Carnegie Mellon University

MSE Seminar Series

Friday, September 24, 2021 @12:20pm

Professor Laurie McNeil,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Changing the Climate in Science

Despite tremendous advances in the past half-century in the participation of women in a broad range of fields and occupations, women are still significantly underrepresented in many STEM fields.  Progress in the representation of other minority groups has been even slower.  Although women in the U.S. earn more than half of all bachelor’s degrees (and 60% of the degrees in biological sciences), only 20% of the degrees in physics, engineering and computer science are earned by women. Similarly, women receive more than half of the Ph.D. degrees in biological sciences in the U.S. but less than 20% of the PhDs in physics.  The number belonging to racial and ethnic minorities who receive degrees is even lower.  Many factors contribute to this disparity, and I will discuss the current status of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM and what the scientific community can do to take advantage of their underused talent.

Laurie McNeil is the Bernard Gray Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She earned an A.B. in Chemistry and Physics from Radcliffe College, Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  After two years as an IBM Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT she joined the faculty at UNC-CH in 1984 and has been there ever since, with the exception of sabbatical sojourns at Argonne National Laboratory, DuPont Central Research & Development, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.  She serves as a Deputy Editor at the Journal of Applied Physics.  Prof. McNeil is a materials physicist who uses optical spectroscopy to investigate the properties of semiconductors and insulators.  She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and has held a variety of leadership roles in that organization.  She was the inaugural holder of the Kathryn McCarthy Lectureship at Tufts and the Dorothy K. Daspit Lectureship at Tulane and has worked throughout her career to enhance the representation and success of women in physics.  As a Chapman Family Fellow and Academic Leadership Fellow at the Institute for the Arts & Humanities at UNC-CH she led the transformation of the teaching of the introductory physics courses in her department to use research-validated, student-centered pedagogy.  In 2019 she received the George B. Pegram Award from the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society for "Excellence in Physics Education in the Southeast."  Together with a colleague in the Department of Music at UNC-CH she teaches a course for first-year undergraduates on the physics of musical instruments.  Students in the course build their own unique instruments and give a public performance of their own compositions for ensembles of those instruments.