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Women and Science Program

UW Oshkosh Campus
Halsey Science Center Room 121

8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Phone: (920) 424-7414

Presentation Schedule with Abstracts 2017

Monday, May 15th

9:00-9:15 AM            Registration and Welcome – Director, Women and Science Program

9:15-9:50 AM            Ken Menningen (UW Stevens Point, Physics & Astronomy)

The Peaceful Coexistence of HARPOONs and SEALs

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting is a promising technology to produce clean hydrogen fuel from water and sunlight. The major challenge, however, is finding a semiconductor with the right properties in order to absorb a majority of the solar spectrum, split water efficiently, and resist corrosion. These stringent requirements have motivated efforts to quickly scan a large number of semiconductor candidates. I will describe how two faculty members at UW-Stevens Point are cooperating to use a HARPOON (Heterogeneous Anodes Rapidly Perused for Oxygen Overpotential Neutralization) kit and a SEAL (Solar Energy Activity Lab) kit to search for promising candidate semiconductors.

9:50-10:25 PM           Gail Coover (Executive Director, Wisconsin Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation)

TITLE: WiscAMP: Developing Leadership to Broaden Participation in STEM 

The Wisconsin Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (WiscAMP) program is funded by the National Science Foundation and includes all UW-System schools. This presentation will describe WiscAMP goals, outcomes and funding opportunities. Specific initiatives for students and faculty development will be discussed.

10:25-11:00 PM         Courtney Kurtz (UW Oshkosh, Biology)

Helping Students See Themselves in Science:  A Way to Increase Underrepresented Group Retention and Involvement in STEM

A continuing issue in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines is the recruitment and retention of women and other underrepresented groups.  This is a continuing issue at UW Oshkosh where, in a similar manner to other state schools, drop-fail-withdraw (DFW) rates for these students are significantly higher than their peers.  As an instructor in two large gateway courses for the Biology department, I have attempted several strategies and new pedagogies to reduce the DFW rate in my classes.  I will describe some of them here and discuss the benefits and challenges of using these techniques.  I will also talk about some other innovations that I would like to try and the potential reasons why I have not been able to use them in my classrooms thus far.

11:00-12:00 PM         LUNCH

12:00-12:35 PM         Sarah Jane Alger (UW Stevens Point, Biology)

“Do We Have To?”: Engaging Resistant Students in Required Courses

Animal Physiology is an upper-level course at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point that is required for Biology majors and minors (as a physiology requirement with three other possible course alternatives), Wildlife Ecology majors (as an anatomy and physiology requirement with one other possible course alternative), all Fisheries majors and all Captive Wildlife minors. As a group, the Wildlife Ecology and Fisheries majors have consistently performed worse in the course than the Biology and Pre-Professional majors. A pre-course survey revealed that, compared to Biology majors, the Wildlife and Fisheries students tend to: 1) have allowed more time to lapse (often several years) since their last rigorous biology course, 2) start the course with more anxiety about how they will perform, 3) start the course with less enthusiasm for what they will learn, and 4) list their primary reason for taking the course as “it is required”. I implemented a number of changes to the course, including prerequisite concept tests, wildlife and fisheries-related case studies, and collaborative online concept maps with the goals of increasing and equalizing the preparedness and engagement of the students across majors. Although these changes resulted in no net effect on test performance, there was a significant increase in agreement with the statements “I found this course interesting” and “I would like to learn more about animal physiology” among both Wildlife and Fisheries majors. Further insights to the effectiveness of these pedagogies will be discussed.

12:35-1:10 PM           Jennifer Wenner (UW Oshkosh, Geology)

Title to be announced

1:10-1:45 PM             Rachel Headley (UW Parkside, Geoscience)

Calculating Slope Failure: Math Anxiety and Geoscience Students

Math anxiety involves moderate to extreme fear, anxiety, and occasionally physical pain associated with anticipating or performing mathematical tasks. High levels of math phobia have been tied to students taking lower levels of math and choosing less quantitatively-challenging courses. However, as many scientific fields and jobs become more data-driven, math skills become more of an essential part of a scientist’s tool kit. In previous studies of math anxiety, using an intervention of rewording math-based problems to include language that de-emphasizes the quantitative elements can reduce anxiety in higher-anxiety students; this can be as simple as using “problem-solving ability” instead of “math ability.” In this study, a similar rebranding intervention has been used on low-stakes assessments, such as homework or non-graded quizzes. The control questions might contain math-anxiety triggering words, such as “calculate the Factor of Safety,” whereas the intervention question might ask students to “provide evidence for slope failure” using given equations and their geoscience background.

In a small geoscience program at a primarily undergraduate institution, math anxiety has been assessed using a standardized math anxiety rating survey embedded into a more general anxiety survey. Course grades and demographic information have also been collected, as higher math anxiety has been correlated with particular demographic groups and grade outcomes. While conducting initial surveys, many student participants were eager to talk openly about their admitted anxiety in STEM classes. To formalize these conversations, interviews have been conducted on a smaller subset of students to determine not only the basis and background of their possible anxieties but also whether they personally feel that research on anxiety is important. Currently, while sample sizes have been very small, the outcome of this study is being used to determine if interventions should be used in most geoscience courses.

1:45-2:15 PM             BREAK

2:15-2:50 PM             Matt Evans and Creanna Cote (UW Eau Claire, Physics & Women in STEM Student Organization)

UW-Eau Claire’s Women in STEM Student organization

Support, community building, professional development and outreach are all components of UW-Eau Claire’s Women in STEM Student organization.  The idea of community building however is not limited to the students who are active in the group. Through programing, partnerships and a more public presence, other students and faculty are benefiting from the community building born from the activities and energy of the student organization, ultimately helping reach goals to recruit and retain both students and faculty in STEM at UW-Eau Claire.  We will share the path we took in establishing the organization and how the organization has raised awareness of the issues surrounding women and gender minorities in STEM on campus and how partnerships and professional development have evolved from this work.


2:50-3:25 PM             Laura McCullough (UW Stout, Physics & Astronomy)

Women’s Leadership in STEM

Women’s participation in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) has been growing, though certain fields remain stubbornly male-dominated. As women have moved through the ranks, how many women in STEM take on leadership roles? This question has barely been studied, but the few sources available suggest that women are heavily under-represented in STEM leadership, despite the overall numbers of women in STEM fields. This paper will discuss the issues that help and hinder women’s leadership in STEM.

3:25-4:00 PM             Alicia Johnson (Director of Women’s Center, UW Oshkosh)

Title to be announced


4:00 PM                     Closing Remarks