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200 Girls to Advance Pursuits in Math, Science Fields at Expanding Your Horizons Conference

April 1, 2009 -- More than 200 middle school girls will advance their pursuits in the math and science fields by attending the Expanding Your Horizons Career Conference at Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) on Saturday, April 4. Organized by women working in math and science research and education, the conference is held each year to encourage girls to increase their interests in the math and science fields – industries traditionally dominated by males.

The conference was originally launched in part due to studies that show that girls lose interest in and stop taking math and science courses earlier than boys. Event organizers hope the day helps close the gap for females who are typically underrepresented in the fields of math, science and engineering.

"There's a clear gender gap in the math and science industry, although studies tell us that a person's aptitude for these subjects is not genetically-based," says Eleanor Siebert, MSMU's provost and academic vice president, who is a past chair of the College's Physical Sciences and Mathematics Department. "We aim to alter these attitudes by engaging girls in hands-on workshops led by professional women who show the girls that they can compete successfully in math and science fields."

Girls in grades 5-8 from greater Los Angeles area schools will participate in such workshops as veterinary medicine, civil engineering, theoretical physics, and chemistry. These workshops, which will be facilitated by 25 women who work in math and science-related careers, include how:
• police discover and analyze evidence to solve crimes;
• engineers build houses to withstand earthquakes;
• doctors learn about anatomy through dissection; and
• civil engineers can create asphalt using chocolate, peanut butter, nuts and coconut.

Fourteen-year-old Taylor Kay of Hawthorne says her experience at the event two years ago helped shape her career aspirations. "It was amazing to see women in fields that the world doesn't expect them to excel in," says Kay, who wants to one day work in forensics. "We felt their passion about their careers, and it empowered us to go after those same kinds of jobs in the working world."

An aspiring veterinarian, 16-year-old Justice Shank of Burbank says her experience at a past conference opened her eyes to math and science. "I dissected a pig's heart. It was cool and fun," she says.

The conference also offers an adult program for parents, teachers and counselors. Adult workshops include how to nurture prospective young scientists, and how to obtain financial aid for college expenses. Adults can attend hands-on scientific workshops, as well.

The conference takes place from 8:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. in Ahmanson Weingart Hall (Building 4) on the Doheny Campus at Mount Saint Mary’s University, located at 10 Chester Place in downtown Los Angeles. The event is organized by Math/Science Interchange, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting math and science education for girls. For more information or to register, click here.

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