2023 CUWiP Champions Women in Physics 

The 2023 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) brought over 200 students to UCF from Jan. 20-22, 2023.  

Three people who helped with the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics standing in front of rocket ship artwork
Left to right: Maria Galeana Lopez, Associate Professor Adrienne Dove, Ph.D. and Autumn Shackelford  

According to the National Science Foundation, only 20 percent of people studying physics are women. The annual Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics organized by the American Physical Society plays an important role in bringing women in physics together and educating undergraduate women on the career and educational possibilities within physics.  

This year, UCF was one of 14 universities across the nation hosting a CUWiP event. Over 200 undergraduate students from Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico traveled to Orlando to attend the event.  

The College of Sciences Marketing team spoke with Associate Professor Adrienne Dove, Ph.D., undergraduate Physics student Maria Galeana Lopez and Planetary Science Ph.D. student Autumn Shackelford before the conference on Friday for a behind-the-scenes look. In addition to her role as Associate Professor in the UCF Department of Physics, Adrienne Dove, Ph.D. also serves as the Chair of the Local Organizing Committee for CUWiP. This year, Autumn served as the Graduate Chair of the Local Organizing Committee while Maria served as the Social Media Coordinator.  

A Conference of Like-Minded Women

Group picture of attendees at the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physic

According to Associate Professor Adrienne Dove, Ph.D., “It’s a really unique conference that focuses on networking and engaging with your peers at an early stage to build a community of physicists who you will go on to grad school or a career with.” Her main objectives for the conference centered around supporting undergraduate women in physics by helping them build a strong community of other women and learning more about the opportunities within physics.  

Looking Towards the Stars

When we spoke with Graduate Chair of the Local Organizing Committee and Ph.D. student Autumn Shackelford, she shared her inspiring journey to physics.

“I looked up at the sky one night, and I was like, ‘That’s really cool. What if I studied it?’ And I did.” 

Autumn has been attending CUWiP since 2019. “When I went to the Undergraduate Conference for Women in Physics for the first time in 2019, I was surrounded by other female physicists for the first time. I didn’t really know what to expect when it came to the different kinds of careers I could have and the different research options that were out there for me. It really taught me a lot about physics, and it also taught me a lot about myself,” Autumn shared.  

It was a full circle moment for Autumn as she returned this year as the Graduate Chair of the Local Organizing Committee. In this role, she hoped to provide the same experience that she had as an undergrad attending CUWiP.  

Overcoming Boundaries 

For first-generation student and CUWiP Social Media Coordinator Maria Galeana Lopez, the opportunity to network with other women in the physics field was what she was most excited for. Reflecting upon her experiences, Maria shared, “I am a first-generation student, so physics wasn’t in the cards for me. No one really knew what physics was. When I went to school, I liked science, and I found out about astronomy. I gravitated to the planets and the stars. When I found out I could make a career out of it, that’s exactly what I chose when I entered the university.”   

Because physics is a male-dominated career path, Maria feels that CUWiP is very beneficial to empowering female physicists and connecting them with other women in the field.  

Explore a Career in Physics with UCF 

UCF is proud to host events like CUWiP to support women in STEM. You can learn more about the Department of Physics and our physics degrees here.  

Thank you to the following sponsors: 

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