Group helps women succeed in sciences

By By Federico Martin

By Federico Martin

While the majority of incoming freshmen at the U spend their summer break between high school and college away from school, a handful of women are doing the opposite.

This summer at the U, some of the brightest women in the state in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering will be dedicating much of their summer studying before Fall Semester starts.

They will be participating in the ACCESS program, which is made up of a select group of incoming freshmen women interested in math and science.

The program provides women psychological and moral support to make what one participant called the “scary jump” into predominately male areas of study.

“The program is not only about sciences and math, but also about having fun, establishing friendships and creating a peer network in order to help them succeed,” said Rosemary Gray, who heads the program.

ACCESS gives women the opportunity to do field and lab work in the areas of sciences and math. The program will also provide young women access to college professors, faculty and peers in their fields of interest. Participants get the advantage of being placed in a research program of their choice at the U during their freshman year.

“ACCESS gave me the opportunity to quickly bond with 20 other women who had similar interests in science, as well as a devotion to academics and success,” said Judy Vu, a former ACCESS member and a first-year medical student.

Applicants to the program undergo a rigorous screening process. This year there were more than 100 applicants, many of them with 4.0 GPAs, who did not make it into the program.

On top of the experience gained in their fieldwork of choice, students in the ACCESS program also receive a $3,500 stipend.

While ACCESS is geared toward women who are interested in mathematics, engineering and science, it often has members who do not pursue careers in those fields, Gray said, but still benefit from the preparation and experience that the program provides.

“We have women that end up in areas ranging from biology and math to law enforcement, but they all still value the friendships they made during the length of the program,” she said.

For Vu, the program made the difficult transition from high school to college life much easier.

“Altogether, these factors helped my transition to college be less daunting, and gave me reassurance that I, a woman, could indeed study the sciences, an area that was once dominated by men,” Vu said.

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