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New club supports women in math

| Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thousands of miles apart, 2018 Notre Dame graduate Caitlyn Booms and senior Katie Gallagher arrived at the same conclusion: Notre Dame needed a supportive club for women pursuing mathematics.

Gallagher, co-president of the Women in Math club, studied abroad last year at Oxford University, where her classes were dominated by males. After finding support in the Mirzakhani Society, an association that promoted women studying math at Oxford, Gallagher was inspired to create a similar club at Notre Dame.

Back on campus, Booms had also been considering the importance of having a support system for women studying math for the past few years.

“Throughout my undergrad career, I participated in several programs outside of Notre Dame, including a conference for women interested in math grad school, the Budapest Semesters in Math program and a Research Experience for Undergrads (REU), where I met several other women studying math,” Booms said in a Facebook message. “These experiences made me realize the importance of having other female math students to work with and be friends with, and they made it clear to me that Notre Dame was lacking such a community.”

The two came into contact and discussed ideas over winter break, and Booms initiated the club last spring while Gallagher finished the year at Oxford, Gallagher said.

Since Booms graduated, Gallagher and senior Arianna Blanco became more involved, and the club has grown.

“We are currently applying to become a chapter in the Association for Women in Mathematics, AWM, with the help of a few faculty members,” Gallagher said.

Senior Kristine Anderson, social chair of the club, said they are holding academic and social events to help connect women interested in math.

“We have biweekly Sip ’N Solves, which is a homework-based event where girls can get together and do homework,” Anderson said. “It’s a good way to find someone in math classes you’re in, and upperclassmen are there to help give advice for classes they have already taken.”

Anderson said they are also planning on holding a research and internship panel for women who have been involved with math research or internships to discuss what they have done with other girls who are interested. She said math is a versatile field with applications in research, business, economics and politics, and women should consider the various opportunities math can provide.

“As far as social events, we’re doing a board game day. … We’ll have some sort of fall event, and we will host a pizza party later on,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher said these events will help girls in math learn more about opportunities available to them, and they will give Notre Dame women in math a better support system, which is what Booms had hoped for the club.

“I think it’s really important for women in math to have a strong community and to be supportive of each other, primarily because it is a field that is still largely male dominated and discrimination and bias against women still exists,” Booms said. “Having a support group of women in your same position can be extremely encouraging and can make women feel more comfortable and capable.”

She said she hopes the club can help women in math feel less alone.

“Mathematics can be quite a difficult subject to study, and it is easy to doubt one’s ability to be successful,” Booms said. “Having a Women in Math group where you can discuss these feelings and be uplifted and supported by other women can be crucial in ensuring that women studying math at Notre Dame are not only successful, but as happy and confident as well.”

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