Senior recognized with Connecticut Women of Innovation Award

Rebecca Napolitano '15 founded
Rebecca Napolitano '15 founded "Women in Science," which encourages high school girls from Connecticut to pursue science education.

Working in Connecticut College’s particle accelerator lab, Rebecca Napolitano ’15 has developed a strong passion for science — a passion she is now passing on to the next generation of young women.

Napolitano founded “Women in Science,” an annual event where high school girls from across Connecticut are invited to participate in neuroscience, physics, biology and computer science programs. She also invites Connecticut College students to talk to the younger students about what it means to be a woman in the sciences.

“I wanted to be able to introduce young girls to science and help them build their confidence and love of science,” Napolitano said.

Her work captured the attention of the Connecticut Computer Science Teachers Association, which honored Napolitano with the Connecticut Technology Council 2015 Women of Innovation Award. The award recognizes women leaders in science, technology, engineering, math and community involvement.

Napolitano accepted the award earlier this month. She was also recently honored with a citation from the state of Connecticut as a “Young Innovator” in the sciences.

“Through her efforts, many young girls have had their first experience with computer science,” said Chinma Uche, a math and computer science teacher at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering and the Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science who nominated Napolitano for the award. “By recognizing Rebecca, we are showing other young people the value of investing in their community.”

The “Women in Science” program mirrors the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, which Napolitano attended during her junior year with the encouragement of Michael Monce, professor of physics. At the time, the classics and physics double major was struggling in her science classes and considering dropping physics as a major. One day, she met with Monce with the intention of breaking the bad news.

Instead, she left with a renewed sense of confidence.

“Professor Monce helped me see what I was truly capable of and catapulted me in the direction I am headed now,” she said. “I am eternally grateful to him for that.”

Napolitano plans to continue her scientific journey after graduation at Princeton University, where she will pursue graduate studies in civil engineering. Her work will expand on her undergraduate honors thesis, which explores three-dimensional modeling of ancient Roman structures to recreate their original appearance, combining both of her very different majors.

She also plans to continue encouraging women to get involved with science, either by joining an existing program at Princeton or by founding her own.

“I can’t wait to see what the future has in store,” she said.

- Sophia Mitrokostas '15

April 23, 2015