University of Rochester

Rochester Area High School Girls Get Hands-On Science Experience

July 12, 2013

17 Students Take Part in University's No-Fee Summer Program

Summer is a time for kids to take part in fun, stimulating activities. And 17 high school girls from the Rochester area are doing just that, learning about motion, electricity, and optics at the University of Rochester.

They're taking part in Pre-College Experience in Physics (PREP), a hands-on, four week program designed to encourage women to pursue careers in science.

"There is a significant gender disparity in the physical sciences in the United States," said Steven Manly, a professor of physics at the University of Rochester and the current PREP director. "Only 10 to 20 percent of our first-year physics majors are female. A great number of very capable and talented young women are choosing not to pursue the physical sciences or engineering."

To address the issue, the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy started PREP 19 years ago as a way to provide girls an enriching science experience with like-minded individuals, while exposing them to successful role models.

This year, the students come from 14 area high schools: Brockport, East, Wilson, Mercy, Aquinas, Webster Thomas, Brighton, Honeoye Falls, Pittsford, Fairport, Penfield, Byron-Bergen, Pavilion Central School, and Pittsford Mendon.

"We have a full program in store for the girls," said Christina Loniewski, an undergraduate student at the University and one of the PREP instructors. "They'll be studying basic mechanics, some optics, circuits, a little astronomy, and a whole lot of particle physics. We even plan to show them some holograms for the fun of it."

The students attending PREP do not pay any fees, take no tests, won't have any homework, and are not expected to have taken any physics in school. While they receive no credits, they will be given certificates of completion at the end of the program.

PREP is funded, in part, by the US CMS Outreach Fund. CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) is one of the two large particle physics experiments at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.