“It was apparent early on that Alice was enthusiastic about pursuing a career in science beyond the undergraduate level,” said Steven Herbert, associate professor of physics. “During the second semester of her freshman year, she and another student initiated a personal research experiment involving making double exposure holograms, a technically challenging project for freshmen.”
Spaeth is actively involved in research with several faculty members and submitted an abstract to the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) for their joint research titled, “Rotating Bacteria using Optical Tweezers with an Elliptically Shaped Focus.”
“As a result of the research work she’s done [with the faculty], she will present a paper at the national meeting of the AAPT in January,” said Terrence Toepker, department of physics chair. “In my 38 years at Xavier, I do not know of any other physics major who presented a paper so early in her/his student career.”
“I definitely plan to go to graduate school,” said Spaeth. “From a young age, I have been interested in working for NASA, but with the rise of the privatized space industry, I would also love to work for a new exciting company in this budding field.”
This is the third time Xavier has received this prestigious funding. The grant provides full scholarships for four female undergraduate students in chemistry, computer science or physics for their junior and senior years. Two additional students will be selected as Clare Boothe Luce Scholars in fall 2005. Only 35 institutions in the U.S. were funded to participate in the program this year.
To enhance the impact of the scholarships, Xavier will fund additional activities that promote women's participation in the sciences. Computer science professor Liz Johnson will lead these efforts beginning in spring 2005. Planned activities include conducting surveys of students and workshops for faculty, hiring undergraduate teaching assistants, providing course support and further building a community among female students in the sciences.
Chemistry, computer science and physics have been selected as targeted fields for the scholarships because nationally they continue to be fields with limited female representation.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ Digest of Education Statistics for 2002, only 25 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science and 15 percent of doctorates in the United States in 2000-2001 were earned by women. Only 22 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 14 percent of doctorate degrees in physics were awarded to women. While chemistry has approached parity at the undergraduate level, with 48 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women in 2000-2001, discrepancy still exists at the doctoral level, with only 34 percent of doctorate degrees earned by women.
The Clare Boothe Luce Program stands alone as the single most significant source of private support for women in science, engineering and mathematics. Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, U.S. ambassador to Italy and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut. She appreciated, however, that many women face obstacles in their chosen professions. In her bequest establishing this program, she sought “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate and teach” in the sciences (including mathematics) and engineering.
“It is our hope that these comprehensive efforts, along with the scholarship support, will lead to increased representation of women in science careers and research where they are underrepresented,” says University President Michael J. Graham, S.J. “We thank the Clare Boothe Luce Program for supporting our efforts and its generous funding of these scholarships.”
Previous recipients of these scholarships have gone on to graduate study in the sciences. Eva Marie David, a 2004 graduate, entered the Ph.D. program in physics at the University of Michigan. Seniors Michelle Lyman (chemistry) and Therese Dorau (computer science) will continue as Luce scholars in 2004-2005.