Monday, February 19, 2001

Girls revel in math, science

Miami event just for them

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — Whitney Knudson knew when she went to space camp in seventh grade that she wanted a challenging career involving math and science.

        “Math was hard for me, but I enjoyed it and was good at it,” said the Talawanda High School alumna, who graduated in May from the University of Illinois.

        Ms. Knudson's degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering landed her a job with NASA's space station project in Houston, where she's monitoring life support systems aboard the space station.

        She'll leave her post briefly to visit Miami University on Saturday. She is keynote speaker at Miami's 10th annual Sonia Kovalevsky Mathematical Sciences Day.

        Her message to the female high-school students attending will be simple: Don't be embarrassed or afraid to be smart. Take challenging courses, even if they are hard and you're outnumbered by males.

        Careers in math and science require careful planning and course selection, starting in high school, said Emily S. Murphree, associate professor of math at Miami.

        Many girls shy away from those courses for academic or social reasons.

        “Our purpose is to expose high-school students to just a few of the careers which women can pursue and enjoy if they have good problem-solving skills,” Ms. Murphree said.

        “The day is named in honor of the first woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics. Sonia Kovalevsky was a 19th-century Russian trailblazer who succeeded despite restrictions on women's rights to travel, to secure an education, and to pursue a professional career.”

        Tina Engel, a chemist who works on drug development for Procter & Gamble, will also speak.

        Girls attending the program will manipulate robots, make paper in Miami's paper science lab, visit optics and laser labs and solve a variety of puzzles.

        Ms. Murphree said students from all over the Tristate have attended past programs with their adult advisers.

        Space is limited to 200 participants, which includes the adults, so early registration is advised.

        The program will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 3 p.m.

        Lunch is provided.

        For information or registration, contact Ms. Murphree at (513) 529-5826 or at

        Registration deadline is today.


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