5th IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics

Press release

Last updated August 31st, 2014



“Can I be a famous physicist if I am a girl?” A century ago it was only Marie Curie and a few others who entered the highest ranks of the physics community, but this month the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) brought over 200 women physicists from 52 countries to Waterloo for the 5th IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics (ICWIP). ICWIP 2014 was held at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada from August 5 to 8, 2014.

The ICWIP meetings provide a unique opportunity for women and men in the global physics community to showcase physics research, promote the exchange of ideas and address gender issues in the field.

In her conference welcome speech, Silvina Ponce Dawson, chair of the IUPAP working group of women in physics, encouraged attendees to take action.

“…when we go back to our countries, we have to start or continue the actions necessary to improve the situation of women physicists, to increase the good practice of our discipline and to promote the advancement of society through this practice,” said Ponce Dawson. “I hope … the conference give(s) you the impetus to move, to change, to not fear to fail and to help advance the agenda of women in physics all over the world.”

Delegates at ICWIP presented posters about the status of women in physics in their countries, and participated in workshops on gender studies, physics education, culture and ethics, professional development, and improving the workplace. Conference attendees developed new resolutions for addressing gender issues in physics, which will be presented to the IUPAP general assembly later this year.

The conference opened with a public lecture by world-famous astronomer Jill Tarter, whose work inspired the novel and film Contact. The lecture was co-hosted by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, located in Waterloo.

Among the distinguished plenary speakers presenting at the conference were: Melissa Franklin, who was part of the team that discovered the Higgs boson and is the first woman to receive tenure in Harvard University’s Physics department; Patience Mthunzi, the first person in South Africa to qualify for a PhD in her area of biophotonics; and Tsai-Chien Chiang, science columnist who authored Madam Wu Chien-Shiung: The First Lady of Physics Research, the biography of famous experimental physicist Wu Chien-Shiung. In addition, over 100 posters on cutting-edge physics research were presented by participants during the scientific poster session.

The conference also featured a new initiative called "My STEM Story,” which encouraged women physicists to share their experiences online in the form of personal stories, essays, poems, pictures and videos.

“ICWIP 2014 was buzzing with activity and energy,” said Shohini Ghose, associate professor of physics at Laurier and chair of the ICWIP 2014 Local Organizing Committee. “It was inspiring to hear about the research and experiences of the plenary speakers, but the best part was to connect with women physicists from so many countries, share our research, start collaborations, make new friends and develop initiatives to increase the participation of women in physics.”

Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), welcomed attendees to the conference in his first public event since being appointed to his role at the MTCU.

“It’s fitting that this is my first assignment as minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. Before I was a politician, I was a physicist, and head of the physics department of the only university for women in Iran in 1976,” said Moridi. “For me, physics was not only a career, but a passion. If we can continue to encourage women to enter physics, and continue to connect, we can continue to push innovation forward.”

The conference was co-hosted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics and the Canadian Association of Physicists, and locally organized by Laurier's Centre for Women in Science. It was the first time the conference has been held in North America.

More information about the conference can be found at: http://icwip2014.wlu.ca/.