Thursday, May 5, 2016

Own It! Celebrating UW Women in STEM

To highlight the achievements of women scientists on campus, Wyoming EPSCoR developed the Own It! Awards, a celebration of women researchers in STEM fields at the University of Wyoming. Last night, recipients were honored at a ceremony on campus. This event underlines the importance of visibility in STEM fields for women, highlighting disparities that increase as women complete their studies and enter the job market.

Young scientists in Wyoming were the first to receive Own It! Awards: a group of Girl Scouts in Laramie who participated in a year-long citizen science project with the Biodiversity Institute, collecting data about ecological conditions on the Laramie River.

Girl Scout hydrology researchers receiving their Own It! Award.

Next, audience members saw a multimedia presentation on the Bearded Lady Project by Dr. Ellen Currano, who used false beards to draw attention to a very real gender disparity in paleontology. You can learn more about her project at; a documentary created by Ellen Currano and her creative partners will premiere later this year.

Dr. Cynthia Weinig presented an Undergraduate Own It! Award to Jazzlyn Hall, a double major in anthropology and geography. One of the graduate supervisors who nominated Jazzlyn said of her: “Within less than a year, she has proven herself by leading two research projects in our lab while continuing two other research projects in geography and anthropology departments. She has presented her research at internationally recognized conferences, including the 2015 American Geophysical Conference in San Francisco.” Jazzlyn has also been awarded an NSF award for graduate research when she begins grad school at Columbia next Fall.

Dr. Indy Burke presented the Graduate Own It! Award to Karagh Murphy, who has published in a broad range of techniques including hormone manipulations, brain imaging, and behavior. She is currently the lead investigator for two projects seeking to understand the role of mirror neurons in vocal learning. Karagh has presented research at the international Society for Neuroscience conference, and is currently organizing Wyoming’s first Brain Awareness Week.
Student Own It! Award recipients Karagh Murphy (left) and Jazlynn Hall (right)
Dr. Shawna McBride presented a Staff Own It! Award to Dr. Susan Swapp, a Senior Research Scientist and the Manager of the Materials Characterization Laboratories in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. As Dr. McBride said, “For over 20 years, Dr. Swapp has built one of the best material characteristics labs in the West.” Dr. McBride also highlighted Dr. Swapp’s exceptional mentoring of younger students, so that they can increase their confidence and expertise in using instruments in their research.

Arts & Sciences Dean Paula Lutz presented two Faculty Own It! Awards. The Early Career Own It! Award went to Dr. Melanie Murphy, a faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences in the department of Ecosystem Science and Management. Professor Murphy’s nominees described her as “a terrific scientist” and an “outstanding mentor.”

Dr. Cynthia Weinig won this year’s Own It! Award for Tenured Faculty for her work in the Departments of Botany and Molecular Biology. Dr. Weinig is also a member of the leadership team for the UW Science Initiative, part of the team developing the National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant, and is now helping to lead an effort to develop a large institutional grant to better understand Wyoming’s microbiomes. 

Own It! Awards Presentation by Dr. Ellen Currano
All of the presenters acknowledged a spectacular field of nominees, making it difficult to choose just one deserving winner in each category. Presenters also spoke about the value of mentorship in their own careers, and how inspiring it was to see such a vibrant community of women in STEM fields at the University of Wyoming.

Finally, Megan Candelaria of WYSTEM presented an Own It! Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Dolores Cardona, who has worked for decades to improve the UW community by bringing awareness to issues related to race and gender. Dr. Cardona created the Summer Research Apprentice Program (SRAP) thirty years ago, still going strong as a part of EPSCoR’s education and outreach efforts. Dr. Cardona also spearheaded the Women in Math Science Engineering group (WIMSE), a vital professional development resource for young women on campus.

In her closing remarks, Liz Nysson expressed her hope that the Own It! Awards would become a UW tradition: “Wyoming EPSCoR hopes that the Own It! Awards will continue on an annual basis, so that the achievements of UW women researchers in STEM can be celebrated.”

Posted to the UW EPSCoR Blog by Jess White