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Annual Event Connects Women Across DC STEM Community Tenth Women in Science Panel brings together students and alumnae

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Six WIS panelists, posing.

Last week, nearly thirty American University STEM students came together for the tenth annual Women in Science Alumnae Panel, sponsored by American University’s Women in Science (WIS) group, the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, and the AU Career Center.

WIS president Crystal Assenmacher (BA political science, BS computer science ’20) moderated the panel discussion, which was followed by an audience Q&A, pizza, and time to network and make connections. Alumna panelists were Madeleine Bee (BS chemistry ’15), Cathy Furlong (MS statistics ’06),  Jennifer DeMell (BS physics ’14), and Rachel Weger (BS neuroscience ’19).

“It was wonderful to sit back and watch our students make important professional connections and begin to build their professional networks,” said Teresa Larkin, associate professor of physics, director of AU’s Dual-degree Engineering Program and faculty advisor for Women in Science. “There’s no better way to start your career then by meeting alumni who are working in similar areas of STEM.”

The student agreed. “Despite the STEM, STEAM, and now STREAM (science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts, and mathematics) movements gaining popularity and the increasing number of women entering the science-related fields, women are still underrepresented in these subject areas,” says Assenmacher. “It was great to hear from the former students with such diverse backgrounds and at all different stages in their careers. The panelists did an outstanding job talking about their individual experiences and addressing questions from the audience.”

Sumner Warden (BS neuroscience '23) added, “I really liked hearing how women benefited from the small programs and being exposed to job fields I was not aware of. Also, being in DC, I liked seeing how our location could allow for an overlap between STEM and government fields.”

Alumna Panelists

Larkin has been organizing this event for ten years now, along with Senior Professorial Lecturer of Physics Jessica Uscinski, and she says that the students always make valuable connections with alumna in their fields. But at the same time, the alumnae build their own networks at the events.

This year’s alumnae panel featured:

Madeleine Y. DiGregorio, PhD, received her BS in chemistry, with minors in dance and mathematics, from AU in 2015. She immediately went to graduate school and recently completed her PhD in Food Chemistry from Cornell University, for which she developed a new technique in quantitative aroma analysis using ambient ionization mass spectrometry for applications in wine and grape flavor chemistry research. During her time at Cornell, DiGregorio led the Graduate and Professional Women’s Network, helped organize a ComSciCon New York conference, earned her yoga teaching certification, and interned at E & J Gallo Winery in California. She’s delighted to be back in the DC area, now working as a Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) product specialist at Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Inc. DiGregorio is passionate about supporting women in STEM, science communication, and work-life balance, and enjoys spending her free time traveling, baking, practicing yoga, or at home with her cat and husband.

Cathy Furlong graduated from American University in 2006 with a master’s degree in statistics while working as a teacher in Fairfax County. After retiring from teaching in 2008, Furlong became involved in promoting the use of statistics in the areas of human rights and with organizations that could not afford a statistician. The majority of her volunteer work has been through Statistics Without Borders (SWB), an outreach committee of the American Statistical (ASA) Association. Furlong has spoken at a variety of statistical conferences (Joint Statistical Meetings and World Statistical Conferences) in the areas of volunteering, developing leadership in women, and mentoring. In 2017, she was awarded ASA Fellow for her outstanding contributions to SWB.

Jennifer DeMell earned her BS in physics with a minor in international studies from American University in 2014 and will obtain her MS from Johns Hopkins in applied physics in May 2020. After working as a production editor at IOP Publishing, she was accepted into the Analyst Development Program at the Department of Defense. Through this program, she trained as a multi-disciplined analyst before graduating from the program and transitioning into a physical sciences and engineering researcher position at the Laboratory for Physical Sciences. Her research focuses on thin/2D materials and their applications in electrophysics and magnetics for beyond Moore's Law computing.

Rachel Weger earned a BS in neuroscience from American University in May of 2019. At AU, she conducted developmental neuroscience research in a lab on campus as well as community-based research with Children’s National hospital and LAYC Career Academy, a local charter school. After graduating, she took on a post-baccalaureate IRTA fellowship at the NIH and currently works in a lab studying healthcare providers’ unconscious biases in treatment for pain. She is also a fellow in the NIH Academy, where she conducts research on health disparities. She is pre-med and plans to start medical school in 2021.