers in implementing these principles; and

(3) develop a sustainable model for running CUWiP conferences and ensuring this opportunity continues to be available to every undergraduate woman in physics. We will do this by organizing conferences for 2,000 participants annually for the next three years, increasing recruitment from minority serving institutions and community colleges, encouraging participants to be active in women in physics groups, enhancing professional development for conference organizers, using evaluation results to identify and refine EBCPs, and establishing regional consortia of institutions to host CUWiPs.

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