Argonne event encourages young women to pursue careers in STEM

Author: 
Jim Collins

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Francesca Restani, a 16-year-old student at Lyons Township High School, was ecstatic when she found out she would be touring the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) as part of Argonne’s Science Careers in Search of Women (SCSW) event on April 14.

“I was just hoping I would learn something about computing, and here I am,” she said smiling as she walked in the machine room that houses the ALCF’s supercomputer, Mira. “Being able to work in a place like this would be a dream come true.”

This is exactly the kind of sentiment that SCSW organizers and volunteers hope to inspire in program attendees.

“Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields,” said Liza Booker, user experience analyst at the ALCF. “This day is all about getting young women excited about science and engineering careers so we can change that dynamic.”

For Argonne’s 29th annual SCSW conference, approximately 300 female high school students from across the Chicago area visited the laboratory for a day of panels, tours, career booth exhibits, and mentoring.

At the ALCF, Booker led tours of the machine room and provided a crash course on how supercomputers are used to enable scientific breakthroughs. At another part of the laboratory, Janet Jaseckas, ALCF user experience specialist, volunteered for the event’s career booth, where she displayed a supercomputer node board and promoted job opportunities in computer science.

The students also attended a panel discussion featuring four Argonne women: computer scientist Jini Ramprakash, postdoctoral researcher Laura Ratcliff, system administrator Tina Stanton-Piersanti, and user support specialist Kat Tylka, who shared the unique and inspiring pathways that led them to STEM careers at the laboratory.

Booker and Ramprakash also participated in similar panel discussion for the 68 high school teachers in attendance.

“With our panel discussions, we brought in a diverse set of speakers to help strip away any misconceptions associated with women in STEM,” said Ramprakash, a member of the SCSW organizing committee. “We wanted to give them a sample of the many successful women who have fun and rewarding careers at Argonne.”