Feminist physics; creating a space for all  FemPhys hosts mentoring night 


Mentoring night hosted by FemPhys has returned! Over 70 students gathered at the Institute for Quantum Computing on Feb. 1 to connect with mentors in a speed dating-style event — the club’s first in person mentorship night since 2020.   

“I’m really excited to be here, a part of this FemPhys event. It gives our undergraduate students, male and female, a chance to meet lots of women in scientific positions,” said Karen Cummings, chair of the EDI committee for the department of physics and astronomy. “The mentors come from all different kinds of positions, and they give our undergraduate students a chance to see how many women there are doing these kinds of jobs, and the range of jobs they have. I think that’s what makes it a wonderful event.” 

The Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) committee helps fund the mentoring night. 

There were 30 mentors present including professors from UW and Laurier, members of the Perimeter Institute, and several international PhD students studying at UW. Mentors brought knowledge from their various fields of astrophysics, cosmology, quantum physics, and math. 

“Being here with all these wonderful young physicists and mathematicians, it’s really inspiring to me as a mentor. I can see myself in so many of them, and hopefully, I can help them out by providing advice,” expressed Athena Caesura, a quantum software engineer. 

FemPhys is short for Feminist Physics. The club was founded in 2014 to address the culture in physics which historically has been unwelcoming to women. The goal of FemPhys is to provide women, non-binary, and minority people a place to share their experiences. 

“We’ve built a sense of community on campus and created a safe space for anyone and everyone who wants to study physics,” said Sarah Rourke, an astrophysics student and FemPhys member. “Some of our pillars are accessibility, inclusivity, equity, and diversity. We have a club room over in the physics building. Everyone is welcome in that room.” 

Their club room provides space for students to work and hang out. They have free menstrual products, a library of science fiction and feminist literature, and a selection of free tea, which was highly recommended by several club members. 

Another annual FemPhys event is their Queer Trans (QT) meetup. The QT meetup is for science-loving students who identify with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The next QT meetup will be on Feb. 9. 

When asked about the future of the club, Rourke said, “There is a place for FemPhys on campus. Everyone [in FemPhys] is welcoming and kind and will lend their ear to listen to anything you have to talk about. Going forward, I want to make sure it continues, that future generations have this space. Everyone who wants to be able to study physics should be able to and explore their passion.”