Engaging youth in first-ever Go PHYS Girl outreach event

Posted on Thursday, March 28th, 2024

Written by Kylie Riches

Group of volunteers posing in red shirts in Engineering Atrium.

On Saturday, March 23, Women in Engineering (WiE), Royal City Science, Creative Encounters and Guelph Physics teamed up to pilot the first-ever Go PHYS Girl outreach event for girl and gender-diverse students in Grades 7 to 10. The young, bright minds spent a half-day on campus to learn all about the incredible world of physics with the aim to spark interest in the field and consider physics careers.

“While progress has been made in many STEM disciplines in terms of gender balance and recruitment and retention of traditionally marginalized communities, Physics is one area that sadly still has a way to go,” says Dr. Joanne O’Meara, physics professor and one of the leads for the event. “Research released in March 2024 by the Canadian Association of Physicists shows that male-identifying persons make up almost 70 per cent of professional physicists in this country. The representation of women and gender-diverse persons among undergraduates is better – 44 per cent – but there is still room for improvement."

O’Meara notes that the biggest challenge is that of having a sense of belonging and seeing oneself reflected in the field. Hosting events that show the physics community and opportunities in the field can help to foster that sense of belonging.

Attendees participated in on-campus educational activities during the day, such as creating sunglasses for optics. Highlights from the day included rocket launches and Royal City Science’s inflatable planetarium to teach the youth about the night sky.

When asked about the impact of this type of event on girls and gender-diverse youth, Dr. O’Meara said “By bringing together young women and non-binary youth with our incredible undergraduate and graduate students, we are mindfully creating opportunities for everyone to feel welcomed and at home in our discipline.”

“This event was as much of a social gathering as it was a learning experience, and we hope all participants came away with a better sense of what today’s research in physics looks like and what role they might play as they continue their studies.”

Go PHYS Girl was championed and supported by the Doody Family Chair for Women in Engineering, Dr. Jana Levison, and sponsored by DENSO, a frequent supporter of U of G’s women in STEM initiatives. GoPHYSGirl builds on the success of Go ENG Girl, the flag ship outreach event launched by the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering (ONWiE) in 2005, and GoCODEGirl.

U of G will present the pilot’s success at the 2024 Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology conference in May in Victoria.

Two attendees smiling at the cameraU of G student volunteer helping student with activity.

News Archive