Holy Cross Hosts First Women in Science Day for Female High School Students, Undergraduates

More than 200 young women filled the atrium of the Integrated Science Complex on Saturday, March 25, to attend Holy Cross’ inaugural Women in Science Day.

The day-long event for young women from both Worcester high schools and Holy Cross was designed to celebrate women in the sciences and empower the attendees to pursue education and professions in the STEM fields.

The event is an extension of the work of XCHROM, a Holy Cross student-run group which aims to help young girls in underserved communities gain confidence in STEM-related fields. The group pairs female Holy Cross students with high school mentees, who spend a few hours studying, observing their mentors working in labs, and discussing their passion for the STEM subjects during weekly visits to campus.

XCHROM organized this event in an effort to reach even more young women in the early stages of their exploration in the sciences.

“I think it is important to impress upon all STEM students, but even more so women and girls, that there is no limit to your abilities or success,” says Kate Nicastri ’17, one of the event organizers.

Cheryl Martin ’84, a chemistry major at the College who continued on to earn a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gave the keynote address.

Throughout her address, titled “With a Background in STEM, You Can Do Anything,” Martin emphasized the importance of recognizing your strengths and stretching them, as well as not being afraid to explore passions “outside of the lab.” Martin shared that this approach has guided her through her own diverse career, where she has played key roles in everywhere from labs and government agencies to consulting firms and international foundations.

After the keynote address, high school students were given a preview into the college academic environment through interactive laboratory demonstrations led by Holy Cross faculty members from the biology, chemistry, and physics departments. They learned about the biological process of regeneration; oceans, climate and sea life; how chemistry is all around us with; and how physics applies to everyday life through entropy systems and examples of inertia.

Surrounded by other women passionate about the sciences, the high school students also had the opportunity to meet and ask questions of members of the Holy Cross admissions office and took a tour of the campus led by a woman in STEM.

The undergraduates attended panels where they listened to the experiences of select alumnae who offered insight into how they became interested in their careers and how their liberal arts and STEM-related backgrounds aided in their success.

“I hope undergraduate women left the day feeling proud of their involvement in STEM, excited about the career opportunities that lie ahead, and more aware of how they can be involved in promoting what they are passionate about.,” said Haylie Butler ’17, the lead organizer for Women in Science Day.

Holy Cross Women in Science Day was funded by grants from the Holy Cross IGNITE Fund, from the National Science Foundation, and by contributions from the Office of the Dean, the Office of the Science Coordinator and the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Computer Science and Psychology.