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Syracuse University festival shows high school girls the accessibility of math and science
Syracuse University festival shows high school girls the accessibility of math and scienceNovember 07, 2003Edward Byrnesedbyrnes@syr.edu
The Syracuse University Department of Mathematics is holding its fifth Sonia Kovalevsky Festival on Nov. 15. The festival invites Central New York high school math and science teachers to bring as many as five of their female students to the SU campus for a day of activities, workshops and interaction with some of SU’s top female professors of mathematics, physics, chemistry, bioengineering and neuroscience, and architecture.
“It is important for girls to know that there is a place for them in the fascinating fields in math and science, so each year we bring 45 to 55 girls to the University to talk about math-intensive fields. We show them that the old ‘I can’t do that, I’m a girl,’ message is completely false,” says festival coordinator Marjory Baruch, who is an adjunct professor in SU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
SU professors conducting workshops at the festival include Kari Shaw and Hyune-Ju Kim of the mathematics department, Juree Saranak of the physics department, Maya Krause of the School of Architecture, Ana DeBettencourt-Dias of the chemistry department, and Laurel Carney of the bioengineering and neuroscience department.
Baruch has sent invitations for the festival to every high school math and science teacher in Central New York.
“In our experience with festivals past, the high school teachers bring a lot of ideas to share as they begin to recognize the opportunities in front of them. It is our hope that they continue to pass that enthusiasm along to their students,” says Baruch.
The participants spend the morning working on problems in various areas of science, engineering and math. In the afternoon there is a discussion of careers and a math film festival. There is also a math intensive workshop for the teachers. Says Baruch, “The focus is on doing, not just learning about.”The festival is sponsored by the Syracuse University Mathematics Department, the Syracuse Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, and the Technology Alliance of Central New York. For more information about the Festival, visit http://www.cis.syr.edu/~mjbaruch/SKfestival.html or call (315) 443-1472.
The Sonia Kovalevsky Festivals began in 1998, made possible in part through small grants from the Association for Women in Mathematics. Although SU no longer receives grant money specifically for the Festival, it has continued for five of the past six years. The festival is named in honor of Russian-born mathematician Sonia Kovalevsky (1850-1891), who became the first woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics when the University of Gottingen awarded one such degree to her, summa cum laude, in 1874. Because of the educational restrictions placed on women at that time, Kovalevsky had not been admitted to any university but studied under the revered mathematician Karl Weierstrass, who later claimed that she had “the gift of genius.” The strength of her work was such that she earned her degree in absentia, without examination, and without having actually attended the college. In 1888, she received the prestigious Prix Bordin from the French Academie des Sciences. The following year, Kovalevsky was appointed a full professor of mathematics at the University of Stockholm, an office she held until influenza took her life less than two years later.
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