Dr. Jill Alty brings to life a new conference to showcase polymer research by women

Categories: Events, Postdocs, Research

The inaugural Polymer Women Empowerment & Research (PoWER) conference will be held at Northwestern University from July 11-12, 2024.

After noticing the substantial impact of the Chemistry Women’s Mentorship Network (ChemWMN) and the Empowering Women in Organic Chemistry conference, Dr. Jill Alty, a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Laura Kiessling‘s lab, noticed a void and seized an opportunity to establish a similar event for women in the field of polymer science.

Jill Alty smiles in a corridor.
Dr. Jill Alty

After connecting with Professor Julia Kalow of Northwestern University at ChemWMN in 2018, the pair collaborated alongside Professor Helen Tran (University of Toronto), Professor Symone Alexander (Auburn University), Dr. Sara Orski, and Dr. Katie Houston to design the Polymer Women Empowerment and Research conference (PoWER). The conference’s inaugural event will be held from July 11-12 at Northwestern, and aspires to foster community, share cutting-edge scientific results, highlight women’s contributions and voices, and address issues pertinent to women and gender minorities in polymer science. The 1.5-day event will provide a diverse, inclusive, and innovative environment where participants at all career stages can feel a sense of belonging, develop professional networks, and learn about opportunities.

Statistics demonstrate a remarkable prevalence of women in the field of polymer science, highlighting the importance of this event. As of May 2023, women made up 21% of POLY members and less than 20% of corresponding authors in Macromolecules. Even the Polymers GRC, a remarkably inclusive conference by the standards of chemistry, comprised 42% women in 2023. This disparity creates an environment in which women give fewer talks, ask fewer questions after seminars (PLOS ONE 2018, 13, e0202743), gain less exposure, and grow their professional networks less. Research shows that women particularly benefit from networks that include other female leaders (PNAS 2019, 116, 2033).

“Luckily the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Polymer Chemistry (POLY) and the Division of Polymeric Science and Engineering (PMSE) saw the same need and granted us an Innovative Project Grant to start a new conference that would foster community among women and gender minorities while sharing cutting-edge research in polymer science,” said Alty of this momentous initiative. “We anticipate that founding this event and creating a network will increase the recruitment and retention of women and gender minorities in the polymer community.”

Information on how to apply to present a poster and/or register to attend the 2024 PoWER conference can be found on their website.