New Williams fellowship encourages women to enter math, physical sciences fields


WILLIAMSTOWN -- A newly established fellowship at Williams College aims to encourage more women to enter the fields of mathematics and the physical sciences.

The Clare Boothe Luce fellowship, which will have its first cohort of eight students this spring, was established with the help of a $246,440 grant from the Clare Boothe Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation. The funding will allow for three cohorts of students.

The fellowship will compliment the college's summer science research program, which draws close to 175 students each year, Tiku Majumder, professor of physics and director of the Science Center, said Monday.

"This fellowship adds to the breadth of that program," he said. "In particular, it targets an ongoing need to identify women in fields where they still remain underrepresented after all these years."

The program's namesake, the widow of Henry R. Luce, established the program to "encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach" in science, mathematics and engineering, according to the program's website.

The fellowship will support two summers of paid research in the fields of astrophysics, computer science, geoscience, mathematics, statistics, and physics, Majumder said. In addition, the fellowship includes funding for scientific supplies and attendance at a professional conference.

Students can apply to participate during their sophomore year, and will participate in the summers following both their sophomore and junior years, Majumder said.

"Our intention is to have activities spread throughout the year where the group of students can get together, talk about their research and share results and experiences," Majumder said. "In this way we would also invite younger students, who may be in the next cohort."

In a press release announcing the grant and new fellowship, President Adam Falk said research and education are closely connected.

"Our science faculty subscribe to the belief that students learn science best by doing it," Falk said. "We hope this program can be a path to encourage more women into active engagement with these majors."

Majumder said the overall goal of the program is to encourage women who might not be sure they want to carry out research, whether it be for financial reasons or otherwise.


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