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Talking physics

Professor Laura McCullough is photographed working with students, including Miranda Danzeisen, during a physics lab at UW-Stout.

A University of Wisconsin-Stout professor will be honored for her work in helping break down gender barriers for females in science, especially physics.

The American Association of Physics Teachers will present Laura McCullough with the Homer L. Dodge Citation for Distinguished Service to AAPT.

“It has been a pleasure to help an organization that has been so valuable to my career and to be recognized for work that I feel is important to physics overall,” McCullough said.

Homer L. Dodge is the founder of AAPT.

“When I started physics graduate school, I was the only woman in a group of 20, which made me realize that there was a big problem in physics,” she said. “This has led me to 25 years of working on issues of gender and science.”

The percentage of women earning bachelor’s degrees in physics or engineering is about 20%, while chemistry has about 45% women, she said. “Given the importance of the STEM fields to the future of the nation and the world, we must ensure that we are welcoming everyone to science and not turning away talented people for reasons of appearance, sex or background.”

AAPT called McCullough’s contributions to the organization and the physics community significant.

AAPT cited her leadership roles with the organization, including serving on several committees as chair and vice chair. McCullough also presents regularly at conferences and has “published extensively on issues of gender in the classroom, particularly in physics,” AAPT said.

“Her work in physics education research sheds light on how the classroom can be more inclusive, particularly to female students,” AAPT said.

McCullough has led the development of a physics gender bias website, which originated with a National Science Foundation grant.

She attended the 2017 International Conference on Women and Physics and will be a team leader for the U.S. delegation in 2020.

In 2016, McCullough published a book, “Women and Physics.”

Earlier this year, McCullough also was recognized for her work in the area of women and science when a scholarship was named after her at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She attended a ceremony and met the first recipient of the Dr. Laura McCullough Scholarship, which supports an underrepresented student in a STEM field.

McCullough, of Stillwater, Minn., has a Ph.D. in science education and a master’s in physics from the University of Minnesota, along with a bachelor’s in physics from Hamline University. She began teaching at UW-Stout in 2000; she has served as a department chair and received several campus teaching honors.

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