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FEMMES 2012 Capstone Event

Saturday, February 18, 2012

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Duke University, West Campus

Angela Jiang

Program Director

Phone: (937) 515-1561


Nicole Page

Program Director

Phone: (631) 742 - 1735


Baninder Baidwan

Program Director

Phone: (919) 949-7590



FEMMES E-mail:


Our Mission

The existing gender disparities in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields underscore the need for outreach programs to help engage young women in such areas. Founded in 2006 by Vicki Weston, FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science) is a student-led organization at Duke University that hosts educational outreach programs related to math, science, and engineering for 4th-6th grade girls from underserved areas.

Our Philosophy

By incorporating engaging, hands-on activities into all of our programs, we allow the girls to learn in a fun, supportive environment and explore their potential in the STEM fields. We hope to build our participants' confidence in their academic skills and to empower them to pursue their dreams. Many of our students’ parents and teachers have told us that after attending FEMMES, the girls become more motivated, participate more in class, and show a greater interest in school. The real power of our program lies in the way we use female role models to demonstrate how women can and do excel in these fields. In all components of FEMMES, female students and faculty members volunteer their time to instill enthusiasm about their careers in the developing minds of young women. Through the years, our volunteers have developed personal relationships with the participants and have had a positive influence on their attitudes towards STEM fields. Our programs provide excellent opportunities for female faculty and students to serve as role models and provide mentorship.

Our Programs

The FEMMES organization seeks to improve female participation in STEM subjects with three main components: an annual one-day capstone event, an after-school program, and a summer camp program.

Capstone Event
The capstone event at Duke University is held each Spring.  The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill FEMMES chapter recently held their inaugural capstone event in Fall 2009.  The capstone event is a free program held on a Saturday from 9:00AM-4:00PM for 4th-6th grade students in the Durham area.  This year, we will be hosting more than 260 girls at Duke, which is the most participation we have had since FEMMES was founded in 2006. The day includes keynote speakers who explain their roles in their particular STEM fields and the paths that led them to those roles, followed by two morning activities, lunch, two afternoon activities, and closing remarks. Each hands-on activity is designed and led by female faculty members, female graduate students, and STEM undergraduate female organizations. Participants are placed in groups of 14-17 girls led by 2-3 undergraduate or graduate student volunteers who guide the participants through four different activities held in the engineering, science, math, and laboratory buildings on campus. As an assessment of our program, surveys are given to the participants prior to, on the day of, and six weeks after the capstone event. 

After-School Program
Despite the success of the capstone event, we understand the need for continuous outreach in order to maintain interest. Studies have shown that while one-day events produce great short term effects on interest and confidence, they may not last long enough to really influence a child’s drive and ambition.  For this reason, the FEMMES concept was expanded in Spring 2008 to an after-school mentorship program that fosters long-term relationships and constant encouragement. This mentorship opportunity invites 4th-6th grade girls to learn from Duke students for six weeks per semester at select elementary schools in the Durham area. Student volunteers travel to several Durham schools throughout the week to lead activities that expose girls to more applications of science, engineering, and math and to teach fundamental concepts in an engaging, hands-on manner. Some activities that we have done in the past include designing egg-drop parachutes and trebuchets (Physics and Engineering), performing ink chromatography (Chemistry), and making respiratory system models (Biology). An after-school committee meets throughout the year to design activities for the curriculum, acquire materials, and train the volunteers ahead of time so that all activities run smoothly.

In addition to our weekday after-school program, we decided to add a six-week Saturday series in Fall 2009. The Saturday series, held on Duke's West Campus, integrates activities that parallel the ones we plan for the after-school program. However, instead of going to the elementary schools during the week, we invite fifty 4th-6th graders to Duke to do the activities.This way, we are able to reach out to other young girls who do not attend the elementary schools with whom we have partnered with for our after-school program. We plan to continue the Saturday series as a vital component of our after-school program.

Summer Camp

This past August, FEMMES also held its third week-long summer day camp at Duke for fifty 5th-6th grade Durham girls. Duke University undergraduate and graduate females served as both counselors and mentors.  A past summer program’s theme was Forensic Science, and we incorporated fun hands-on activities, such as fingerprint analysis, DNA extraction from cheek cells, blood spatter analysis, footprint impression, and powder analysis. In addition, participants were introduced several exciting STEM research projects being conducted on Duke’s campus including the Smart Home and the Duke immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE), a six-sided virtual reality theater. A field trip to the Duke Lemur Center was integrated into the summer camp curriculum as well.The camp was a huge success, and we are hoping to establish this summer camp program as a long-standing component of FEMMES.


~ Saturday, February 18, 2012 ~

8:45-9:15 a.m. – Students arrive, meet groups, get schedules and tote bags

9:15-9:30 a.m. – Travel to Love Auditorium

9:30-10:00 a.m. – Welcome speeches

10:00-10:15 a.m. – Break off into groups and Travel to first activity

10:15-11:00 a.m. – Activity 1

11:00-11:10 a.m. – Travel to second activity

11:10-12:05 p.m. – Activity 2

12:05-12:15 p.m. – Travel to lunch

12:15-1:15 p.m. – Lunch

1:15-1:25 p.m. – Travel to third activity

1:25-2:10 p.m. – Activity 3

2:10-2:20 p.m. – Travel to fourth activity

2:20-3:05 p.m. – Activity 4

3:05-3:25 p.m. – Pass out and complete evaluations/questionnaires

3:25-3:35 p.m. – Return to Auditorium

3:35-3:55 p.m. – Closing remarks and raffle

4:00-4:45 p.m. – Pickup by parents

Faculty Biographies and Descriptions:

Keynote Speaker: Alyssa K. Perz-Edwards

Dr. Alyssa Perz-Edwards is an Assistant Dean working in the Academic Advising Center at Duke University.  She is also a lecturer in the Biology Department.  She advises pre-health students and athletes during their first two years at Duke.  She also serves as the academic dean for juniors and seniors who have declared majors in the Evolutionary Anthropology and Sociology Departments.  She directs an initiative to support pre-health students across their four years at Duke called the Cardea Fellows Program and occasionally teaches biology courses.  Dr. Perz-Edwards received her B.S. degree in Biology from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.  She earned her Ph.D. from Duke University Department of Cell Biology, funded by a NSF Predoctoral Fellowship.  As a graduate student she was awarded the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.  Upon graduating from Duke she taught courses in development, molecular genetics, and cell biology for Duke’s Biology Department.  She enjoys mentoring students, especially those taking science courses.  She is married and has two daughters.  In her spare time, she enjoys reading non-fiction, running, doing yoga, baking bread and growing flowers and food.

Chemistry Outreach (Team 1)

"CSI Team"

Mr. Edward Paws Scissor Claws is a beloved show cat and has been featured in prominent feline magazines, even receiving top billings in blockbuster hits.  Unfortunately, someone has kidnapped him from the loving home of his owners.  While tragic, such a crime is not totally unexpected, as many people were jealous of his undeniable success.  Edward's owners need your help: you will act as the detectives, using your deductive reasoning and scientific skills to sift through nine suspects and ultimately determine the culprit.  Could it be the Edward's publicist?  Or his hair stylist?  Or his number one fan? You will learn how to test soil, collect finger prints, and even separate the dyes present in lipstick, all in the hopes of discovering the truth of what happened to Mr. Edward Paws Scissor Claws!  Hopefully the criminal can be caught before it is too late!

"Chemistry and Crafts"

Chemistry plays a vital role in the arts and crafts world—everyday, chemists and artists use their scientific knowledge to reproduce pigments, preserve artwork, test the authenticity of objects, and create new mediums. If you can make it, touch it, or observe it, chances are that chemistry is involved! In “Chemistry and Crafts,” young scientists will employ fundamental chemical principles to create a variety of colorful crafts. First, they’ll explore chromatography: mobile and stationary phases will be determined as the girls use chalk and the concepts of polarity to separate a mixture of dyes. Next, they’ll put to use their knowledge of chromatography to create beautiful butterflies out of water-soluble ink, water, and coffee filters. After each butterfly receives her colorful wings, we’ll move on to polymer chemistry and examine cross-linking first-hand in order to create polyurethane “smoothies.” Finally, the girls will have the opportunity to craft something colorful and edible: homemade Dip-N-Dots will be created (and then consumed) using the super cool properties of liquid nitrogen and phase changes.

Dr. Ken Lyle - Chemistry Outreach Coordinator

Dr. Ken Lyle works for the Department of Chemistry of Duke University as an instructor, lecture-demonstrator, and chemistry outreach coordinator. Ken earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Education from the University of Tulsa, a Master's degree in Education from the University of Houston, and a Doctorate in Chemistry from Purdue University. His research investigated the experiences of female pre-professional majors learning chemistry in order to better understand the factors contributing to the difficulties learning and understanding the chemical concepts. In his free time, Ken likes to bowl, hike, and take long walks on the beach.

Dr. Kathy Franz
"Caution: Oxygen can be Hazardous to your Health!"
The oxygen you breathe can naturally lead to by-products like hydrogen peroxide that are damaging to your cells. Luckily, an iron-containing enzyme called catalase protects you. It speeds the conversion of hydrogen peroxide to oxygen and water. In this workshop we'll see how fast the catalase enzyme works and investigate the effects of some variables like enzyme concentration and temperature on its activity.
Dr. Kathy Franz is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry. As a bioinorganic chemist, she is interested in the roles that metal ions like iron and copper play in living things.

Dr. Elizabeth A. Godin

"Pharmacologists as Sleuths: Finding Salicylates”

The project for FEMMES participants will focus on the role of plants in providing drugs used as medicines. We will discuss the origin of aspirin from the willow tree, and its cousin, salicylate, which is found in numerous plants. Salicylate has been added to a number of household products, including shampoo and chewing gum. The FEMMES participants will perform experiments to determine if certain plants and products contain this drug. They will learn why the drug is found normally in plants and why it is added to products that society uses. They will also learn how it works.

Dr. Godin received her PhD from the University of North Carolina where she investigated the effects of maternal alcohol exposure on the developing brain. She is now working with the RISE (Raising Interest in Science Education) group at Duke University.

Dr. Claudia Gunsch

"Environmental Detective: What are these nasty bugs?"

Have you ever gotten sick and wondered why? Was it from that drinking water fountain? Did you eat fruit without washing it? Did you eat meat that was not fully cooked? Did you forget to wash your hands? Did someone cough at the movie theater and not cover their mouth? An important component of environmental engineering consists of minimizing human exposure to pathogens present in air and water. Environmental engineers develop treatment technologies to remove pathogens from these streams to protect human health. In the context of this activity, you will learn how to identify pathogens using genetics. You will be given a DNA probe for a specific microbe and will learn how to use it as a sensor for pathogen identification. You will learn about various types of pathogens and find out how they infect humans. You will also learn strategies for minimizing your exposure to pathogens and stay as healthy as possible!

Dr. Claudia Gunsch is trained as an environmental engineer and a molecular biotechnologist. Her research is focused on understanding how pollutants affect microbial populations in natural and engineered environments. Her webpage is available here. 

Heather Heenehan

Spinner Dolphins, Sounds and Spectrograms"

In this activity students will learn about Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, a type of dolphin that lives a very coastal lifestyle. We will go through a day in our lives and a day in the life of a Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin to understand their very different and opposite schedules. We will also talk about why scientists are worried about these dolphins, why they are studying the sounds they make and how their hearing and use of sound differs from ours. Students will be introduced to the following concepts: rest and vigilance, acoustics, frequency and spectrogram among others. Activities will include the following: polling the students to understand a human’s day and comparing that to a spinner dolphin’s day, a hearing test, using iPad apps to “see sound” and creating our own spectrograms and predicting the sounds of different marine mammals.

Dr. Heather Heenehan is pursuing a PhD in Marine Science and Conservation in the Nicholas School of the Environment.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BS in Environmental Science and recently graduated with her Master of Environmental Management degree from Duke in Coastal Environmental Management. Her master’s project, a collection of web articles, focused on spinner dolphins around the Island of Hawai’i and the impacts of human interactions (tourism) on these dolphins. She will continue to work on Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins for her dissertation and investigate the acoustic behavior of spinner dolphins in their resting bays. She will explore the current sounds that the dolphins make, look at variation through time and space and explore policy implications of this research.

Cathy Johnson

"Oil Spill Clean-up"

So what was all the fuss about when oil spilled in the Gulf two years ago? Why do we still hear about it in the news? In this activity, we’ll simulate an oil spill and attempt to recover our ocean using various clean-up “tools”. In the process, we’ll gain an understanding of why these current events have caused such outrage among communities in the Gulf and how, historically, oil spills have impacted many parts of our country and the world.

Cathy Johnson graduated from Duke University in 2009 with degrees in biology and environmental science. She continued her education in the Master of Management Studies program at the Fuqua School of Business before beginning her career in education as an admissions counselor for Fuqua. She is currently completing my teacher certification and is looking to teach high school science in the near future. She is an avid Duke fan and animal lover and enjoys horseback riding and playing the clarinet in her free time!

MGM (Molecular Genetics and Microbiology) Group
DNA, the recipe for you (AND MONSTERS!)”
DNA is the recipe for you! It is what tells your body to make your hair black or blonde, or your eyes blue or green. In this activity we’ll explore the structure of DNA (and show you your own!) in addition to comparing the amount of DNA in a human cell vs. cells of other animals and plants. You’ll even see just how hard it is to keep all of your DNA inside the nucleus, the part of the cell where it is stored, and try your hand at packing “DNA” into a “nucleus” yourself! We’ll also learn about how DNA becomes protein, the machinery that makes your body run, and how bits of DNA are passed from your parents to you – the process that makes you look like you do!

The Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Department (MGM) has two main areas of research. The first is pathogenesis: or the ability of fungi, bacteria and viruses to cause disease. Some of the pathogens, or disease causing germs studied, cause disease only in people with weak immune systems. Understanding how these organisms function is key to protecting people who have cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy, have had an organ transplant, or have HIV. Other diseases studied such as Yellow Fever, Tuberculosis and the Plague, are incredibly harmful to healthy humans and must be studied in special laboratories by researchers in hazmat suits. Research on these diseases focuses on designing vaccines to prevent people from catching them and becoming ill. The second area of research is genetics: the study of how DNA controls the cell. Some labs study exactly how DNA is packed in the cell, and how it is converted to the proteins that make the cell run. Other labs study how small changes in DNA can cause a person to be more, or less likely to contract a particular disease.

Dr. Kari Lock Morgan

"Hand Squeeze Travel Time"

How long does it take for a hand squeeze to travel around a circle of girls? How does this time change as more girls are added to the circle? What is the average time for each girl to pass a squeeze to the girl next to her? Can we predict the time for a hand squeeze to travel a certain distance? Like many questions, all of these can be answered simply by collecting data, and learning how to use the data effectively. We will collect data on hand squeeze travel times, and learn how to use this data to answer the questions posed.

Dr. Kari Lock Morgan is an assistant professor of the practice of statistics at Duke University. She received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and statistics at Williams College, took a few years off to travel the world as a professional figure skater, and then returned to get her PhD in statistics from Harvard University. As a statistician, she loves playing with data and using data to answer all kinds of interesting questions. She is passionate about statistics education, and hopes to help lots of people learn how to better utilize the power of data.

Dr. Desiree Plata

"Light up your life"

Participants will learn the basics of electromagnetic radiation by exploring some of its most colorful parts:  ultraviolet and visible light. Using crystals and light filters, students will be able to demonstrate that white light is made up of a combination of distinct wavelengths of light, each with a variable color.  Traveling beyond the visible spectrum into the ultraviolet, the phenomenon of fluorescence will be introduced using "black lights" and fluorescent materials in our daily lives, such as tide and tonic water!  Students should be prepared to go from the ground state to the excited state for some high-energy science fun!

Desiree Plata is Assistant Professor in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at Duke University. She completed her PhD in Environmental Chemistry and Chemical Oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).   She holds a BS in Chemistry from Union College in Schenectady, NY.  Her research interest include developing materials and chemicals in an environmentally and economically sustainable way and to achieve environmental sustainability objectives.

Dr. Eileen Raynor

"ENT Surgery"

Station 1: Ear video and tuning forks – Watch ear video and learn about the parts of the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Learn how these all work together to help us hear. See how tuning forks can help us figure out what type of hearing loss a person has. Use an otoscope to look at the ear canal and eardrum.

Station 2: Knot tying and suturing – Learn how to tie a surgeons knot. Learn how to do a simple interrupted and running suture (we will use cross stitch material to sew on). Learn how to tie knots using surgical instruments.
Station 3: VNS implant practice – Test your skill with the VNS practice model. This involves placing 3 coils (the stimulator) around an elastic with surgical forceps (it’s harder than it looks).
Station 4: Ear, nose and larynx models – Look at the models and try and identify the 3 hearing bones in the ear. See how the sinuses are related to the nose. Try moving the vocal cords and see how they work to help us breathe, talk and sing. Learn how problems in these areas can affect how they function and some things we can do to repair them.

Eileen Raynor, MD, is an assistant professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery within the Duke Department of Surgery. Dr. Raynor attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and graduated in 1993. She completed her otolaryngology residency at the Medical College of Georgia. She then practiced academic Otolaryngology at the University of Florida before relocating to Durham. At Duke she practices pediatric otolaryngology concentrating on multidisciplinary management of complex disorders including airway, voice, speech, and swallowing. She is also an active member of the cleft palate and craniofacial team. Her clinical interests include use of technology to improve outcomes and resident training.

Dr. Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel

Orange you glad to be here”

In this activity students design and carry out a blind taste test to determine whether or not they can correctly identify two different brands of orange juice. Before we analyze the results of the experiment we talk about what would we expect to see if students were randomly guessing. We then compare the observed results to what would happen by chance to try to determine if a given student can in fact correctly identify the brand of the juice.

Dr. Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel received her PhD from UCLA. She is an Assistant Professor of the Practice at Duke University. Her research interests include statistics pedagogy, spatial statistics, and survey and public health data. She is a co-author of OpenIntro Statistics and a contributing member of the OpenIntro project, whose mission is to make educational products that are open-licensed, transparent, and help lower barriers to education.

Dr. Nina Sherwood

"The Fly and I - How Flies can teach us about Ourselves"

How similar do you think you are to those little flies you see buzzing around your fruit? Do they have a brain? Feelings? Do they sleep? Groom? Fight? Get sick? In this workshop we will learn how the tiny fruit fly can teach us about how our own bodies work. We will look at a variety of flies, observing their physical traits using the microscope and a few of their behaviors, and then identify mutants in these traits or behaviors from a set of "mystery" flies. You'll be amazed by what can happen when a single gene - one that you may have too - has a mistake in it!

Nina Sherwood is interested in understanding how the nervous system works, and thinks that fruit flies are a great way to address this and many other questions about biology. Her lab studies why certain genes, found in humans as well as flies, are necessary for nerves to function. She is an assistant research professor in the Biology department.

Dr. Dalene Stangl

"Statistics for Better Decisions"

Tameka hates yellow M&Ms, and Natasha hates brown M&Ms. Suppose that Tameka and Natasha agree that each time they buy a bag of M&Ms Tameka will give all her yellow M&M to Natasha, and Natasha will give all her brown M&Ms to Tameka. Is this a fair trade? Would this be a fair trade for all possible combinations of colors? Students will define "fair trade," set up an experiment, collect data, and analyze the data to assess these questions.

Dalene Stangl received her Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. She is Professor of the Practice in the Department of Statistical Science, specializing in statistics for health-related research. She is also interested in the use of statistics in the courtroom. She is Associate Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the department. She is an editor of the Journal of the American Statistical Association. Her son Jeremy lives in Pittsburgh.

The Society for Women Engineers (SWE)

"Bandana Chromatography"

Make your own colorful bandana and learn the science behind chemical chromatography, or the technique used to separate mixtures. Watch how different colors spread on paper dipped in water, and then decorate your own bandana with permanent markers of every color! You will see how these colors separate on fabric after rubbing alcohol is added, and have lots of fun with this great science activity.

"Chemical Luminescence”

Learn how light can be produced by many different methods, such as using electricity, chemistry and biological reactions. You will participate in a variety of hands-on activities and watch objects glow and change colors! We will do several fun activites-including "magic writing", "LEDs", and "bioluminescence"-or watching organisms glow! 

Duke SWE, the Society of Women Engineers, is a group of creative, passionate, and energetic female engineers. We enjoy leading outreach activities, because we love working with kids and introducing them to how much fun science and engineering can be! Duke SWE is excited to a part of FEMMES again-we've enjoyed being a part of the Capstone in the past and hope to have a great time this year!

Members: Jennifer Wang, Robyn Schwartzman, Kristie Yang, Claire Frazier (Professional SWE), Lindsey Alexander (Professional SWE), Linde Liu, Valerie Lu, Margaret Upshur, Lucy Corippo, Isabelle Brogna, Victoria Png, Dayoung Ko, Katherine MacAdam, Jane Upshur, Anisha Mukherjee

Dr. Heather M. Stapleton

Water Pollution: What do we do with it and how do we clean it up?”

Water pollution can mean many different things. It can refer to water that has too much dirt and soil, too little oxygen, too many bacteria, or high concentrations of chemicals that can harm the environment. In this workshop we’ll talk about pollution that affects our drinking water, lakes, rivers and the ocean. As a case example, we’ll discuss what happens to water during an oil spill and talk about different methods scientists use to try and clean oil spills. Students will participate in experiments that will test different methods for cleaning up the oil and discuss which strategies appear to work best.

Dr. Stapleton is an environmental chemist who studies chemical pollutants in the environment. Her research investigates the sources and fate of chemical pollutants used in consumer products and she examines how these chemicals are exposed to both wildlife and humans.

Kalyani Krishnamurthy

"How Ultrasound Works"
Ultrasound imaging is used to create detailed pictures of the inside of our bodies without performing dangerous surgeries. These images are created by sending sound waves into a person's body and measuring how they bounce off internal organs and other structures. In this activity, we will explore the concepts and mathematics behind these images by sending probes into a box, measuring how the probes interact with the contents of the box, and finally drawing a picture of the contents without ever getting to see them directly.

Kalyani Krishnamurthy is a research scientist working with Prof. David Brady and Prof. Rebecca Willett in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Duke University. Her research focuses on signal processing and she develops algorithms to extract useful information from noisy and blurry data. Such algorithms are useful in applications such as remote sensing, astronomical imaging, and biomedical imaging. More details on her research interests and publications can be found in

Also, we would like to extend a special thanks to Duke University Stores, who generously donated $100 worth of Duke-related items as awesome door prizes for our participants. From blue devil magnets to lanyards, from logo-shaped bracelets to Duke binders and folders, we know the girls will appreciate the prizes and we appreciate Duke University Stores’ generosity.

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