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  • richardmitnick 1:24 pm on June 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Women in Science   

    From SA: Women in Science – “The Beauty of Black Hole Collisions” Nergis Mavalvala 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    June 29, 2016
    No writer credit found

    Nergis Mavalvala. Credit: World Economic Forum

    LIGO researcher Nergis Mavalvala talks about measuring spacetime shifts from the gravitational superpowers at the center of galaxies

    How can the ripples from a collision of two black holes help us understand the universe? Nergis Mavalvala, professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talks about imploding stars, gravitational waves, and the building blocks of our galaxy. Mavalvala is a World Economic Forum Young Scientist who will be speaking at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China, from June 26 to 28.

    What do you do?
    I am a physicist working on detecting gravitational waves, which are waves in the fabric of spacetime itself. They were predicted by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity a hundred years ago, but it’s only in the past year that we’ve been able to observe them.

    What’s so special about gravitational waves?
    What makes gravitational waves amazing is that they are emitted by objects that are inherently dark, like black holes. We’ve never seen a black hole, because our telescopes are designed to observe light. We’ve never seen two black holes collide. But by measuring the waves they emit in a collision, we can observe black holes and understand their life cycle.

    Cornell SXS team. Two merging black holes simulation
    Cornell SXS team. Two merging black holes simulation

    When stars collapse, they turn into neutron stars or black holes. They run out of the nuclear fuel that makes them shine, and they implode due to their own gravitational pull. Our own sun will do that at some point. These neutron stars or black holes have a huge amount of gravity, they are very dense. Now imagine two black holes coming closer, orbiting each other and ending that dance in a big collision. They emit waves that we can measure with our detector, LIGO, which is short for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.

    LSC LIGO Scientific Collaboration
    VIRGO Collaboration bloc

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    When did you first observe a collision of two black holes?
    In September 2015, our detector in Louisiana measured a strong signal that indicated a passing gravitational wave, and 7 milliseconds later our second detector in the state of Washington showed the same signal as the wave passed through it. I remember seeing the signal and getting goosebumps. I’ve been working on gravitational waves for 25 years, and when I first heard about their possible detection as a grad student, it sounded completely insane—and completely captivating.

    The signal came from two black holes orbiting each other. Their respective mass was about 30 times the mass of our sun, but they measured only 150 kilometers across, which is small by astrophysical standards. For comparison, our sun has a radius of 700,000 kilometers. Now imagine these extremely massive black holes whipping around each other, almost at the speed of light. When they collided, they released more energy than all the shining stars in the universe emit. That energy was put out in the form of gravitational waves. We saw all of that in the data, and we also saw that a new black hole had formed as a result of the collision.

    The black holes were 1.3 billion light years away, so we observed something that happened 1.3 billion years ago.

    Are black holes dangerous?
    Only if you get too close! The ones we observed are a billion light years away. They don’t pose any danger to our solar system—there are lots of other things we should worry about more, most of all human behavior and what we are doing to our planet. The probability of an asteroid hitting the earth, for example, is really small compared to the damage we can do by ourselves.

    So why do we need to understand black holes?
    Black holes are important building blocks of our universe. We are learning that at the center of every galaxy, there is a supermassive black hole with a million—or even a billion—times the mass of our sun. We don’t really know much about black holes, but we live in a galaxy and we must try to understand it.

    Sag A*  NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    Sag A* NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way

    In fact, most of the elements of the periodic table were formed in the explosions of stars, the same event that gives birth to a black hole. All of these things are related, and understanding them is part of the big questions: What are we made of? Where do we come from?

    Periodic Table 2016
    Periodic Table 2016

    What has been the biggest challenge in your research?
    We’ve faced three major challenges. One was building detectors that could make the very precise measurements we need. Gravitational waves cause spacetime itself to stretch and shrink. Even as these waves pass through you and me, which they do all the time, they cause us to stretch and shrink, but only by a tiny amount.

    Our LIGO detector is L-shaped, and each side of the L is 4 kilometers long. That’s big enough for our technology to—just barely—allow us to make the measurements. On that scale, the change caused by the waves is one thousand times smaller than the nucleus of an atom. So there’s the beauty of seeing two black holes collide for the first time, but there’s also the beauty of seeing the precision of the measurements.

    Another challenge was solving the underlying theory, and understanding what the signal should even look like. The third challenge was extracting the signals from very noisy data. Some of the signals were clear and strong, but others were weak, and we wanted to see them all.

    What are your next goals?
    Building ever-better detectors, that’s the direction we’re going in—using better technology to get more sensitive measurements. There is this whole universe out there, waiting to be observed.

    This fall, we are going to restart our detectors with improved sensitivity and run for six months. By our estimates, we can expect to observe five more black hole collisions during that time.

    As a female astrophysicist, you entered a field dominated by men. You also grew up as part of a religious minority, the Parsi community in Pakistan. From your experience, how do you think we could attract more women and minorities to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields?
    One thing that shaped me was that I was an outsider in every milieu I moved in. So I was always comfortable being different, and that informed my ability to thrive on the fringes of the mainstream. When I walked into a physics lecture hall as one of three women among a hundred men, I thought nothing of it, because I was used to being “the other.” I then worked in this experimental field that for a long time was considered pretty maverick.

    In terms of attracting more women, the biggest difference would be to increase the number of women doing science, but that’s easily said. How do we make this happen? Perhaps every scientist should mentor young people and show them that this is fun and exciting, and that they would enjoy doing it.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:59 pm on June 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Anne White, , , , Women in Science   

    From MIT: Women in Science – “Anne White: A passion for plasma” 

    MIT News

    MIT Widget
    MIT News

    June 29, 2016
    David L. Chandler | MIT News Office

    Physicist has a fascination for the complexities of turbulence, and how to reduce it in fusion reactors.

    Turbulence is an everyday phenomenon that we see in the curls of smoke rising from a fire or in the cream we stir into our morning coffee. But despite centuries of research, the details of how turbulent flows behave are still something of a mystery to scientists. Turbulence is also one of the most critical challenges remaining in the quest to make fusion, potentially a clean and almost limitless source of electricity, practical for generating power.

    Anne White, the Cecil and Ida Green Associate Professor in Nuclear Engineering in MIT’s Plasma Fusion and Science Center, has been fascinated by the complexities of turbulence, and its critical role in sapping power from fusion reactors, since she was an undergraduate. Since coming to MIT, where she earned tenure last year, she has made important progress toward unraveling aspects of that mystery.

    “When I started in graduate school I knew already that I wanted to work on turbulence in tokamaks,” says Anne White, the Cecil and Ida Green Associate Professor in Nuclear Engineering in MIT’s Plasma Fusion and Science Center. Photo: Bryce Vickmark

    White grew up in the parched desert landscape of Yuma, Arizona, and completed her undergraduate work at the University of Arizona, in Tucson, and her doctorate at the University of California at Los Angeles. When she arrived in Cambridge to join the MIT faculty in 2010 it was quite a change, she recalls, to be in a place “where leafy green plants grow and water often falls from the sky!”

    “When I started in graduate school I knew already that I wanted to work on turbulence in tokamaks,” she says, referring to the primary type of fusion reactor used in research, including MIT’s Alcator C-Mod, which is soon to be retired. In the donut-shaped cavities in these reactors, a soup of electrically charged atoms is heated and compressed by an intense magnetic field as it swirls around. This intense heat and pressure is needed to make atoms fuse together, providing the source of energy for fusion reactors, but turbulence in the form of hard-to-predict swirls and eddies can drain the heat away.

    Understanding exactly how this turbulence develops, and how to reduce it, has been one of the thorniest challenges in the last few decades of fusion research.

    But there have been “really exciting developments over the last two years,” White says. Her team has made use of three different fusion reactors, including MIT’s Alcator C-Mod, to understand the nature of the turbulence and associated transport. The combination of data and insights from multiple machines has made the conclusions much clearer than a single device could have provided, White says. “Right now our group has active projects on four tokamaks,” she says.

    White became interested in fusion while studying nonlinear dynamics as a math major at the University of Arizona. She was doing a lot of reading about how to tackle the problems of climate change and quickly decided that nuclear sources, fission and fusion, were key technologies for addressing the issue. Her undergraduate advisor, who had been at Princeton University and was familiar with its tokamak fusion reactor, the TFTR, encouraged her to pursue that goal.

    While in graduate school at UCLA, White first built devices called Langmuir probes and magnetic probes and inserted them in the edge of the tokamak plasma to study how properties of the plasma turbulence varied from the inboard to the outboard side of the tokamak. “This was a great experience, to jump into a research group, with little to no plasma physics knowledge and just start building instruments.” Likewise, White says she now encourages freshman or grad students to “just jump into” their Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programs (UROPs), or first year of research.

    Later in grad school, White worked on another edge-plasma turbulence project at the NSTX tokamak at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.


    “I learned a great deal of plasma physics and also met a mentor and advocate, who has continued to be an inspiration to me,” she says. White encourages her own grad students to spend a summer away from the research group, perhaps doing an internship with another lab as a way to broaden their research and networking horizons.

    It was her third and final project in grad school that really defined her future research path in transport model validation, she says. White developed a radiometer-based instrument for measuring the turbulent fluctuations in the electron temperature in the core region — deep inside the plasma, very far from the edge and plasma boundary. White explains that fusion scientists had focused quite a bit on measuring turbulence in the density fluctuations, but less attention had been paid to temperature fluctuations: “It’s a harder measurement to make.” She provided the data to a collaborating group that could run very sophisticated simulations of the experimental set-up, which kick-started the ongoing theme of “transport model validation” in her research.

    Even as a kid, White reflects, “I loved tinkering.” Over the years she would take apart and rebuild dirt bikes, motorcycles, and cars. Her parents, both lawyers, were “very encouraging” of her mechanical inclinations, she says. Their household was full of books, and any time she had a question, they encouraged her to search out the answers on her own, an early lesson in research skills. “Now, I just pull out my phone and find everything” she says with a smile. But even now, she says, her house is “full of books.”

    As she did while growing up in a family given to outdoor activities, White enjoys hiking and backpacking, and says she’s now learning fly-fishing, “but I don’t catch a lot of fish yet.” She also enjoys amateur astrophotography, a hobby she picked up in Arizona, one of the country’s premier areas for astronomy. “Astrophotography is another way to remotely probe plasmas, since most of the objects we see up there are plasmas,” she says.

    Currently, she continues to push frontiers in her field, aiming to predict with high confidence the details of the turbulence in tokamaks, and to use these predictions to help winnow down the most promising possible new reactor system designs. A lot of past research in predictive models has involved “much trial and error,” she says, and finding formulas that can make truly useful predictions could be an important step on the long road toward practical, economical fusion power. White says she is excited about the ARC tokamak concept recently developed by MIT researchers, and how “theory-based predictive modeling can feed into new high magnetic field designs.”

    Though her work at MIT has expanded to include more theory and simulations, “I still like tinkering,” she says. “One of my favorite things is building instruments” to enable new or better measurements, “and analyzing experimental data.” And now, working with her graduate students and postdoc, she is developing systems to carry out measurements of turbulence and other factors at four different research reactors.

    White’s heavy emphasis on validation, and the synthesis of experiment and simulation work, continues to this day. “All my students get involved with transport model validation,” she says. She explains that validation is an ideal theme for the group, since it pushes more theory-minded students to learn about hardware, and more hands-on students to learn about the theory.

    See the full article here .

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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  • richardmitnick 4:27 pm on June 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Helen Edwards, Women in Science   

    From FNAL: Women in Science – “Helen Edwards, visionary behind Fermilab’s Tevatron, dies” 

    FNAL II photo

    FNAL Art Image
    FNAL Art Image by Angela Gonzales

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    June 27, 2016
    Andre Salles
    Leah Hesla

    Helen Edwards, one of the most vital contributors to the success of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory over its five-decade history, died on June 21 at the age of 80.

    Helen Edwards

    Edwards was a giant in the field of accelerator science, best known for overseeing the design, construction, commissioning and operation of the Tevatron, which for 25 years was the most powerful particle collider in the world.

    FNAL/Tevatron map
    FNAL/Tevatron DZero detector
    FNAL/Tevatron CDF detector
    Tevatron map; DZero;CDF

    The Tevatron turned on in 1983, when it began delivering particle beams for Fermilab’s fixed-target experiments. It recorded its first proton-antiproton collisions in 1985 and was used by scientists to find the top quark, one of three fundamental particles discovered at Fermilab, in 1995.

    “Her vision was superb. She was a great architect — the architect of the Tevatron as a system,” said John Peoples, Fermilab’s director from 1989 to 1999. “She was terrific for Fermilab, and terrific period.”

    Her work on the Tevatron earned her the MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the Genius Grant, in 1988 and the National Medal of Technology in 1989. She also received the Department of Energy’s E.O. Lawrence Award and the Robert R. Wilson Prize of the American Physical Society.

    Edwards began her tenure at Fermilab in 1970 under the laboratory’s original director, Robert Wilson. She had previously worked with Wilson as a research assistant at Cornell University and joined him at the nascent lab, eventually heading up the Accelerator Division.

    To all who knew her, Edwards was a force of nature. Her colleagues note her forward-thinking vision, her unrelenting determination to get things done and her penchant for coloring outside the lines when it came to solving problems.

    “Her continuous drive was something that amazed me,” said engineer Paul Czarapata, deputy head of the Fermilab Accelerator Division. “It seemed like nothing could slow her down.”

    She was also known for her astonishing intellect, working out complex scientific problems by relying almost entirely on her own knowledge, without having to resort to outside references.

    “I once asked her a question about a property of an accelerator component, and she disappeared from the office,” Czarapata said. “She came back with a handwritten derivation of the formula, complete with the answer.”

    That deep understanding of physics and her keen intuition was evident to everyone who knew her.

    “I was scientifically mesmerized by her,” said University of Maryland professor Timothy Koeth, who studied accelerator physics under Edwards’ supervision when he was earning his Ph.D. from Rutgers University. “She had this intuitive and innate grasp of the material, and she was always absolutely right – she was never wrong in the 20 years I knew her. She understood complex systems from every aspect – operational or technological.”

    Edwards wasn’t known for conducting business from the sidelines. She got down in the dirt, actively and directly working on accelerator components, sometimes pulling all-nighters to make sure everything was fine-tuned.

    “Helen was an incredibly gifted accelerator scientist with a fiery personality and a tendency to move forward very quickly,” said scientist Roger Dixon, who formerly headed the Fermilab Accelerator Division. “Those of us who fell into her wake benefited greatly from the experience.”

    The widespread respect and reverence that Edwards commanded extended to those who worked with her.

    “I had what I later termed the ‘Helen card’ on my side,” Koeth said. “I quickly found out that saying ‘This is for Helen’ made things happen. When I was said I was Helen’s student, people said, ‘I’ll have whatever you need tomorrow morning.’ That happened over and over again. It was a living legacy of what she meant to the people of the laboratory.”

    Edwards had a keen understanding of people and their strengths, with a knack for positioning them in roles where they would excel. She knew how to bring the right people together to carry out a project and how to encourage them to success.

    “She was really a brilliant person,” said Fermilab scientist emeritus Paul Mantsch. His job in the early days building the Tevatron was related to 250 magnets that helped align the particle beam. It didn’t start out well.

    “So we worked hard to get the magnets going,” Mantsch said. “She gave constant encouragement to think hard about the problem and solve it. And we did solve it. She was very appreciative of the work we’d done. I valued that kind of relationship with my co-workers, and with Helen in particular.”

    She was just as encouraging as a mentor. Koeth compared Edwards to a mama bird encouraging her baby bird out of the nest.

    “She made sure I met people, that I was pushed into the community. I didn’t realize what she was doing at the time. Anytime there was a tour at [A]Zero, she had me give it. She was a very good instructor,” Koeth said. “Working in her lab led to adventures of high RF power, high voltage, high vacuum, electron beams, and opportunities for traveling the country and the world. It was a form of paradise.”

    Edwards admired the world around her. She took photos of wildlife, natural scenery and even the rings of Saturn with a camera attached to her backyard telescope.

    “She loved nature, she loved animals,” Koeth said. “She had a heart of gold.”

    Her kind nature extended to her friends and colleagues.

    “She sincerely cared about people,” Dixon said. “I am very fortunate to have had the Helen experience in my life.”

    Fermilab shut down the Tevatron in 2011. As part of a labwide shutdown ceremony, Edwards, wearing a cowboy hat, pushed the buttons that finally turned off the particle beam. It was a fitting end for the trailblazing machine that she brought to life.

    Edwards worked at Fermilab for 40 years, serving most recently as a guest scientist from 1992 to 2010. Through the last years of her life, she worked on the next generation of superconducting accelerators, helping to shape the future of particle physics. She focused much of her work on accelerating cavities, and the developments in that arena led to the establishment of a test bed at Fermilab for cutting-edge particle acceleration technology, called the Fermilab Accelerator Science and Technology Facility.

    She designed the key features of the superconducting super collider map, a planned but never completed 54-mile-around accelerator sited in Texas.
    Too bad, we had it and gave it away.

    Edwards also maintained a position at Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron (DESY), working on the design for the TESLA superconducting linear accelerator.

    TESLA Technology Collaboration

    Edwards was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science and the National Academy of Engineering, as well as a fellow of the American Physical Society.

    “It is impossible to overstate her role in making Fermilab what it is today,” said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer.

    No memorial service for Edwards is planned.

    See the full article here .

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    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
    collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

  • richardmitnick 10:40 am on June 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Shirley Ann Jackson, Women in Science, World Economic Forum   

    From RPI: Women in Science- “Q&A: The university of the future must break down walls between disciplines” Shirley Ann Jackson 

    RPI bloc

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

    World Economic Forum

    22 June 2016
    Interview by Andrew Wright
    Shirley Ann Jackson

    Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., is a theoretical physicist and the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate from MIT, in any field. Her research has helped to elucidate the properties of semiconductors and optoelectronic systems that are useful for many devices today. On May 19, 2016, she was awarded by President Barack Obama the National Medal of Science, the highest award for scientific achievement in the United States. Now the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, she talked to us for our XxXX interview series – which profiles ten inspiring women in science and technology – about the role universities should play in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

    What do you do?

    Currently, I am the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest private technological university in the United States. It is a position that I have held since 1999. I am a theoretical physicist by background. I have also have worked in the public sector, and continue to have advisory roles for the U.S. government. In the 1990s, I chaired the US Regulatory Commission under President Bill Clinton. I was formerly a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Currently, I serve as Co-Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board for President Obama, among other roles.

    In the private sector, I am on the Boards of Directors of IBM, FedEx, Medtronic plc, and the Public Service Enterprise Group, an energy company. It is a full, challenging, and complex professional life, but all of the different roles play off of each other.

    Does your own professional life reflect a broader belief that progress comes through bringing different kinds of organisation together?

    Yes. Progress comes through an innovation ecosystem that rests on a three-legged stool: academia, government and business.

    Coming out of the Second World War, the great research universities in the United States developed with government support. The fundamental research priorities of universities are often inspired by problems that either governments or businesses need to solve.

    Business, in turn, is frequently the way in which the applications of fundamental research achieve global impact – although increasingly there is also scope for applications of research to achieve scale through social entrepreneurship or civil society.

    How has research changed since you started your career in the 1970s?

    I used computers in my early work, of course, but today we have so much more computational power, and that enables a wider range of approaches to research – from data science and analytics to cognitive systems, artificial intelligence, high performance computing, and genomics.

    That means we can increasingly tackle problems that are not amenable to exact solutions, of the kind I myself pursued as a theoretical physicist. An example is modelling the likely effect of changes in the climate.

    Today, big research challenges also create more need to work across disciplines. We live in a world of intersecting vulnerabilities, where systems play off of each other, and one triggering event can have many cascading consequences. Therefore, challenges need to be analysed and addressed at multiple levels.

    Think of modeling the impacts of climate change, to inform decisions about adaptation and how we should prepare. We need to consider a whole range of challenges – infrastructure, food security, changes in disease patterns, population movement.

    To think about such issues effectively, we need not only the hard sciences but the social sciences, even the arts and humanities. Every individual researcher needs the intellectual agility to be able to collaborate with others from very different backgrounds and integrate their insights.

    What should the university of the future look like?

    At Rensselaer, we have developed and operate under an intellectual construct that we call the “new polytechnic”. The word “polytechnic”, of course, comes from the Greek for “many arts”. It is a concept that recognises that today’s global challenges cannot be solved by one person, one discipline or one nation – alone. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution, breakthroughs will increasingly come from where disciplines meet.

    We have specifically identified five main research thrusts to bring people together from diverse disciplines, so that they can address challenges from multiple dimensions. Those thrusts are: nanotechnology and advanced materials; energy, environment and smart systems; computational science and engineering; biotechnology and the life sciences; and media, arts, science and technology.

    In each case, we endeavour to apply the broadest range of advanced tools and technology. To give one example, we have people doing breakthrough work on the Zika virus, applying data science and analytics to pinpoint the key phases in embryonic brain development where the virus is most likely to cause microcephaly in newborns.

    It is not only about keeping the walls low between disciplines, however – attending to students’ personal growth is equally important. If we want innovation, we have to nurture discoverers and innovators.

    What are some ways in which universities can encourage students to grow as people?

    A major change in the academic calendar that we have introduced at Rensselaer is the “Summer Arch” – students start their third year early, in an intense summer session, which then frees up time for them to go off and do something else during the regular academic year – to take a course or do some research or find a way to take what they are doing academically into real life, preferably overseas, and in both developed and emerging economies.

    If one aspires to create or lead any kind of global enterprise, one needs to really understand what is happening in the world, get a feel for geopolitical challenges, and understand what challenges are amenable to science and technology solutions. One needs multicultural sophistication and the capability to be comfortable operating across a broad intellectual milieu. Students learn not only from working together, but living together.

    What are your thoughts on how to encourage more women and girls to pursue careers in STEM?

    There is no greater motivator than to see an opportunity pathway, so it is important for those in power to create equitable pathways – not just for women, but for all under-represented groups in any society. We work to do that at Rensselaer, by increasing the percentage of women and minority group members on our faculty, as well as among the students we enroll.

    Such approaches have to start much earlier. It is very important for girls to be encouraged in their early years to explore the world, to study science and mathematics to build their confidence, and then to find ways to keep them involved in those pursuits as they progress through the various stages of their education.

    Ultimately, meeting the world’s challenges will require all the world’s brainpower. Underexploiting half of the talent pool is just silly.

    See the full article here .

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    RPI campus

    Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the nation’s oldest technological research university.

    The university offers degrees from five schools: Engineering; Science; Architecture; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; and the Lally School of Management; as well as an interdisciplinary degree in Information Technology and Web Science.

    Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Nearly 29 percent of undergraduate students this year are from areas outside of the Northeast. First-year students hail from 43 states, in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from countries all around the world.
    Rensselaer offers more than 145 programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Students are encouraged to work in interdisciplinary programs that allow them to combine scholarly work from several departments or schools. The university provides rigorous, engaging, interactive learning environments and campus-wide opportunities for leadership, collaboration, and creativity.

    For almost two centuries, Rensselaer has maintained its reputation for providing an undergraduate education of undisputed intellectual rigor based on educational innovation in the laboratory, classroom, and studio.

    Driven by talented, dedicated, and forward-thinking faculty, Rensselaer has dramatically expanded the research enterprise by leveraging our existing strengths and focusing on five signature research areas: biotechnology and the life sciences; energy and the environment; computational science and engineering; nanotechnology and advanced materials; and media, arts, science, and technology.

    The Institute is especially well-known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

  • richardmitnick 5:44 am on June 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alison Winter, , , Women in Science   

    From U Chicago: Women in Science – “Alison Winter, historian of science, 1965–2016” 

    U Chicago bloc

    University of Chicago

    June 24, 2016
    Mark Peters

    Assoc. Prof. Alison Winter at the award ceremony for the 2014 Gordon J. Laing Prize. Photo by Rober Kozloff

    Alison Winter, a historian of science and medicine whose book on memory won the University of Chicago Press’s top honor, died Wednesday of a brain tumor. She was 50 years old.

    Winter, AB’87, was a professor of history whose research often focused in areas of science and medicine that were unorthodox and less traveled. She explored how 19th-century mesmerism catalyzed efforts to define and demarcate science in Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain and the cultural and scientific history of human understanding of memory in Memory: Fragments of a Modern History, which won the UChicago Press’s Gordon J. Laing Prize in 2014.

    Winter taught undergraduates in the history of medicine, film and gender studies, guided doctoral students in their dissertations, and mentored postdoctoral fellows at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. Students described her as a generous critic and strong advocate. Even after becoming ill, Winter continued to co-teach an undergraduate seminar in history of science via video chat – first from home and later from the hospital.

    “She was dedicated to supporting the next generation of scholars,” said Robert Richards, the Morris Fishbein Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Science and Medicine. “She loved finding a wedge in an intellectual exchange and pushing it. But you could never get mad at her. She always had a sly smile.”

    Winter first arrived at UChicago in 1983 as an undergraduate. Richards said Winter’s father, who taught mathematics at the University of Michigan, wanted her to major in science. She was interested in English literature. The compromise was the history of science, which quickly became Winter’s passion.

    Winter received a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Cambridge. It was there she met her husband Adrian Johns, who is the Allan Grant Maclear Professor of History at UChicago.

    Winter’s dissertation on mesmerism became her first book Mesmerized, which the UChicago Press published in 1998. Alex Owen writing in the journal Victorian Studies described it as a tour de force that requires “a reevaluation of precisely what constituted ‘center’ and ‘margin’ during a period in which many Victorian intellectuals and public figures experimented with mesmerism.”

    After Cambridge, Winter taught at the California Institute of Technology before returning to UChicago in 2001.

    Winter was awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim, Andrew W. Mellon and National Science foundations, contributing to the research for Memory. In the book, she explores how scientists grope for metaphors to explain such an elusive subject, and how those metaphors evolved to reflect changing technology—from memory as a filing cabinet to a reel of film available for playback.

    Doctoral students of Winter said she had a unique ability to balance criticism and encouragement, asking key questions to guide research rather than direct it. Caitjan Gainty, AM’05, PhD’12, remembers pulling up rugs with Winter at her home in Hyde Park, discussing future intellectual projects and talking about Winter’s fascination with a light-therapy enthusiast who once owned the property.

    “She had confidence in me as a scholar before I even understood what it meant to do that kind of work,” said Gainty, lecturer in the history of science, technology and medicine at King’s College London.

    Winter is survived by Johns and their four children, David, Lizzie, Zoe, and Benjamin; her mother, Judy Swartz, and stepfathers David Ballou and Fred Swartz; her father, David Winter, and stepmother, Michele Weipert-Winter; and her brother, Jonathan Ballou.

    A memorial service for Winter is planned for Autumn Quarter.

    See the full article here .

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    U Chicago Campus

    An intellectual destination

    One of the world’s premier academic and research institutions, the University of Chicago has driven new ways of thinking since our 1890 founding. Today, UChicago is an intellectual destination that draws inspired scholars to our Hyde Park and international campuses, keeping UChicago at the nexus of ideas that challenge and change the world.

  • richardmitnick 1:22 pm on June 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Professor Dame Wendy Hall, , Women in Science   

    From Southampton: Women in Science – “Southampton professor named as one of the most influential women in UK Engineering” 

    U Southampton bloc

    University of Southampton

    23 June 2016
    No writer credit found

    Professor Dame Wendy Hall. No image credit.

    Professor Dame Wendy Hall from the University of Southampton has been named as one of the ‘Top 50 Women in Engineering’.

    The inaugural list, announced today on National Women in Engineering Day (23 June), was produced by The Daily Telegraph in collaboration with the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). The winners were announced at a special event in London this morning.

    Dame Wendy, who is one of the world’s leading computer scientists, was recognised for her significant contributions to the sector and using her influence to inspire others to study and pursue a career in engineering.

    Dame Wendy, said: “I’m deeply honoured and flattered to be part of this list as I know how many amazing women there are in engineering today, due in large part to the consistent and persistent campaigning by organisations such as WES. However, WES has been in existence for nearly a century and I hope it won’t be another century before the need for such lists is long forgotten and we recognise the vital role of women in engineering, and society generally, which is far more significant than is often realised.”

    Dame Wendy has held many leadership roles in addition to her academic research in computer science, in the development of the World Wide Web and, more recently, in establishing and developing the new discipline of Web Science.

    With Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Dame Wendy co-founded the Web Science Research Initiative in 2006. She is currently the Managing Director of the Web Science Trust, which has a global mission to support the development of research, education and thought leadership in Web Science. Dame Wendy is also Executive Director of the University’s Web Science Institute, which brings together world-leading multidisciplinary expertise to tackle the most pressing global challenges facing society today in the post-Web era.

    She was President of the British Computer Society; the first non-North American to lead the Association of Computing Machinery, the world’s largest organisation for computer professionals; a member of the Prime Ministers Council for Science and Technology; Senior Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Engineering; and a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council.

    Dame Wendy became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in the 2009 UK New Year’s Honours list and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 2009.

    See the full article here .

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    U Southampton campus

    The University of Southampton is a world-class university built on the quality and diversity of our community. Our staff place a high value on excellence and creativity, supporting independence of thought, and the freedom to challenge existing knowledge and beliefs through critical research and scholarship. Through our education and research we transform people’s lives and change the world for the better.

    Vision 2020 is the basis of our strategy.

    Since publication of the previous University Strategy in 2010 we have achieved much of what we set out to do against a backdrop of a major economic downturn and radical change in higher education in the UK.

    Vision 2020 builds on these foundations, describing our future ambition and priorities. It presents a vision of the University as a confident, growing, outwardly-focused institution that has global impact. It describes a connected institution equally committed to education and research, providing a distinctive educational experience for its students, and confident in its place as a leading international research university, achieving world-wide impact.

  • richardmitnick 2:42 pm on June 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Risa Wechsler, , , Women in Science   

    From SLAC and Stanford: Women in Science – “Learning about the future from the distant past” Risa Wechsler 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    March 31, 2016 [SLAC just put this into social media.]
    Manuel Gnida

    Scientists work at SLAC and Stanford are combining experimental data and theory to understand how the universe formed and what its future holds. Here, clumps and filaments of dark matter (black areas) serve as the scaffolding for the formation of cosmic structures made of regular matter (bright areas), including stars, galaxies and galaxy clusters.

    Computer models predict how the first clumps of matter formed – and what our universe’s future holds

    Our universe came to life nearly 14 billion years ago in the Big Bang — a tremendously energetic fireball from which the cosmos has been expanding ever since. Today, space is filled with hundreds of billions of galaxies, including our solar system’s own galactic home, the Milky Way. But how exactly did the infant universe develop into its current state, and what does it tell us about our future?

    Milky Way NASA/JPL-Caltech /ESO R. Hurt
    Milky Way NASA/JPL-Caltech /ESO R. Hurt

    These are the fundamental questions “astrophysical archeologists” like Risa Wechsler want to answer.

    Risa Wechsler

    At the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) of Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, her team combines experimental data with theory in computer simulations that dig deeply into cosmic history and trace back how matter particles clumped together to form larger and larger structures in the expanding universe.

    “Most of our calculations are done at KIPAC, and computing is a crucial aspect of the collaboration between SLAC and Stanford,” says Wechsler, who is an associate professor of physics and of particle physics and astrophysics.

    Wechsler’s simulated journeys through spacetime use a variety of experimental data, including observations by the Dark Energy Survey (DES), which recently discovered a new set of ultra-faint companion galaxies of our Milky Way that are rich in what is known as dark matter.

    Dark Energy Icon
    Dark Energy Detectives bloc
    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile
    DECam, built at FNAL, and the NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile

    The gravitational pull from this invisible form of matter affects regular matter, which plays a crucial role in the formation and growth of galaxies.

    Dark energy is another key ingredient shaping the universe: It inflates the universe like a balloon at an ever-increasing rate, but researchers don’t know much about what causes the acceleration.

    Two future projects will give Wechsler and other researchers new clues about the mysterious energy. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), whose science collaboration she is leading, will begin in 2018 to turn two-dimensional images of surveys like DES into a three-dimensional map of the universe.

    LBL/DESI spectroscopic instrument
    NOAO/Mayall 4 m telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona, USA
    LBL/DESI spectroscopic instrument on the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory starting in 2018; NOAO/Mayall 4 m telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona, USA

    The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), whose ultrasensitive 3,200-megapixel digital eye is being assembled at SLAC, will start a few years later to explore space more deeply than any telescope before.

    LSST/Camera, built at SLAC
    LSST Interior
    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile
    LSST/Camera, built at SLAC; LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile

    “Looking at faraway galaxies means looking into the past and allows us to measure how the growth and distribution of galaxies were affected by dark energy at different points in time,” Wechsler says. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve made a lot of progress in refining our cosmological model, which describes many of the properties of today’s universe very well. Yet, if future data caused this model to break down, it would completely change our view of the universe.”

    The current model suggests that the universe is fated to expand forever, turning into a darker and darker cosmos faster and faster, with galaxies growing farther and farther apart. But is this acceleration a constant or changing property of spacetime? Or could it possibly be a breakdown of our theory of gravity on the largest scales? More data will help researchers find an answer to these fundamental questions.

    See the full article here .

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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

    Stanford University Seal

  • richardmitnick 11:47 am on June 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Dr. Annalisa Bracco, The Thrill of Predictability, Women in Science   

    From AGU: Women in Science – “The Thrill of Predictability” Dr. Annalisa Bracco 

    AGU bloc

    American Geophysical Union

    23 June 2016
    Mónika Naranjo González

    Dr. Annalisa Bracco. Image credit: SOI/Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    There are those who argue that predictability is the greatest gift of progress, the biggest merit of civilization. Our ability to explain nature through science makes the world and the universe predictable and understandable. That enables us to have a more informed and productive relationship with our natural environment and its resources.

    This is at the heart of physical oceanographer Dr. Annalisa Bracco’s work. The first project she participated in as a graduate student proved how the planets are formed, a contribution for which she is still widely quoted today. After starting her career on such a high note, what could she follow with? She was born in Italy, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, so the decision came naturally for her: she was going to focus on the ocean.

    Annalisa is a modeller, which means she creates mathematical scenarios in order to explain physical processes. She examines nature, interprets the physical reasons behind its operations, translates these into equations and formulas producing likely scenarios and results, and then waits for real-life observations that either support or dismiss what her models suggest.

    Her work today deals with how ocean circulation transports and mixes microbial life and chemicals. With this understanding, she can then study how those physical processes affect our climate, biodiversity and evolution. One equation at a time, she turns the oceans into more predictable landscapes.

    Computational Processing Power

    Even a simple equation explaining mass evolution in oceanic waters seem very complex. Credit: SOI/Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    Annalisa uses an equation that deals with the evolution of mass in oceanic waters. She explains how the variables (velocity and space in its x and y axis) relate to each other and how the result – if the system is stable – should be equal to zero. If you don’t get zero, you start getting convergence. From there, things get very complicated, very quickly for the untrained listener. There is no reason to feel bad about not understanding, because even supercomputers can not deal with such complex calculations. There is no computer that can run them at a global scale (or even at the microscopic scale either).

    Annalisa has no choice but to break the system into pieces. For instance, she knows that here convergence (when water with different densities merge, such as when fresh and salty water meet) occurs in radii of 1km and with depths of around 100 meters. Some 15 years ago scientists did not think such small scales could have a real impact in the ocean’s composition, but now we know they do. This explains the patchiness we have observed from R/V Falkor while crossing between the ocean’s water to the river’s plume. This also explains why the team has found very different planktonic communities in stations that are not so far apart.

    Our understanding of these physical dynamics is still very limited. Yet, in order to decipher larger planetary workings such as Carbon sequestration by phytoplankton, we need to understand these patches better and extrapolate them into larger scales.

    Riddle Me This

    CTD casts shows sudden changes in salinity and temperature. Credit: SOI

    Several CTD casts show sudden changes in salinity and temperature. Annalisa watches the data come in from the immersed rosette and wonders if she could piece all casts together in an attempt to map the system. As if her daily work was not challenging enough, she now considers how her physics models can intertwine with the work of her fellow scientists on board, who are attempting to characterize the vast microbiological diversity that R/V Falkor is uncovering.

    It will not be easy since the South China Sea combines three unique factors: riverine input, upwelling and heavy rains. This mix is what brought her here; the thrill of this system’s idiosyncrasies, the challenge of breaking through them and of predicting such complex behaviour.

    See the full post here .

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    The purpose of the American Geophysical Union is to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.

    To achieve this mission, AGU identified the following core values and behaviors.

    Core Principles

    As an organization, AGU holds a set of guiding core values:

    The scientific method
    The generation and dissemination of scientific knowledge
    Open exchange of ideas and information
    Diversity of backgrounds, scientific ideas and approaches
    Benefit of science for a sustainable future
    International and interdisciplinary cooperation
    Equality and inclusiveness
    An active role in educating and nurturing the next generation of scientists
    An engaged membership
    Unselfish cooperation in research
    Excellence and integrity in everything we do

    When we are at our best as an organization, we embody these values in our behavior as follows:

    We advance Earth and space science by catalyzing and supporting the efforts of individual scientists within and outside the membership.
    As a learned society, we serve the public good by fostering quality in the Earth and space science and by publishing the results of research.
    We welcome all in academic, government, industry and other venues who share our interests in understanding the Earth, planets and their space environment, or who seek to apply this knowledge to solving problems facing society.
    Our scientific mission transcends national boundaries.
    Individual scientists worldwide are equals in all AGU activities.
    Cooperative activities with partner societies of all sizes worldwide enhance the resources of all, increase the visibility of Earth and space science, and serve individual scientists, students, and the public.
    We are our members.
    Dedicated volunteers represent an essential ingredient of every program.
    AGU staff work flexibly and responsively in partnership with volunteers to achieve our goals and objectives.

  • richardmitnick 7:44 am on June 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Suzanne Hawley, , Women in Science   

    From U Washington: Women in Science – “Suzanne Hawley Named Divisional Dean for the Natural Sciences at the University of Washington” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    June 20, 2016
    No writer credit found

    Suzanne Hawley

    Robert Stacey, Dean of the University of Washington College of Arts and Sciences, announced that Suzanne Hawley will be the next Divisional Dean for the Natural Sciences.

    “I am delighted that Suzanne has agreed to become our next Divisional Dean,” said Dean Stacey. “The Natural Sciences play a critical role in our College and at the University. Our nine departments and many centers provide us with methods to investigate and understand ourselves, our world, and the universe, from the subatomic to the cosmic level. Suzanne is part of our great culture of discovery and our world-class research efforts. I am looking forward to working with her,” he added.

    Hawley is currently a professor and associate chair in the Department of Astronomy, and she previously served as chair in the department from 2006-2011. Her research is primarily in stellar astrophysics, particularly in the areas of magnetic activity, flares, low mass stars, brown dwarfs, variable stars, star clusters and galactic structure. Hawley has been the director of the ARC 3.5-m Telescope at Apache Point Observatory since 2005, and serves on several national committees devoted to the construction and oversight of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the major NSF Astronomy project designed to image the night sky every few days for ten years.

    Astrophysical Research Consortium 3.5-meter Telescope

    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile
    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile

    “I look forward to promoting interdisciplinary studies in my new role,” said Hawley. “The world of big data is upon us. It is essential that our students have the opportunity to engage in world-class research, while also obtaining an integrated arts and sciences education. Scientists need to be excellent writers and communicators, and to understand the broader social and historical context of their work.”

    A member of the UW Astronomy faculty since 2000, Hawley is a fourth-generation Washingtonian. She was born in Seattle and graduated from Ballard High School. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Physics at Harvey Mudd College, and both her Master of Arts and Ph.D in Astronomy at the University of Texas, Austin, followed by postdoctoral work as a Hubble Fellow at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She previously taught at Michigan State University. Hawley will begin her role part-time July 1, 2016 and transition to the full-time divisional dean role September 1, 2016.

    See the full article here .

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 6:31 am on June 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Linda Nazar, , Women in Science   

    From Waterloo: Women in Science – “Prominent Waterloo chemist appointed University Professor at Spring Convocation” Linda Nazar 

    U Waterloo bloc

    University of Waterloo

    June 17, 2016
    No writer credit found

    Linda Nazar

    The University of Waterloo honoured Canada Research Chair Linda Nazar with the title University Professor at this year’s Spring Convocation for her outstanding career achievements in Solid State Materials and advanced battery research.

    The rare title is reserved for Waterloo’s most internationally pre-eminent faculty. Nazar, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, is the third Faculty of Science member to receive this lifetime honour since its inception in 2003. Former Dean of Science Terry McMahon and NSERC Industry Research Chair Jansuz Pawlisyn were named University Professors in 2005 and 2010, respectively.

    Professor Nazar has published more than 230 papers which have been cited more than 17,000 times, statistics that place her within the top one per cent of researchers internationally in the field of Material Science, according to Thompson Reuters’ 2014 Highly Cited Researchers and Most Influential Scientific Minds.

    She has held the Canada Research Chair in Solid State Materials since 2004. In 2011, she was elected to the Royal Society of Canada and last year she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.

    Nazar is best known for her work on lithium and sodium battery systems. In 2009, she demonstrated the feasibility of lithium-sulphur batteries that could eventually double the range of electric cars from today’s 200 miles to 400 miles on one charge. Her recent discovery of a key reaction behind sodium-oxygen batteries has implications for the development of the lithium-oxygen battery, the holy grail of electrochemical energy storage.

    Her group is also exploring cheaper alternatives to expensive lithium-based batteries for large-scale electricity grid storage.

    Professor Nazar is a member of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy. She is also a member of BASF’s Research Network on Electrochemistry and Batteries and serves as a lead scientist on the US Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research.

    See the full article here .

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    U Waterloo campus

    In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada’s technology hub, has become a leading comprehensive university with nearly 36,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

    Consistently ranked Canada’s most innovative university, Waterloo is home to advanced research and teaching in science and engineering, mathematics and computer science, health, environment, arts and social sciences. From quantum computing and nanotechnology to clinical psychology and health sciences research, Waterloo brings ideas and brilliant minds together, inspiring innovations with real impact today and in the future.

    As home to the world’s largest post-secondary co-operative education program, Waterloo embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research, and commercialization. With campuses and education centres on four continents, and academic partnerships spanning the globe, Waterloo is shaping the future of the planet.

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