Alyssa Bowes of Glen Ellyn and Jaime Bryant of Woodridge recently attended the Conference on Undergraduate Women in Physics held at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign.
Bowes and Bryant were the only two community college students among the more than 170 attendees at the sixth annual event in January. Activities included a career panel, a graduate student panel and an undergraduate research panel.
Bowes, who is majoring in Physics, was impressed by the stories she heard at the conference.
"It never occurred to me that it's different being a woman in this field," she said. "Listening to the women on the various panels made me feel more confident."
Bowes never took physics in high school. As a first semester math major at a four-year college, she enrolled in a physics class and discovered she wanted to learn more. Unfortunately, the school didn't offer physics as a major and her options were limited. So she transferred to College of DuPage.
"Once I came here, my biggest influence has been Physics Professor Tom Carter," she said. "He's really helping me move forward, and I would not have gone to the conference if it were not for him."
Currently the vice president of COD's Engineering Club, Bowes will transfer to the Illinois Institute of Technology this fall to pursue astrophysics.
"Astrophysics is amazing! I'm not sure I know enough to decide what to do for a career, but the idea of finding out what's in the universe is something I could pursue forever and never get tired of it," she said. "The one thing I took away from the conference is that it doesn't matter if you didn't take physics in high school or if you are studying at a community college. The conference really helped me erase any self-doubt."
Bryant enjoyed speaking with the other conference participants and learning about their research.
"It was so much fun being there. One student had an internship where she built an electron gun!" she said. "I enjoyed learning what steps to take to apply for undergraduate research, and the advice was to apply for everything."
Bryant began taking physics as a senior at Wheaton North High School and immediately found it fascinating.
"I was already was into earth science, but I found things that most people take for granted fascinating, like the science behind sound waves and how you hear sound or how gravity affects objects," she said.
At College of DuPage, Bryant is a Student Ambassador and works in the Admissions and Outreach office. She will transfer to DePaul University in the fall and, while planning on a high school teaching career, will keep her options open.
"After going to conference, I want to test the waters of research, because I won't know how I feel about it until I try," she said. "Everyone in the field loves what they are doing and has so much enthusiasm.
"Attending a community college is more than just a way for students to get to their next destination. The class sizes are smaller, and I've had the chance to build relationships with the faculty, especially in physics."
For more information about the Physics program, call (630) 942-3346, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cod.edu/programs/physics.