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YU News

Lea Ferreira dos Santos, Stern College Professor, Blazes Trail for Women in Physics

Aug 26, 2008 -- Lea Ferreira dos Santos, assistant professor of physics at Stern College for Women, was selected from over 70 applicants to join the US delegation to the 3rd International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) International Conference on Women in Physics in Seoul, Korea, in October. The conference will highlight the under-representation of women in physics and bring participants together to share common problems and find ways to improve women’s participation.

Growing up in Brazil, where she attended the University of Sao Paulo and earned her PhD, Santos remembers feeling somewhat isolated as a rare woman in her science classes. “However, it wasn’t until I came to the US and was exposed to discussions about women in science that I realized the depth of the social problem behind the small numbers,” she says. “Discussions are essential to creating awareness, which eventually leads to changes.”

Santos will participate in the preparation of the US delegation’s paper and poster on the situation of women in physics in the United States and will present a poster on her research.

Since joining Stern College last fall, Santos has been engaged in the physics department’s efforts to increase the number of students. “In seven years, our department has evolved from offering just two classes for freshmen to being one of the most vibrant departments in the college,” said Santos, who will share this success with conference participants. “This year, for the first time in our history, one of our students is going to a graduate school in physics.”

She hopes to bring back to Stern new ideas to further increase the number of students in physics courses and improve the participation of women in science in this country.