UMass professor helps inspire local girls to reach for the stars - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM


UMass professor helps inspire local girls to reach for the stars

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)

Women are often under-represented when it comes to careers in the sciences, but one local professor is teaching young ladies to reach for the stars.

Western Mass News and PeoplesBank is introducing you to everyday people making a difference in our community.

Among those are Alexandra Pope, who is working hard for the Girls Inc. 'Eureka' program.

Acting as an inspiration to teenage girls in the valley, these UMass volunteers for the 'Eureka' program are sparking science and math interests in many.

"It shows how passionate about what they're doing and they know they can inspire the girls to think about their futures," said Pope, who is an assistant professor of astronomy at UMass.

Some volunteers, like Pope, are encouraging the girls to always shoot for the moon.

"The first year we ran this workshop, we asked the girls how many of you have been to a telescope before the room was silent.  It's my field, but I'm spoiled, but still I think it's important everyone gets that opportunity," Pope added.

Through showcasing the campus telescope and running through astronomy workshops, Pope exemplifies a strong solid woman in the sciences - a rarity in her field - and serves as an outstanding role model for the students. 

"I think it's especially important to target girls.  Females are minorities in science, they are minorities in astronomy. To have the extra opportunities to get the exposure and seen as something that is an option for their future is really important," Pope explained.

Reaching for the stars isn't all that they teach in the 'Eureka' program.  They focus on the entire STEM experience - the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics.

As a tried and true volunteer, Pope feels astronomy is the perfect place to spark that interest.

"It's really important, and astronomy is sort of a gateway science because children - even at young ages - ask about the sky. My four year old is always asking about the moon and stars and at the basis is physics and math, so in this workshop, we really focus on how exciting it is, but really, the root of psychics and math," Pope said.

Pope is not only volunteering her time to the young ladies, but working to better the field of study as a whole.

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