World’s women talk physics

SANDRA Fee teaches physics at Ardee Community School and has just recently returned from South Africia where she represented Ireland at the International Conference on Women in Physics in South Africa.

SANDRA Fee teaches physics at Ardee Community School and has just recently returned from South Africia where she represented Ireland at the International Conference on Women in Physics in South Africa.

The conferences have been previously held in Korea, Rio de Janeiro, and Paris.

Each nation was represented by three women physicists.

Dr Sile Nic Chormaic, physics lecturer at UCC and Tyndall Research and Development Institute, was selected as team leader for the Irish team. Prior to attending the conference, Sandra was required to look for funding for the Institute of Physics.

The Institute of Physics and International Union of Pure and Applied Physics are the main sponsors for this prestigious event.

She was funded by Ardee Community School, Louth VEC and IBOTZ datalogger company.

Sandra presentated a paper entitled Women in Physics in Ireland today.

“I carried out a survey,” she said, “on the physics departments in the 17 secondary schools in county Louth and examined the influence of teacher gender girls studying physics.

“Five of the schools were Co-Ed with a female physics teacher in each school.

“My study showed that girls are more likely to study physics to leaving cert level if the school has a female physics teacher.

“The female role model leads to an increase in girls’ participation in physics.”

Sandra’s study has since been used to examine the impact of female physics lecturers in Irish universities.

The studies carried out on six Irish universities, revealed that male supervisors of research students had an average of 18 per cent female postgraduates, whereas female academics-supervisors had an average of 38 per cent female postgraduates in physics. This paper was presented and discussed at the world conference.

She is a science graduate of Maynooth and shortly after graduating she became a science teacher at Ardee Community School where she introduced physics as a leaving cert subject.

The up-take of physics at the school is above the national average.

In 1999 she obtained her MSc degree in medical and radiation physics from Birmingham University and spent several months working as a medical physicist at Cork University Hospital.

In 2006-2007 Sandra worked with Voluntary Services Overseas in Guyana, South America. She was employed as a physics lecturer at the main teacher training college in Guyana.

As well as teaching physics at Ardee Community School, Sandra is a supervisor to trainee science teachers studying at Maynooth.

“I guess these are some of the reasons why I was selected to represent Ireland at this prestigious event,” said Sandra.

“Being a delegate at the International Conference on Women in Physics was indeed the experience of a lifetime.

“It was wonderful to be surrounded by women physicists from all over the world, discussing their life’s work within the physics arena.

“By the end of the weeklong conference, we were all highly motivated, excited and inspired and came away with a renewed sense of pride in our involvement in physics.

“It was such a great honour to be selected to represent Ireland at this event.”