Female focused science event engages young women


Aspiring female scientists came to Washburn’s campus Oct. 31 to learn about the importance of their representation and potential in science fields.


In its eleventh year, the annual Women in Science Day brought over 250 seventh-grade students from around Topeka and northeast Kansas to learn from female scientists. Participants could take part in labs such as Who Dunnit?, a look at using science to help solve crimes, The Yummy Side of Science, which showed how senses affect tastes and Things Aren’t Always as They Seem, where girls were able to learn about psychology by taking part in a social psychological experiment.


“The main goal of this event is to have girls interact with women scientists,” said Karen Camarda, associate professor of physics at Washburn. “The motivation really is because girls at this age, even those who do really well in math in sciences, when they get to this age and they can start picking their own classes, they tend to opt out [of science classes], and we think that some of the reason is that they don’t see themselves as scientists, they don’t have [those] role models.”


By seeing women like science professors from Washburn and the University of Kansas, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Weather Service, the hope is to encourage girls to enroll in science classes that interest them.


Around 30 volunteers, including some Washburn students, were on hand to help throughout the day. Some lead the seventh-graders around campus to buildings such as Stoffer Science Hall, Petro Allied Health Center and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Forensic Science Lab building. Other volunteers facilitated the labs that attendees could take part in.


“I helped out with the chemistry labs,” said Ryan Haller, a junior chemistry major. “We had three mini labs that [the girls] participated in.”


The three chemistry labs combined took about an hour, according to Haller.


Haller said he wasn’t volunteering at this event for any class credit or personal benefit. 


“I really want to encourage the younger generation to take part in the sciences,” Haller said.


One such young scientist was excited to try the tasting lab.


“I really liked the Yummy Science lab,” said Rosa Roper, a student at Jardine Middle School. “We learned about the different taste buds and how the five senses all affect how we taste things.”


The students in the Yummy lab tasted different mint and fruit flavored candy.


“They had us put on a blindfold and plug our noses and then guess what the flavors were,” Roper said.


Another student took the most away from the psychological aspects of the event.


“I’ve always been interested in psychology,” said Elizabeth Seitz, also from Jardine. “This was a neat way to see what all is involved in it.”


The social psychology experiment was designed to show how people react differently than the perceived labels that are given to them.


Roper and Seitz were really glad to be out of school for the day, even if it meant missing Halloween festivities.


“The elementary school is doing a parade around the [Jardine] campus,” Roper said.


Seitz was glad to be inside during that day though.


“It’s too cold out for a parade today anyway,” Seitz said.