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Putting the Femme in STEM

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Nicole Gordon

Alumnae invite local girls to campus for science exploration

Girls from around the metro area learn about STEM during the 2016 Femme in STEM event.
Girls from around the metro area learn about STEM during the 2016 Femme in STEM event.

Several dozen girls from 20 schools across the Denver metro area will gather at DU's Colorado Women's College on May 13 for a fun-filled day of science learning and exploration.

The event, called Femme in STEM, is the brainchild of a group of five DU alumnae from the Division of Natural Sciences & Mathematics who were alarmed by the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Research shows that girls are equally as interested in STEM subjects as boys early on, but that this interest declines significantly around junior high.

"We want to help mend the leaky pipeline," says Faith Lierheimer, a master's student in the Department of Biological Sciences who helped launch the group while she was an undergraduate. "We're missing out on a chunk of brainpower that could advance science in ways that we can't imagine."

Femme in Stem
Femme in Stem

The event, which is aimed at girls ages 9–13, will feature short activities in the morning during which participants will get hands-on experience in subjects ranging from liquid nitrogen to DNA extraction and computer programming. In the afternoon, participants will present their findings at a science fair. Two dozen volunteers from DU's sciences and engineering departments will help run the event and serve as role models.

"It's a high-energy affair where the girls get to shine and demonstrate their knowledge to their peers, while being exposed to multiple STEM fields," Lierheimer says.

Femme in STEM is funded by the Colorado Women's College.

"I’ve watched and coached this great group of DU leaders as students, and now alumnae, as they've built a very successful program for girls that is innovative, fast-moving, hands-on, and anchored in important STEM concepts," says Linda Olson, interim dean of the Colorado Women's College. "The College is proud to sponsor and host this program, as it fits with our mission of addressing significant gaps that persist for women’s full participation in STEM careers."