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Mills College @ AbSciCon2017

Figure 1. Selected students to attend AbSciCon 2017. This photo was taken soon after these students learned of their award that included all expenses covered to attend a world-class scientific meeting. For many of the students this was their first scientific conference. For all of the students, this would be a life changing experience. From left, first row: Emma Rigby, Genesis Hernandez, Gloriane Tran, Mara Nutt, Masha Soshin, Juli Sundberg, Sophia Draznin-Nagy, Lores Kola. second row: Kianna Von Maydell, Hannah Horten, Vera Williamson, Niya Paul, Leslie Leiva, Leesa Daffeh, Student and Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon. (photo courtesy of J. Hilton)
Figure 2. Dr. Lisa Dyson, CEO and founder of Kiverdi, pauses to pose with a group of Mills College students after her seminar. Dr. Dyson (third from left) has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and has broad experience both in academic, business and industry environments. Her company, Kiverdi, is at the forefront of the current wave of biotechnology innovations that will disrupt the conventional carbon market.
Figure 3. Mills College students pack the room to hear Dr. Harvey Fineberg, President of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Our students are most interested in the paths and directions professionals have taken from academic to industry to non-profit work.
Figure 4. Dr. Paul Davies, Director of the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and Reagents’ Professor at Arizona State University, visited a biology teaching lab at Mills College as part of his Chan-Norris CIS residency in February 2017. Mills students explain the experiments they are working on for Dr. Davies.
Figure 5. Stopping at the CA/AZ boarder. After almost 800 miles, my family and I were almost at AbSciCon 2017.
Figure 6. Mills College students at the opening reception of AbSciCon 2017. My students were giddy with anticipation and were already being welcomed by many senior members of the scientific community. A group of fifteen students from a single institution apparently got everyone’s attention. From left to right around the table: Emma Rigby, Isabella Franco, Masha Shosnin, Leslie Leiva, Lores Kola, Mara Nutt, Kianna von Maydell and Juli Sundberg. (photo courtesy of E. Rigby)
Figure 7. First night in Arizona, getting ready for the meeting. We met every evening to regroup and touch base about the day’s activities. Notably on the first night, we met eating beans and rice as my two children crawled around outside. There was palpable excitement and some apprehension from our students. Tomorrow would be exciting! Most told me they couldn’t sleep. (photo courtesy of J. Simon)

One word reaction would be “amazing”. It is great to be able to learn about so many different disciplines of real science that are happening right now in the real world. There is quite a lot of white men which is disappointing but not surprising. I really love all of the women at the conference that hold their ground. Most all of the talks I’ve been to are amazing and most are way over my head but it’s awesome to listen to them. It’s great to be able to walk up to some famous person and just introduce myself and talk to them and they are willing to listen to me. It has been a great networking opportunity that I really appreciate. Everyone is excited that we are here to experience the conference and I think that is one of the reasons why it’s so fun to be here. — Mara Nutt, Sophomore, geology major

I’ve learned so much about the dynamics of different groups (scientists from different backgrounds, women versus men, etc…) and how they each navigate a scientific conference. I was surprised by the many backgrounds people had and the path that led them here… — Juli Sundberg, senior, chemistry major

Figure 8. Mills student, Vera Williamson (junior, math/computer science double major) with her mentor, Dr. Aaron Noell from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Interaction with scientists is critical to how the students experience science and develop their own view of the scientific process and fitting into the scientific community. (photo courtesy of D. Scalice)

It was really interesting and I felt as though I learned a lot and got to talk with a lot of interesting folks. I was also a little disappointed and disillusioned about what the field was like, although meeting my mentor and spending the day with him was by far the highlight. I am really excited to see how this field continues to grow and hope to be apart of it later on in my career. — Hannah Horten, Sophomore, environmental science major

I’ve loved it so much, it has been overwhelming in some senses because I don’t have the same level of background as most others seem to have. I wish I was able to ask questions at the talks however I’m not sure I know enough about any of the science to as a valuable question. Besides that, I’ve learned so much from disciplines I would have never thought I could learn about. My mentor really helped steer me to talks that I may not have chosen but discovered a great deal at. — Kianna von Maydell, first-year, biopsychology major

Figure 9. Half-time, getting ready for the second half of Day 2. The mentor program was only a half-day at the AbSciCon meeting. Here students regroup after lunch and prepare for the afternoon talk sessions. While exhausted from the intense morning, they are ready to head back into more science with new insight from their mentors. From left: Juli Sundberg, Emma Rigby, Lores Kola, Leslie Leiva, Isabella Franco, Sophia Draznin-Nagy, Dr. Kristina Faul and Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon (with Rafael Simon). (photo courtesy of D. Scalice)

The mentor meeting was great. I learned about different career paths in STEM. Most importantly, I learned that it’s never too late to do what you need to do. — Gloriane Tran, junior, computer science major

Figure 10. The 3rd AbSciCon Meeting Mentor Program, group photo. Participating students come from a wide range of backgrounds including local community colleges and high schools. Mills College students were a decidedly unique demographic that help enrich the overall experience of both mentees and mentors. (photo courtesy of D. Scalice)

AbSciCon has been a great experience... Everyone has been so friendly and inviting. My favorite part of the conference so far has been the shadowing program and being able to ask them questions about research and navigating life after graduation. The talks have expanded my perspective of life and Earth in many ways- many of which will be an important tool for my future in science. — Emma Rigby, senior, environmental science major

It was interesting to talk to my mentor about plants and hearing about his research. This was really great because I could see myself doing research like that in the future. — Hannah Horten, sophomore, environmental science major

I think I got a lot out of the BEYOND Center’s lunch, talking with a lot of successful people closer to my own age was extremely helpful. — Vera Williamson, junior, mathematics/computer science double major

Figure 11. The last day of AbSciCon 2017 for Mills College. The students and faculty were exhausted yet buzzing from all the amazing science and engineering they experienced. This photo was taken minutes before the group left to fly back to Oakland and catch up on homework, class notes and preparing for finals. From left, seated: Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon (with Rafael Simon) and Mara Nutt. First row, standing: Gloriane Tran, Vera Williamson, Juli Sundberg, Genesis Hernandez, Sophia Draznin-Nagy and Kianna Von Maydell. Second row, standing: Lores Kola, Emma Rigby, Leesa Daffeh, Dr. Kristina Faul, Hannah Horten and Isabella Franco. Third row, standing: Leslie Leiva and Masha Soshnin.

I’m kind of getting a feel for the face of parts of the scientific community. There’s definitely a familiarity among people here, sort of like a school reunion. It’s also nice that people can vehemently disagree with each other but still be good friends. — Masha Shoshnin, sophomore, computational chemistry major

I was surprised at how approachable people were. We were told that it was exciting that students were coming, but the level of engagement that professional people initiated helped me to feel welcome and increased my own engagement. — Sophia Draznin-Nagy, senior, anthropology major

The meeting met all of my expectations for a scientific conference. It was great to see presentations on cutting edge research, get to network with others in science, and learn more… This conference expanded my perspective on how I look at “life” and scientific research. The mentorship program was also a very positive experience for me. Being able to attend this high caliber of a conference is something that I am extremely grateful for. — Emma Rigby, senior, environmental science major

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