Mines News

Release Date Monday, March 9, 2020

Hundreds of 7th Grade Girls to Visit Campus for Conference

Students at the 2019 Women in Science Conference enjoy one of the experiments. 

RAPID CITY, S.D. (March 9, 2020) – Approximately 830 middle school girls will visit the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology campus Tuesday, March 10, for the 2020 Women in Science Conference.

The day-long workshop provides young women with engaging opportunities to learn about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The program is hosted by Youth in Science Rapid City and co-sponsored by SD Mines’ Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program. WiSE provides support, mentors, activities and opportunities for students and is sponsored by POET, the world’s largest producers of ethanol and biorefined products. In 2020, POET awarded WiSE a $30,000 grant to continue its work. 

Seventh-grade girls in the Rapid City Area Schools District will attend, as well as homeschooled students and girls from Custer, Hermosa, Hill City, Hot Springs, Kadoka, Red Shirt and St. Thomas Moore.

 “The Women in Science Conference is just one way to encourage young girls to consider careers in STEM and instill in them the confidence to pursue their dreams,” says Tanya Nelsen, one of the coordinators of the conference and herself a chemist.

This is important because while the representation of women in STEM has increased during recent years, there “remains a significant drop-off at every stage, particularly during the years between postdoctoral and tenure-track positions,” according to a recent study, Staying Power: Women in Science on What it Takes to Succeed.

“Our hope is that the young women who attend this event will consider a career in a STEM field that they may not have thought was an option based on their perception of what women typically do. By giving them the opportunity to see and talk to a female who is doing a job that they may not have previously considered, or even knew existed, we are expanding their worlds dramatically. For many of them, it’s a ‘light bulb’ moment,” Nelsen says.

During the conference, a wide range of STEM careers will be discussed and demonstrated by professional women leading interactive exhibits and discussions. Among the speakers will be engineers, physicians, dentists, meteorologists, science educators, a veterinarian, a physicist, a pharmacist, a hydrologist, a chemist, computer scientist, a forensic scientist and an information technology officer.

Dr. Jeanette McConnell with the NSF Center for Chemical Innovation, Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry in the Environment will serve as the keynote speaker. McConnell is the Education, Outreach and Diversity Coordinator.

The Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry in the Environment is comprised of scientists striving to advance the understanding of fundamental chemical processes as they happen in the real world by “developing novel ways to address large scale environmental processes in a controlled setting. CAICE has brought the real-world complexity of the ocean-atmosphere-microbe system to the laboratory.”

McConnell is also a part of Homeward Bound, a leadership and science initiative for women in STEM which will include a three-week voyage to Antarctica. She strives to “grow an even more diverse group of future STEM leaders.”

As a financial supporter of the WiSE program, POET has committed to helping young women pursue their passions in STEM. Some of the WiSE activities made possible through the POET grant include adventure weekend, held at the start of each academic year to introduce students to mentors and welcome them to campus; WiSE panel discussion and dinner, an event that includes a panel of successful female STEM professionals who offer insight and advice to students; pop-up breakfasts with company representatives; a mentorship program; a WiSE lounge and more.

“POET is proud to sponsor South Dakota Mines’ WiSE program. POET’s mission and vision center on changing the world and tackling some of the most pressing social and environmental issues like climate change. We need everyone, women and men, to help us work toward these goals. By providing opportunities for students to learn from professionals in STEM fields, we are able to help inspire the next generation of female innovators and leaders,” says Amber Unser, Vice President of People and Culture, POET.

The Women in Science Conference is funded by grants and community donations. Major event sponsors include Caterpillar, Halliburton, POET, Black Hills Energy, Delta Dental of South Dakota, South Dakota Space Grant Consortium, RESPEC and Monument Health. 

A second Women in Science Conference will be held on May 13, in Spearfish. That event is sponsored by Black Hills State University and BHSU Women in STEM.

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About SD Mines  

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,529 students with an average class size of 24. The SD School of Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $63,350. Find us online at sdsmt.edu and on  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat

Contact: Lynn Taylor Rick, (605) 394-2554, Lynn.TaylorRick@sdsmt.edu