The 5C Experience: The Awesome Ladies in Physics and Astronomy CLORG


With the number of Scripps students majoring in science topping 20 percent in recent years, it is unsurprising that College resources for science majors have increased, too—the living learning community for STEM and pre-health majors in Wilber Hall, for example, or the summer research internships offered thorough the W.M. Keck Science Department. Adding to the mix, the 5C student club Awesome Ladies in Physics and Astronomy (ALPHA) hosts biweekly lunches that create a space for women majoring in physics to talk about their work and experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. The club is mostly student led, with physics faculty from across the 5Cs supporting the students by participating in luncheons and providing guidance for club endeavors such as conferences and events.

Scripps physics major Rachel Mochama ’19 takes physics classes at the W.M. Keck Science Department and astronomy at Pomona College. She appreciates the camaraderie and support that ALPHA has cultivated.

“If I have any ideas that I want to bounce off people, or want to go to a conference, or do research, I can bounce ideas off people,” she says. “I have more people to connect with.”

While Scripps confers nearly a quarter of its degrees to STEM majors, the physics community makes up only a fraction of that, with the majority of students pursuing a pre-health track focused more on chemistry and biology. ALPHA has helped to create a tight-knit community of physics and astronomy students that bridges the colleges, allowing majors to connect with each other as well as tap into resources at the W.M. Keck Science Department. Since its founding in 1964, the department has produced several award-winning women physicists who are Scripps alumnae, most recently Rachel Kahn ’17, who won the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, considered the most prestigious award in undergraduate science.

Mochama’s involvement in ALPHA led her to participate in the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, a national conference held in 2017 at the University of California, Los Angeles. Mochama and her ALPHA cohorts plan to bring the conference to The Claremont Colleges in January 2018.