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  • richardmitnick 12:28 pm on November 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: FIU, FIUTeach, Natasha Blanch, , Yesim Darici, Zahra Hazari   

    From FIU: “The STEM Sisterhood: How 3 women are changing the face of STEM” 

    FIU bloc

    Florida International University

    11/07/2017
    Chrystian Tejedor

    Nov. 8 is national STEM day, something Zahra Hazari knows a lot about. She is trying to recruit at least 10,000 more women to pursue physics degrees in the United States by 2020. It’s an endeavor that would have seemed impossible 30 years ago, a time when no one seemed to care that women were not flocking to careers in science, technology, engineering or math — no one except an elite few like Yesim Darici. When she joined FIU in the mid-1980s, Darici became the first female physics professor in the state of Florida. Hazari, Darici and recent FIU graduate Natasha Blanch are changing the face of STEM in the United States. Because of their efforts and others like them, the days of women being under-represented in STEM careers could come to an end.

    1
    The Trailblazer

    Yesim Darici did not pursue a career in advocacy. She is a scientist — a theoretical and experimental physicist with expertise in transition metals. Yet, Darici is a trailblazer for women in science. Today, she is also FIU’s leading advocate for women and gender issues as the director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

    For Darici, advocacy just comes naturally. For six years, she served as the education officer for an organization dedicated to advancing and celebrating Hispanic-American physicists. Yet, she is Turkish. She also served on the American Physical Society’s committee on minorities to advance initiatives that attract more women and under-represented minorities to careers in physics. She worked with federally funded programs to engage local high school kids from economically under-served areas in both science and college life. She also coordinated physics workshops for high school teachers. Throughout her 30-year career at FIU, Darici has championed STEM initiatives for women and minorities at the university, including two National Science Foundation-funded projects to increase diversity among its faculty.

    When she first joined FIU in the mid-1980s, she became the first female physics professor in all of Florida. Throughout her career, she has helped others find success in the sciences. She has mentored countless students. There have been many successes, but she has also endured many bouts of discrimination.

    When she talks about these experiences today, it’s usually with a smile — not because they’re all happy memories though many of them are. She smiles because she knows what success feels like.

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    The Changemaker

    Zahra Hazari thinks more women should become scientists or engineers. And she definitely thinks the world could use a few more female physics majors — 10,000 would be a good start. With thousands of high school physics teachers (male and female) helping her out, she may hit that target by 2020.

    It’s a dream that’s been catalyzing in her mind since she first studied physics in Florida. Even before joining FIU in 2014 as a physics education professor, Hazari had dedicated her research to improving access for women and other under-represented minorities in physics. She served on two key committees dedicated to encouraging more women to pursue physics careers, one with the American Physical Society and the other with the American Association of Physics Teachers.

    At FIU, she has been tireless in improving opportunities for under-represented minorities in STEM. She recently led an effort to secure funding for students pursuing computer science degrees. Working with collaborators at FIU and at two other universities, Hazari received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) of which $1 million will go to FIU to help students in computer science finish their degrees.

    Her research in trying to understand why some students complete STEM degrees and others don’t is ongoing. She is exploring why people of different genders sometimes abandon physics as a major and whether classroom environments and classmate behaviors can influence a student’s decision to stick with or abandon science careers.

    Her efforts recently culminated in a game-changing project that has garnered NSF support. Hazari, her colleagues in the FIU STEM Transformation Institute, partners from physics organizations and another university have been awarded a $3 million grant to recruit thousands more women to pursue physics degrees. The plan seems simple but the undertaking is monumental — partner with 10,000 high school physics teachers who are willing to recruit at least one female student each to pursue a physics degree in college. Hazari and the FIU team are developing a recruitment program and training materials to help the teachers identify and engage the students best suited for the highly skilled field.

    “We could accomplish something that’s never been done in history,” Hazari said. “We could change the face of physics in the United States.”

    Hazari is piloting her program this year at 10 schools. She is fine-tuning the lessons and best practices the teachers will use to further encourage their students to seek physics degrees. After ensuring the lessons apply to students in urban, suburban and rural schools, the campaign will expand to 24 teachers in 2018. After that, they will ramp up quickly, hoping to reach the 10,000 physics teachers — or 60 percent of all U.S. physics teachers — in 2019.

    “We could achieve the largest increase of women in physics in any decade in history,” Hazari said. “It’s very exciting to encourage women to participate in physics when they might not have considered it before and they may be perfect. They might have a love for physics they never knew existed.”

    3
    The Future

    Natasha Blanch hopes to one day be one of those teachers picking up the torch, igniting the imagination of her students to pursue STEM degrees.

    She recently became the first FIU student to complete the FIUteach program when she graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a teaching certification. The program enables STEM students like Blanch to earn both a degree in their major and a teaching certification without adding time or expense to their four-year degree program.

    “After taking the first course, I realized I can be the driving force behind a student who hopes to become a neurosurgeon, a rocket scientist, a physicist or a mathematician,” Blanch said.

    She began her first year at FIU as a finance major, but quickly realized analyzing balance sheets was not for her. While working at a math learning center, she realized she enjoyed teaching others. Her academic advisor introduced her to FIUteach, which is part of the National Math and Science Institute’s UTeach program, a secondary STEM teacher preparation initiative that is helping to produce qualified math and science teachers across the country.

    Blanch and other students in the program rely on master teachers to provide mentorship and guidance as they navigate through FIUteach and prepare for a teaching career. Working together with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, FIUteach serves as a pipeline of highly skilled and diverse teachers to the fourth-largest school district in the country and beyond.

    First, however, Blanch took a detour to the Marshall Islands where she is teaching accounting and coaching high school students in math. Though Blanch is the first to complete FIUTeach, more will soon follow. Currently, 350 students are enrolled in the program, making it one of the largest Uteach programs in the nation.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    FIU Campus

    As Miami’s first and only public research university, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, FIU is worlds ahead in its service to the academic and local community.

    Designated as a top-tier research institution, FIU emphasizes research as a major component in the university’s mission. The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the School of Computing and Information Sciences’ Discovery Lab, are just two of many colleges, schools, and centers that actively enhance the university’s ability to set new standards through research initiatives.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:58 pm on May 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Alastair Paragas, , , FIU, , , ,   

    From FIU: “My Internship with CERN” Alastair Paragas 

    FIU bloc

    This post is dedicated to J.L.T. who will prove Loop Quantum Gravity. I hope he sees it.

    Florida International University

    05/15/2017
    Millie Acebal

    1
    Name: Alastair Paragas

    Major: Computer Science (College of Engineering and Computing and Honors College)

    Hometown: Originally from Manila, Philippines; currently living in Homestead, Florida

    Where will you intern ? Starting June 19, I will intern at CERN, located in Geneva, Switzerland. CERN is the home of the (Large) (H)adron (C)ollider where the Higgs-Boson particle was discovered.

    LHC

    CERN/LHC Map

    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    2
    Tim Berners-Lee
    https://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/

    Another great development at CERN was the creation of the modern internet – the (W)orld (W)ide (W)eb, with web pages as accessible documents through HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), as developed by Tim Berners-Lee.

    Though CERN is in Geneva, I will be living in Saint Genis-Pouilly, France. Saint Genis-Pouilly is a town on the French side of the Franco-Swiss border, with CERN being on the Swiss side of the border. Luckily enough, the commute is only 2 miles long and is quite permissive because of the relaxed borders between the two countries due mostly in part to CERN’s importance to the European Union as a nuclear research facility. As such, I get to cross the border twice a day!

    What do you do there?

    I will be doing research and actual software engineering work with CERN’s distributed computing and data reporting/analytics team, under the mentorship of Manuel Martin Marquez. I will ensure the software that transports real-time data collected from the various instrumentation and devices at CERN don’t get lost! I also get to develop software that stores such data into both online transactional and analytical processing workloads.

    How did you get your internship?

    Out of 1,560 complete applications (and more partial applications), I was happy to be chosen as one of three other U.S. students, and in total 33 other students around the world.

    I was also lucky to also be accepted as an intern at NASA’s Langley Research Center (Virginia), under their autonomous algorithm team and the mentorship of A.J. Narkawicz, working on the DAEDALUS and ICAROUS projects for autonomous unmanned aerial and watercraft systems. Most of this software supports and runs with/on critical software that operate in all of modern American airports and air traffic control. However, I chose to turn this down for CERN.

    How does your internship connect back to your coursework?

    The internship connects back to what I learned in Operating Systems, Database and Survey of Database Systems; I learned to work with managing synchronization between concurrent processes as well as lower-level software aspects of a computer; how to manage data across various data stores; get an idea of the importance of various features of a relational database; and when not to use a relational database (of which are very few and far-in-between) and so forth.

    What about this internship opportunity excites you the most?

    I am looking forward to living in Europe, completely free, for nine weeks! I never thought it would be possible for me to travel around the world in such a capacity – and for that, I am very grateful.

    Coming from a poor background as an immigrant, I would never think it possible to be a citizen of the United States, much less, be able to do things like this.

    What have you learned about yourself?

    I learned that just like always, I am cheap and would like to live on the bare minimum. Even in my previous internships, I remember calculating my grocery costs to ensure that they were optimal and that I wasn’t breaking the budget, even if I can afford the cost and I am already starting to suffer looking around at food prices at local stores in the area.

    How will this internship help you professionally?

    I expect that just like my internships at Wolfram and Apple, I can network with highly intelligent people coming from diverse fields of study, ranging from physics, mathematics, mechanical engineering and computer science. I am always humbled working with behemoths from their respective fields, living and working on the shoulders of giants.

    What advice do you have for others starting the internship process?

    This is my third internship. I interned at Wolfram during my sophomore year in Waltham, MA, building a research project utilizing Wolfram technologies. I also completed an internship at Apple during my junior year as a software engineer in Cupertino, CA, building real-time streaming and batch data processing and reporting softwares in Apple’s Internet Software and Services Department.

    At our club – Association for Computing Machinery at FIU – we’ve also managed to create a community of highly successful and motivated students doing internships this summer at prestigious companies (all software engineering roles at companies like Chase, State Farm, Target, MathWorks and etc). We have weekly workshops on machine learning, big data, web/mobile application development, programming languages and a lot of other real-world engineering principles that escape the more academic theory of the computer science/information technology curriculum.

    We also get tons of our members to come to hackathons with us, whether by getting their travel expenses reimbursed or carpools! Considering that we are club officers, we don’t get paid for the services we do for the club – we’re seriously and passionately committed and do care about getting as many students into the level of expertise and careers they want for themselves.

    Anything else you’d care to share?

    On a more personal note, I would also like to say that just like everyone else, I have had bouts in my life where I felt like I was not accomplishing anything and also suffered from the emotions that come with that. It is important to never place someone on a pedestal while seeing yourself as little. However hard those moments may hit, I consider it highly important to re-evaluate and to emphasize to yourself the importance of working harder and fighting against possible temptations and vices that may result from such emotions and impulses; the idea of not giving up is all the more important.

    Personally, I was able to fight through this by being a part of my local Marine Corps’ DEP (Delayed Entry Program) program, under the mentorship of Sgt. Ariel Tavarez, where I was able to reflect, get inspired and work through grueling physical exercises with people who have made an impactful change in their lives. Different solutions work for different people, but the one thing that stays true across all these, is to always stay your course.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    FIU Campus

    As Miami’s first and only public research university, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, FIU is worlds ahead in its service to the academic and local community.

    Designated as a top-tier research institution, FIU emphasizes research as a major component in the university’s mission. The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the School of Computing and Information Sciences’ Discovery Lab, are just two of many colleges, schools, and centers that actively enhance the university’s ability to set new standards through research initiatives.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:50 pm on July 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Caroline Simpson, FIU,   

    From FIU News: Women in Science- “Astronomy professor recognized for excellence in teaching” Professor Caroline Simpson 

    FIU bloc

    Florida International University

    The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) has awarded FIU physics Professor Caroline Simpson, the 2016 Richard H. Emmons Award for excellence in college astronomy teaching.

    Through more than a century of operation, the ASP is the largest general astronomy society in the world with members from over 70 nations.

    1
    Caroline Simpson

    Established by Jeanne and Allan Bishop in honor of her father, Richard Emmons — an astronomer with a life-long dedication to astronomy education — the annual award recognizes an individual demonstrating outstanding achievement in the teaching of college-level introductory astronomy for non-science majors.

    “It’s the greatest professional honor I have ever received,” Simpson said. “I love teaching, particularly teaching astronomy to non-science students, and to receive national recognition for this is just amazing.”

    Simpson was one of the first physics professors at FIU to transform a lecture-style class into an active learning format. The course was Stellar Astronomy — a basic introductory astronomy class for non-science majors. She incorporated evidence-based, team-centric instruction techniques into her class including collaborative learning methods, learning assistants and a variety of laboratory activities. She also designed and currently teaches online introductory astronomy courses for non-majors.

    Simpson studies star formation in small or dwarf galaxies. Star formation is how galaxies evolve over time, galaxies are the main components of the universe, so ultimately, she studies how the universe evolves.

    For Simpson, what’s most rewarding is interacting with students and seeing their view of the world, and the universe, evolve.

    “It’s fulfilling seeing them stretch their minds to think about things beyond their current horizon, both literally and metaphorically,” Simpson said. “I enjoy delving into questions about how the universe works, learning new things no one has known before.”

    The award will be presented October 22 at ASP’s annual meeting in San Francisco, Ca.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    FIU Campus

    As Miami’s first and only public research university, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, FIU is worlds ahead in its service to the academic and local community.

    Designated as a top-tier research institution, FIU emphasizes research as a major component in the university’s mission. The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the School of Computing and Information Sciences’ Discovery Lab, are just two of many colleges, schools, and centers that actively enhance the university’s ability to set new standards through research initiatives.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:21 am on March 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , FIU,   

    From FIU: “Scientists unlock tangled mysteries of DNA” 

    FIU bloc

    Florida International University

    03/06/2015
    JoAnn Adkins

    Chromosomal proteins hold the key to our DNA and they are changing, according to Jose Eirin-Lopez, marine sciences professor in the FIU Department of Biological Sciences.

    While today’s human body contains a variety of these proteins, Eirin-Lopez believes they evolved from a single ancestor millions of years ago. This finding, published recently in Molecular Biology and Evolution, is pivotal in unraveling the mysteries of DNA organization and regulation, and could someday lead to innovative biomonitoring strategies and therapies targeting a variety of diseases including cancer.

    DNA is the recipe for all living things. Each of our cells has a DNA molecule enclosed within its nucleus, containing the entirety our genetic information. However, like a recipe book, not all that information is required at the same time. Most DNA remains tightly packaged in chromosomes until specific pieces of information are needed to do a job.

    It is up to a group of proteins known as chromosomal proteins to unlock the information required to trigger a function in a given cell — to form a bone, determine eye color, metabolize food, fight infections or any other function. While significant information is available about the structure and functions of chromosomal proteins, very little is known about their origin and evolution. The team of researchers is the first to explain the mechanisms responsible for the evolutionary diversification of a specific group of chromosomal proteins known as High Mobility Group Nucleosome-binding (HMG-N) proteins.

    1
    Each of our cells contains a genetic message encoded in a DNA molecule which is almost 6 feet long. The packing and regulation of the DNA (represented in the figure above using sticks) is possible thanks to its wrapping around chromosomal proteins (represented here by yellow, red, blue and green dots)

    “In the early stages of life on earth, cells were rudimentary yet still able to perform their jobs. But evolution, through mutations, drift and natural selection, has led these proteins (along with our cells) to evolve into higher performers,” said Eirin-Lopez who co-authored the study with Rodrigo Gonzalez-Romero from FIU and Juan Ausio from the University of Victoria in Canada.

    The research unveils the mechanisms responsible for the functional specialization of this group of proteins, from a common ancestor directing a variety of activities to the actual HMG-N lineages working in concert in vertebrate organisms including humans. However, along with a better cell performance, a higher number of chromosomal proteins also provide more potential targets for harmful mutations. If one or more of these proteins are altered or mutated they will target wrong genes in the DNA, giving erroneous instructions to cells. The potential health consequences of such mistakes are massive, often causing cells to grow uncontrollably and resulting in cancer.

    “The only way we can alleviate the negative effects of these alterations is by getting an exhaustive knowledge about these proteins and their function, helping us to develop therapies to reinstate the correct communication with DNA and the cell,” Eirin-Lopez said. “Nonetheless, our knowledge about chromosomal proteins will never be complete until we determine how they came to be and to fulfill their current roles in the cell. Only evolutionary analyses can answer that question. Understanding this better prepares us to take action in the future.”

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    FIU Campus

    As Miami’s first and only public research university, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, FIU is worlds ahead in its service to the academic and local community.

    Designated as a top-tier research institution, FIU emphasizes research as a major component in the university’s mission. The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the School of Computing and Information Sciences’ Discovery Lab, are just two of many colleges, schools, and centers that actively enhance the university’s ability to set new standards through research initiatives.

     
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