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  • richardmitnick 7:21 am on April 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Natalie Batalha, Women in STEM   

    From Many Worlds: Women in STEM – “The Influential Natalie Batalha” 

    NASA NExSS bloc


    Many Words icon

    Many Worlds

    Marc Kaufman

    Natalie Batalha, project scientist for the Kepler mission and a leader of NASA’s NExSS initiative on exoplanets, was just selected as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. (NASA, TIME Magazine.)

    I’d like to make a slight detour and talk not about the science of exoplanets and astrobiology, but rather a particular exoplanet scientist who I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

    The scientist is Natalie Batalha, who has been lead scientist for NASA’s landmark Kepler Space Telescope mission since soon after it launched in 2009, has serves on numerous top NASA panels and boards, and who is one of the scientists who guides the direction of this Many Worlds column.

    Last week, Batalha was named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. This is a subjective (non-scientific) calculation for sure, but it nonetheless seems credible to me and to doubtless many others.

    Batalha and the Kepler team have identified more than 2500 exoplanets in one small section of the distant sky, with several thousand more candidates awaiting confirmation. Their work has once and for all nailed the fact that there are billions and billions of exoplanets out there.

    “NASA is incredibly proud of Natalie,” said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA headquarters, after the Time selection was announced.

    “Her leadership on the Kepler mission and the study of exoplanets is helping to shape the quest to discover habitable exoplanets and search for life beyond the solar system. It’s wonderful to see her recognized for the influence she has had on the world – and on the way we see ourselves in the universe.”

    And William Borucki, who had the initial idea for the Kepler mission and worked for decades to get it approved and then to manage it, had this to say about Batalha:

    “She has made major contributions to the Kepler Mission throughout its development and operation. Natalie’s collaborative leadership style, and expert knowledge of the population of exoplanets in the galaxy, will provide guidance for the development of successor missions that will tell us more about the habitability of the planets orbiting nearby stars.”

    Batalha has led the science mission of the Kepler Space Telescope since it launched in 2009. (NASA)

    As a sign of the perceived importance of exoplanet research, two of the other TIME influential 100 are discoverers of specific new worlds. They are Guillem Anglada-Escudé (who led a team that detected a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri) and Michael Gillon (whose team identified the potentially habitable planets around the Trappist-1 system.)

    Centauris Alpha Beta Proxima 27, February 2012. Skatebiker

    The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultracool dwarf, is orbited by seven Earth-size planets, NASA announced on Wednesday. (NASA)

    ESO Belgian robotic Trappist National Telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile interior

    But Batalha, and no doubt the other two scientists, stress that they are part of a team and that the work they do is inherently collaborative. It absolutely requires that many others also do difficult jobs well.

    For Batalha, working in that kind of environment is a natural fit with her personality and skills. Having watched her at work many times, I can attest to her ability to be a strong leader with extremely high standards, while also being a kind of force for calm and inclusiveness.

    We worked together quite a bit on the establishing and running of this column, which is part of the NASA Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) initiative to encourage interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration in exoplanet science.

    It was NASA’s astrobiology senior scientist Mary Voytek who set up the initiative and saw fit to start this column, and it was Batalha (along with several others) who helped guide and focus it in its early days.

    I think back to her patience. I was visiting her at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and talking shop — meaning stars and planets and atmospheres and the like. While I had done a lot of science reporting by that time, astronomy was not a strong point (yet.)

    So in conversation she made a reference to stars on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and I must have had a somewhat blank look to me. She asked if I was familiar with Hertzsprung-Russell and I had to confess that I was not.

    Not missing a beat, she then went into an explanation of what is a basic feature of astronomy, and did it without a hint of impatience. She just wanted me to know what the diagram was and what it meant, and pushed ahead with good cheer to bring me up to speed — as I’m sure she has done many other times with many people of different levels of exposure to the logic and complexities of her very complex work.

    Hertzsprung–Russell diagram with 22,000 stars plotted from the Hipparcos Catalogue and 1,000 from the Gliese Catalogue of nearby stars. Stars tend to fall only into certain regions of the diagram. The most prominent is the diagonal, going from the upper-left (hot and bright) to the lower-right (cooler and less bright), called the main sequence. In the lower-left is where white dwarfs are found, and above the main sequence are the subgiants, giants and supergiants. The Sun is found on the main sequence at luminosity 1 (absolute magnitude 4.8) and B−V color index 0.66 (temperature 5780 K, spectral type G2V). Wikipedia

    (Incidently, the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram plots each star on a graph measuring the star’s brightness against its temperature or color.)

    I mention this because part of Batalha’s influence has to do with her ability to communicate with individuals and audiences from the lay to the most scientifically sophisticated. Not surprisingly, she is often invited to be a speaker and I recommend catching her at the podium if you can.

    By chance — or was it chance? — the three exoplanet scientists selected for the Time 100 were at Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Discuss session Thursday when the news came out. On the left is Anglada-Escude, Batalha in the middle and Gillon on the right.

    Batalha was born in Northern California with absolutely no intention of being a scientist. Her idea of a scientist, in fact, was a guy in a white lab coat pouring chemicals into a beaker.

    As a young woman, she was an undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley and planned on going into business. But she had always been very good and advanced in math, and so she toyed with other paths. Then, one day, astronaut Rhea Setton came to her sorority. Setton had been a member of the same sorority and came to deliver a sorority pin she had taken up with during on a flight on the Space Shuttle.

    “That visit changed my path,” Batalha told me. “When I had that opportunity to see a woman astronaut, to see that working for NASA was a possibility, I decided to switch my major — from business to physics.”

    After getting her BA in physics from UC Berkeley, she continued in the field and earned a PhD in astrophysics from UC Santa Cruz. Batalha started her career as a stellar spectroscopist studying young, sun-like stars. Her studies took her to Brazil, Chile and, in 1995, Italy, where she was present at the scientific conference when the world learned of the first planet orbiting another star like our sun — 51 Pegasi b.

    It had quite an impact. Four years later, after a discussion with Kepler principal investigator Borucki at Ames about challenges that star spots present in distinguishing signals from transiting planets, she was hired to join the Kepler team. She has been working on the Kepler mission ever since.

    Asked how she would like to use her now publicly acknowledged “influence,” she returned to her work on the search for habitable planets, and potentially life, beyond earth.

    “We’ve seen that there’s such a keen public interest and an enormous scientific interest in terms of habitable worlds, and we have to keep that going,” she said. “This is a very hard problem to solve, and we need all hands on deck.”

    She said the effort has to be interdisciplinary and international to succeed, and she pointed to the two other time 100 exoplanet hunters selected. One is from Belgium and the other is working in the United Kingdom, but comes from Spain.

    When the nominal Kepler mission formally winds down in September, she says she looks forward to more actively engaging with the exoplanet science Kepler has made possible.

    The small planets identified by Kepler as of one year ago that are small and orbit in the region around their star where water can exist as a liquid. NASA Ames/N. Batalha and W. Stenzel

    Batalha’s role in the NASA NExSS initiative offers a window into what makes her a leader — she excels at making things happen.

    Voytek and Shawn Domogal-Goldman of Goddard founded and oversee the group. They then chose Batalha two other leaders (Anthony Del Genio of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Dawn Gelino of NASA Exoplanet Science Institute ) to be the hands-on leaders of the 18 groups of scientists from a wide variety of American universities.

    (Asked why she selected Batalha, Voytek replied, “TIME is recognizing what motivated us to select her as one of the leaders for….NExSS. Her scientific and leadership excellence.”)

    This is the official NExSS task: “Teams will help classify the diversity of worlds being discovered, understand the potential habitability of these worlds, and develop tools and technologies needed in the search for life beyond Earth. Scientists are developing ways to identify habitable environments on these worlds and search for biosignatures, or signs of life. Central to the work of NExSS is understanding how biology interacts with the atmosphere, surface, oceans, and interior of a planet, and how these interactions are affected by the host star.”

    She has encouraged and helped create the kinds of collaborations that these tasks have made essential, but also helped identify upcoming problems and opportunities for exoplanet research and has started working on ways to address them. For instance, it became clear within the NExSS group and larger community that many, if not most exoplanet researchers would not be able to effectively apply for time to use the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) for several years after it launched in late 2018.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    To be awarded time on the telescope, researchers have to write detailed descriptions of what they plan to do and how they will do it. But how the giant telescope will operate in space is not entirely know — especially as relates to exoplanets. So it will be impossible for most researchers to make proposals and win time until JWST is already in space for at least two of its five years of operation.

    Led by Batalha, exoplanet scientists are now hashing out a short list of JWST targets that the community as a whole can agree should be the top priorities scientifically and to allow researchers to learn better how JWST works. As a result, they would be able to propose their own targets for research much more quickly in those early years of JWST operations. It’s the kind of community consensus building that Batalha is known for.

    She also has an important roles in the NASA Astrophysics Advisory Committee and hopes to use the skills she developed working with Kepler on the upcoming Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission.


    Batalha preparing for the Science Walk in San Francisco on Earth Day.

    A mother of four (including daughter Natasha, who is on her way to also becoming an accomplished astrophysicist), Batalha is active on Facebook sharing her activities, her often poetic thoughts, and her strong views about scientific and other issues of the day.

    She was an active participant, for instance, in the National March for Science in San Francisco, posting photos and impressions along the way. I think it’s fair to say her presence was noticed with appreciation by others.

    And that returns us to what she considers to be some of her greatest potential “influence” — being an accomplished, high ranking and high profile NASA female scientist.

    “I don’t have to stand up and say to young women ‘You can do this.’ You can just exist doing your work and you become a role model. Like Rhea Setton did with me.”

    And it is probably no coincidence that four other senior (and demanding) positions on the Kepler mission are filled by women — two of whom were students in classes taught some years ago by Natalie Batalha.

    See the full article here .

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    About Many Worlds

    There are many worlds out there waiting to fire your imagination.

    Marc Kaufman is an experienced journalist, having spent three decades at The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and is the author of two books on searching for life and planetary habitability. While the “Many Worlds” column is supported by the Lunar Planetary Institute/USRA and informed by NASA’s NExSS initiative, any opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

    This site is for everyone interested in the burgeoning field of exoplanet detection and research, from the general public to scientists in the field. It will present columns, news stories and in-depth features, as well as the work of guest writers.

    About NExSS

    The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) is a NASA research coordination network dedicated to the study of planetary habitability. The goals of NExSS are to investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life. NExSS investigators also strive to put planets into an architectural context — as solar systems built over the eons through dynamical processes and sculpted by stars. Based on our understanding of our own solar system and habitable planet Earth, researchers in the network aim to identify where habitable niches are most likely to occur, which planets are most likely to be habitable. Leveraging current NASA investments in research and missions, NExSS will accelerate the discovery and characterization of other potentially life-bearing worlds in the galaxy, using a systems science approach.
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

  • richardmitnick 7:50 am on April 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , UCLA faculty voice: We can teach women to code but that just creates another problem, Women in STEM   

    From UCLA: Women in STEM “UCLA faculty voice: We can teach women to code, but that just creates another problem” 

    UCLA bloc


    April 05, 2017
    Miriam Posner

    As the web’s popularity skyrocketed, developers began specializing in front-end or back-end work, and women have typically ended up in the lower-paying front end. #WOCinTech Chat/Flickr

    Technology has a gender problem, as everyone knows.

    The underrepresentation of women in technical fields has spawned legions of TED talks, panels, and women-friendly coding boot camps. I’ve participated in some of these get-women-to-code workshops myself, and I sometimes encourage my students to get involved. Recently, though, I’ve noticed something strange: the women who are so assiduously learning to code seem to be devaluing certain tech roles simply by occupying them.

    Conventional wisdom says that the key to reducing gendered inequality in tech is giving women the skills they need to enter particular roles. But in practice, when more women enter a role, its value seems to go down more.

    It’s not always obvious to outsiders, but the term “technology sector” is a catch-all for a large array of distinct jobs. Of course there are PR, HR and management roles. But even if we confine ourselves to web development, technical people often distinguish among front-end, back-end and full-stack development. The partition between the two “ends” is the web itself. Front-end developers are the people who design and implement what you see in your web browser. Back-end developers are the people who do the programming that works behind the scenes. And full-stack developers are the people who do it all.

    But here’s the problem: the technology industry enforces a distinct gender hierarchy between front-end and back-end development. Women are typecast as front-end developers, while men work on the back end — where they generally earn significantly more money than their front-end counterparts. That’s not to say that women only work on the front end, or that men only work on the back end — far from it. But developers tell me that the stereotype is real.

    The distinction between back and front wasn’t always so rigid. “In the earliest days, maybe for the first 10 years of the web, every developer had to be full-stack,” says Coraline Ada Ehmke, a Chicago-based developer who has worked on various parts of the technology stack since 1993. “There wasn’t specialization.”

    Over time, however, web work professionalized. By the late 2000s, Ehmke says, the profession began to stratify, with developers who had computer science degrees (usually men) occupying the back-end roles, and self-taught coders and designers slotting into the front.

    Back-end developers often attribute front-end expertise not to mastery but to alchemy, wizardry or magic. Its adepts don’t succeed through technical skill so much as a kind of web whispering: feeling, rather than thinking, their way through a tangle of competing styles — in other words, those soft fuzzy things that women are supposed to excel at. That’s not true, of course; nothing on a computer is any more or less logical than anything else.

    The gendered attributes switch as you travel to the back of the stack. On the back-end, developers (more often “engineers”) are imagined to be relentlessly logical, asocial sci-fi enthusiasts — bearded geniuses in the Steve Wozniak tradition. This brilliant but unkempt genius is a familiar figure in the history of computing — familiar, but not immutable.

    In fact, computing was originally the province of women. Innumerable articles and books have pointed this out, but it still seems to surprise everyone every time it’s “revealed”. The bearded savant of computer science lore only emerged as the field professionalized and gained prestige, according to computing historian Nathan Ensmenger. And it emerged in order to push women out of programming as men moved into what had originally been female jobs.

    “If you’re worried about your professional status, one way to police gender boundaries is through educational credentials,” Ensmenger says. “The other way, though, is genius. And that’s something I think nerd culture does really well. It’s a way of defining your value and uniqueness in a field in which the relationship between credentials and ability is kind of fuzzy.” And “genius”, of course, is a strongly male-gendered attribute. Just look at student evaluations of their college professors.

    Today, the case of the female front-end developer is repeating history in the opposite direction. Front-end developing is a feminizing subfield rather than a masculinizing one. But it’s governed by the same market forces that edged women out of programming in the first place. Prestige accrues to labor scarcity, and masculinity seizes prestige.

    Front-end jobs are easier for women to obtain, and feminized jobs are less prestigious. In turn, the labor market generates its own circular logic: women are front-end developers because they’re well disposed to this kind of labor, and we know this because women are front-end developers.

    Get-girls-to-code initiatives aim to fix tech’s gender imbalance — but they may help reinforce it. Women are generally cheaper, to other workers’ dismay. “Introducing women into a discipline can be seen as empowerment for women,” Ensmenger says. “But it is often seen by men as a reduction of their status. Because, historically speaking, the more women in a profession, the lower paid it is.”

    As a result, an influx (modest though it is) of women into the computing profession might be helping to push developers to make distinctions where they didn’t exist before. “As professions are under threat, stratification is very often the result,” Ensmenger says. “So you take those elements that are most ambiguous and you push those, in a sense, down and out. And down and out means they become more accessible to other groups, like women.”

    The computing historian Marie Hicks can’t stand it when people tout coding camps as a solution to technology’s gender problem. “I think these initiatives are well-meaning, but they totally misunderstand the problem. The pipeline is not the problem; the meritocracy is the problem. The idea that we’ll just stuff people into the pipeline assumes a meritocracy that does not exist.”

    Ironically, Hicks says, these coding initiatives are, consciously or not, betting on their graduates’ failure. If boot camp graduates succeed, they’ll flood the market, devaluing the entire profession. “If you can be the exception who becomes successful, then you can take advantage of all the gatekeeping mechanisms,” Hicks says. “But if you aren’t the exception, and the gatekeeping starts to fall away, then the profession becomes less prestigious.”

    My students are always so excited that they’re “learning to code” when I teach them HTML and CSS, the basic building blocks of web pages. And I’m happy for them; it’s exhilarating to see, for the first time, how the web is built. Increasingly, though, I feel the need to warn them: the technology sector, like any other labor market, is a ruthless stratifier. And learning to code, no matter how good they get at it, won’t gain them entrance to a club run by people who don’t look like them.

    See the full article here .

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    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

  • richardmitnick 9:11 am on March 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Wei Xu, Women in STEM   

    From BNL: Women in STEM “Visualizing Scientific Big Data in Informative and Interactive Ways” Wei Xu 

    Brookhaven Lab

    March 31, 2017
    Ariana Tantillo

    Brookhaven Lab computer scientist Wei Xu develops visualization tools for analyzing large and varied datasets.

    Wei Xu, a computer scientist who is part of Brookhaven Lab¹s Computational Science Initiative, helps scientists analyze large and varied datasets by developing visualization tools, such as the color-mapping tool seen projected from her laptop onto the large screen.

    Humans are visual creatures: our brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of information sent to the brain is visual. Visualization is becoming increasingly useful in the era of big data, in which we are generating so much data at such high rates that we cannot keep up with making sense of it all. In particular, visual analytics—a research discipline that combines automated data analysis with interactive visualizations—has emerged as a promising approach to dealing with this information overload.

    “Visual analytics provides a bridge between advanced computational capabilities and human knowledge and judgment,” said Wei Xu, a computer scientist in the Computational Science Initiative (CSI) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and a research assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University. “The interactive visual representations and interfaces enable users to efficiently explore and gain insights from massive datasets.”

    At Brookhaven, Xu has been leading the development of several visual analytics tools to facilitate the scientific decision-making and discovery process. She works closely with Brookhaven scientists, particularly those at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN)—both DOE Office of Science User Facilities.


    By talking to researchers early on, Xu learns about their data analysis challenges and requirements. She continues the conversation throughout the development process, demoing initial prototypes and making refinements based on their feedback. She also does her own research and proposes innovative visual analytics methods to the scientists.

    Recently, Xu has been collaborating with the Visual Analytics and Imaging (VAI) Lab at Stony Brook University—her alma mater, where she completed doctoral work in computed tomography with graphics processing unit (GPU)-accelerated computing.

    Though Xu continued work in these and related fields when she first joined Brookhaven Lab in 2013, she switched her focus to visualization by the end of 2015.

    “I realized how important visualization is to the big data era,” Xu said. “The visualization domain, especially information visualization, is flourishing, and I knew there would be lots of research directions to pursue because we are dealing with an unsolved problem: how can we most efficiently and effectively understand the data? That is a quite interesting problem not only in the scientific world but also in general.”

    It was at this time that Xu was awarded a grant for a visualization project proposal she submitted to DOE’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, which funds innovative and creative research in areas of importance to the nation’s energy security. At the same time, Klaus Mueller—Xu’s PhD advisor at Stony Brook and director of the VAI Lab—was seeking to extend his research to a broader domain. Xu thought it would be a great opportunity to collaborate: she would present the visualization problem that originated from scientific experiments and potential approaches to solve it, and, in turn, doctoral students in Mueller’s lab would work with her and their professor to come up with cutting-edge solutions.

    This Brookhaven-Stony Brook collaboration first led to the development of an automated method for mapping data involving multiple variables to color. Variables with a similar distribution of data points have similar colors. Users can manipulate the color maps, for example, enhancing the contrast to view the data in more detail. According to Xu, these maps would be helpful for any image dataset involving multiple variables.

    The color-mapping tool was used to visualize a multivariable fluorescence dataset from the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe (HXN) beamline at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source II. The color map (a) shows how the different variables—the chemical elements cerium (Ce), cobalt (Co), iron (Fe), and gadolinium (Gd)—are distributed in a sample of an electrolyte material used in solid oxide fuel cells. The fluorescence spectrum of the selected data point (the circle indicated by the overlaid white arrows) is shown by the colored bars, with their height representing the relative elemental ratios. The fluorescence image (b), pseudo-colored based on the color map in (a), represents a joint colorization of the individual images in (d), whose colors are based on the four points at the circle boundary (a) for each of the four elements. The arrow indicates where new chemical phases can exist—something hard to detect when observing the individual plots (d). Enhancing the color contrast—for example, of the rectangular region in (b)—enables a more detailed view, in this case providing better contrast between Fe (red) and Co (green) in image (c).

    “Different imaging modalities—such as fluorescence, differential phase contrasts, x-ray scattering, and tomography—would benefit from this technique, especially when integrating the results of these modalities,” she said. “Even subtle differences that are hard to identify in separate image displays, such as differences in elemental ratios, can be picked up with our tool—a capability essential for new scientific discovery.” Currently, Xu is trying to install the color mapping at NSLS-II beamlines, and advanced features will be added gradually.

    In conjunction with CFN scientists, the team is also developing a multilevel display for exploring large image sets. When scientists scan a sample, they generate one scattering image at each point within the sample, known as the raw image level. They can zoom in on this image to check the individual pixel values (the pixel level). For each raw image, scientific analysis tools are used to generate a series of attributes that represent the analyzed properties of the sample (the attribute level), with a scatterplot showing a pseudo-color map of any user-chosen attribute from the series—for example, the sample’s temperature or density. In the past, scientists had to hop between multiple plots to view these different levels. The interactive display under development will enable scientists to see all of these levels in a single view, making it easier to identify how the raw data are related and to analyze data across the entire scanned sample. Users will be able to zoom in and out on different levels of interest, similar to how Google Maps works.

    The multilevel display tool enables scientists conducting scattering experiments to explore the resulting image sets at the scatterplot level (0), attribute pseudo-color level (1), zoom-in attribute level (2), raw image level (3), zoom-in raw image level (4), and pixel level (5), all in a single display.

    The ability to visually reconstruct a complete joint dataset from several partial marginal datasets is at the core of another visual analytics tool that Xu’s Stony Brook collaborators developed. This web-based tool enables users to reconstruct all possible solutions to a given problem and locate the subset of preferred solutions through interactive filtering.

    “Scientists commonly describe a single object with datasets from different sources—each covering only a portion of the complete properties of that object—for example, the same sample scanned in different beamlines,” explained Xu. “With this tool, scientists can recover a property with missing fields by refining its potential ranges and interactively acquiring feedback about whether the result makes sense.”

    Their research led to a paper that was published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) journal Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics and awarded the Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST) Best Paper Honorable Mention at the 2016 IEEE VIS conference.

    At this same conference, another group of VAI Lab students whom Xu worked with were awarded the Scientific Visualization (SciVis) Best Poster Honorable Mention for their poster, “Extending Scatterplots to Scalar Fields.” Their plotting technique helps users link correlations between attributes and data points in a single view, with contour lines that show how the numerical values of the attributes change. For their case study, the students demonstrated how the technique could help college applications select the right university by plotting the desired attributes (e.g., low tuition, high safety, small campus size) with different universities (e.g., University of Virginia, Stanford University, MIT). The closer a particular college is to some attribute, the higher that attribute value.

    The scatter plots above are based on a dataset containing 46 universities with 14 attributes of interest for prospective students: academics, athletics, housing, location, nightlife, safety, transportation, weather, score, tuition, dining, PhD/faculty, population, and income. The large red nodes represent the attributes and the small blue points represent the universities; the contour lines (middle plot) show how the numerical values of the attributes change. This prospective student wants to attend a university with good academics (>9/10). Universities that meet this criterion are within the contours lines whose value exceeds 9. To determine which universities meet multiple criteria, students would see where the universities and attributes overlap (right plot).

    According to Xu, this kind of technique also could be applied to visualize artificial neural networks—the deep learning (a type of machine learning) frameworks that are used to address problems such as image classification and speech recognition.

    “Because neural network models have a complex structure, it is hard to understand how their intrinsic learning process works and how they arrive at intermediate results, and thus quite challenging to debug them,” explained Xu. “Neural networks are still largely regarded as black boxes. Visualization tools like this one could help researchers get a better idea of their model’s performance.”

    Besides her Stony Brook collaborations, Xu is currently involved in the Co-Design Center for Online Data Analysis and Reduction at the Exascale (CODAR), which Brookhaven is partnering on with other national laboratories and universities through DOE’s Exascale Computing Project. Her role is to visualize data evaluating the performance of computing clusters, applications, and workflows that the CODAR team is developing to analyze and reduce data online before the data are written to disk for possible further offline analysis. Exascale computer systems are projected to provide unprecedented increases in computational speed but the input/output (I/O) rates of transferring the computed results to storage disks are not expected to keep pace, so it will be infeasible for scientists to save all of their scientific results for offline analysis. Xu’s visualization will help the team “diagnose” any performance issues with the computation processes, including individual application execution, computation job management in the clusters, I/O performance in the runtime system, and data reduction and reconstruction efficiency.

    Xu is also part of a CSI effort to build a virtual reality (VR) lab for an interactive data visualization experience. “It would be a more natural way to observe and interact with data. VR techniques replicate a realistic and immersive 3D environment,” she said.

    For Xu, her passion for visualization most likely stemmed from an early interest in drawing.

    “As a child, I liked to draw,” she said. “In growing up, I took my drawings from paper to the computer.”

    See the full article here .

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    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 10:04 am on March 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , Women in STEM, Xiaofeng Guo   

    From Brookhaven: Women in STEM – “Secrets to Scientific Success: Planning and Coordination” Xiaofeng Guo 

    Brookhaven Lab

    March 8, 2017
    Lida Tunesi

    Xiaofeng Guo

    Very often there are people behind the scenes of scientific advances, quietly organizing the project’s logistics. New facilities and big collaborations require people to create schedules, manage resources, and communicate among teams. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory is lucky to have Xiaofeng Guo in its ranks—a skilled project manager who coordinates projects reaching across the U.S. and around the world.

    Guo, who has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Iowa State University, is currently deputy manager for the U.S. role in two upgrades to the ATLAS detector, one of two detectors at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider that found the Higgs boson in 2012.

    CERN ATLAS Higgs Event

    CERN/ATLAS detector

    Brookhaven is the host laboratory for both U.S. ATLAS Phase I and High Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) upgrade projects, which involve hundreds of millions of dollars and 46 institutions across the nation. The upgrades are complex international endeavors that will allow the detector to make use of the LHC’s ramped up particle collision rates. Guo keeps both the capital and the teams on track.

    “I’m in charge of all business processes, project finance, contracts with institutions, baseline plan reports, progress reports—all aspects of business functions in the U.S. project team. It keeps me very busy,” she laughed. “In the beginning I was thinking ‘in my spare time I can still read physics papers, do my own calculations’… And now I have no spare time!”

    Guo’s dual interest in physics and management developed early in her career.

    “When I was an undergraduate there was a period when I actually signed up for a double major, with classes in finance and economics in addition to physics,” Guo recalled. “I’m happy to explore different things!”

    Later, while teaching physics part-time at Iowa State University, Guo desired career flexibility and studied to be a Chartered Financial Analyst. She passed all required exams in just two years but decided to continue her research after receiving a grant from the National Science Foundation.

    Guo joined Brookhaven Lab in 2010 to fill a need for project management in Nuclear and Particle Physics (NPP). The position offered her a way to learn new skills while staying up-to-date on the physics world.

    Early in her time at Brookhaven, Guo participated in the management of the Heavy Flavor Tracker (HFT) upgrade to the STAR particle detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a DOE Office of Science User Facility for nuclear physics research. The project was successfully completed $600,000 under budget and a whole year ahead of schedule.

    BNL/RHIC Star Detector

    “This was a very good learning experience for me. I participated in all the manager meeting discussions, updated the review documents, and helped them handle some contracts. Through this process I learned all the DOE project rules,” Guo said.

    While working on the HFT upgrade, Guo also helped develop successful, large group proposals for increased computational resources in high-energy physics and other fields of science. She joined the ATLAS Upgrade projects after receiving her Project Management Certification, and her physics and finance background as well as experience with large collaborations have enabled her to orchestrate complex planning efforts.

    For the two phases of the U.S. ATLAS upgrade, Guo directly coordinates more than 140 scientists, engineers, and finance personnel, and oversees all business processes, including finance, contracts, and reports. And taking her job one step further, she’s developed entirely new management tools and reporting procedures to keep the multi-institutional effort synchronized.

    “Dr. Guo is one of our brightest stars,” said Berndt Mueller, Associate Lab Director of NPP. “We are fortunate to have her to assist us with many challenging aspects of project development and execution in NPP. In the process of guiding the work of scores of scientists and engineers, she has single-handedly created a unique and essential role in the development of complex projects with an international context, demonstrating skills of unusual depth and breadth and the ability to apply them across a wide array of disciplines.”

    Guo’s management of Phase I won great respect for the project from the high-energy physics community and the Office of Project Assessment (OPA) at the DOE’s Office of Science. The OPA invited her to participate in a panel discussion to share her expertise and help develop project management guidelines that can be used in other Office of Science projects. Guo also worked with BNL’s Project Management Center to help the lab update its own project management system description to meet DOE standards and lay down valuable groundwork for future large projects.

    As the ATLAS Phase I upgrade proceeds through the final construction stage, Guo is simultaneously managing the planning stages of HL-LHC.

    “We haven’t completely defined the project timeline yet, but it’s projected to go all the way to the end of 2025,” Guo said.

    Like Phase I, HL-LHC will ensure ATLAS can perform well while the LHC operates at much higher collision rates so that physicists can further explore the Higgs as well as search for signs of dark matter and extra dimensions.

    Although she admits to missing doing research herself, Guo is not disheartened.

    “I’m still in the physics world; I’m still working with physicists,” she said. “I enjoy working and interacting with people. So I’m happy.”

    Brookhaven’s work on RHIC and ATLAS is funded by the DOE Office of Science.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    BNL Campus

    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 11:51 am on March 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Tech Women 2017, , The Rosalyn August Foundation for the Empowerment of Young Women, Women in STEM   

    From Technion: “A Better World – through Science and Engineering” 

    Technion bloc



    Tech Women 2017

    Around 700 excelling female high-school students from all over the country visited Technion as part of the Tech Women 2017 conference, organized to encourage young women to opt for academic studies in science and engineering.

    From Kiryat Shmona all the way to Ma’ale Edomim; from Kibbutz Sasa to Ashdod: around 700 excelling female high-school students visited the Technion last Thursday, in honor of the annual Tech Women 2017 conference held by the Technion on International Women’s Day on March 8th. “Studying at the Technion means making the world a better place through science and engineering,” said Prof. Orit Hazan, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, in her opening remarks.

    The conference, which took place courtesy of The Rosalyn August Foundation for the Empowerment of Young Women, was designed to encourage excelling female high-school students to choose science and engineering for their academic studies.

    The participants were students majoring in 5-pt. mathematics and the fields of science and technology. They met with female researchers and staff members, Technion graduates and current graduate students. They toured labs and were exposed to the various research and study subjects in the different faculties.

    “You are here because you were chosen, because we are positive that your future lies here, at the Technion,” said Orly Reiss, an alumnus of the Technion’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, who moderated the opening ceremony. After the opening event, each student visited two of the nine hosting faculties: Electrical Engineering; Computer Science; Mechanical Engineering; Aerospace Engineering; Civil & Environmental Engineering; Chemical Engineering; Materials Science & Engineering; Chemistry; and Physics.

    “In the very first graduating class of the Technion, which opened in 1924, there were 16 men and one woman,” said Prof. Peretz Lavie, President of the Technion. “Today about 37% of our undergraduates are women, and our goal is to reach 50% in all the departments. This special day is dedicated to persuading female high-school students that they belong here at the Technion and that they are able to do so. The future of the State of Israel depends on scientific and engineering knowledge, and we look forward to seeing these students here in a few years attending the Technion’s opening ceremony at the beginning of the academic year.”

    Dr. Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus of the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology, said: “It is very exciting to see the future generation of female scientists of Israel.” She urged the students to approach their studies passionately and consciously. She spoke of her own brother, who was extremely intelligent but had difficulties reading, and of her decision to specialize in the field of language acquisition. Dr. Horowitz-Kraus, who is the founder of the Technion’s Educational Neuroimaging Center, shared her discoveries regarding the connection between brain development and the development of language and reading skills in infants and children. “I examine the child’s brain as he or she listens to a story, and try to understand the processes taking place and the way listening improves future reading skills.”

    Sarah Nagosa, a PhD student at the Ruth & Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, discussed the topic of her dissertation: eye diseases and their treatment. Nagosa immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia at the age of three, and grew up in Kiryat Malachi. “I only first heard of the Technion when I was 17 years old, when several American donors came to visit my high school. I decided that day that this is what I want to do – to attend the Technion. Of course, I had apprehensions – what if I’m not accepted? What if I’m not smart enough? But I applied for admission and was accepted to the Faculty of Biology. The beginning wasn’t easy – I felt so small and the campus was so huge. It was hard for me to find common ground with the rest of the students. But I slowly realized that we all had the same apprehensions, and I suddenly found the courage to ask questions. Today, working on my research and serving as a teaching assistant at the same time, I can tell you that while the Technion might be tough academically, it is “soft” and simple in every other way: the dorms, tutoring and any other form of assistance. The difficulties have not disappeared, but I’ve learned to overcome them, knowing that my ultimate goal is worth it.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Technion Campus

    A science and technology research university, among the world’s top ten,
    dedicated to the creation of knowledge and the development of human capital and leadership,
    for the advancement of the State of Israel and all humanity.

  • richardmitnick 4:19 pm on March 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ozy.com, , Sabrina Pasterski, Women in STEM   

    From MIT and Harvard via ozy.com: Women in Stem “This Millennial Might Be the New Einstein” Sabrina Pasterski 

    MIT News

    MIT Widget


    Harvard Physics

    Harvard Physics


    JAN 12 2016
    Farah Halime

    Sabrina Pasterski

    Her research could change our understanding of the fundamentals as we know them.

    One of the things the brilliant minds at MIT do — besides ponder the nature of the universe and build sci-fi gizmos, of course — is notarize aircraft airworthiness for the federal government. So when Sabrina Pasterski walked into the campus offices one cold January morning seeking the OK for a single-engine plane she had built, it might have been business as usual. Except that the shaggy-haired, wide-eyed plane builder before them was just 14 and had already flown solo. “I couldn’t believe it,” recalls Peggy Udden, an executive secretary at MIT, “not only because she was so young, but a girl.”

    OK, it’s 2016, and gifted females are not exactly rare at MIT; nearly half the undergrads are women. But something about Pasterski led Udden not just to help get her plane approved, but to get the attention of the university’s top professors. Now, eight years later, the lanky, 22-year-old Pasterski is already an MIT graduate and Harvard Ph.D. candidate who has the world of physics abuzz. She’s exploring some of the most challenging and complex issues in physics, much as Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein (whose theory of relativity just turned 100 years old) did early in their careers. Her research delves into black holes, the nature of gravity and spacetime. A particular focus is trying to better understand “quantum gravity,” which seeks to explain the phenomenon of gravity within the context of quantum mechanics. Discoveries in that area could dramatically change our understanding of the workings of the universe.

    She’s also caught the attention of some of America’s brightest working at NASA. Also? Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com and aerospace developer and manufacturer Blue Origin, who’s promised her a job whenever she’s ready. Asked by e-mail recently whether his offer still stands, Bezos told OZY: “God, yes!”

    But unless you’re the kind of rabid physics fan who’s seen her papers on semiclassical Virasoro symmetry of the quantum gravity S-matrix and Low’s subleading soft theorem as a symmetry of QED (both on approaches to understanding the shape of space and gravity and the first two papers she ever authored), you may not have heard of Pasterski. A first-generation Cuban-American born and bred in the suburbs of Chicago, she’s not on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram and doesn’t own a smartphone. She does, however, regularly update a no-frills website called PhysicsGirl, which features a long catalog of achievements and proficiencies. Among them: “spotting elegance within the chaos.”

    Pasterski stands out among a growing number of newly minted physics grads in the U.S. There were 7,329 in 2013, double the four-decade low of 3,178 in 1999, according to the American Institute of Physics. Nima Arkani-Hamed, a Princeton professor and winner of the inaugural $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize, told OZY he’s heard “terrific things” about Pasterski from her adviser, Harvard professor Andrew Strominger, who is about to publish a paper with physics rock star Hawking. She’s also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from the Hertz Foundation, the Smith Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

    Pasterski, who speaks in frenetic bursts, says she has always been drawn to challenging what’s possible. “Years of pushing the bounds of what I could achieve led me to physics,” she says from her dorm room at Harvard. Yet she doesn’t make it sound like work at all: She calls physics “elegant” but also full of “utility.”

    Despite her impressive résumé, MIT wait-listed Pasterski when she first applied. Professors Allen Haggerty and Earll Murman were aghast. Thanks to Udden, the pair had seen a video of Pasterski building her airplane. “Our mouths were hanging open after we looked at it,” Haggerty said. “Her potential is off the charts.” The two went to bat for her, and she was ultimately accepted, later graduating with a grade average of 5.00, the school’s highest score possible.

    An only child, Pasterski speaks with some awkwardness and punctuates her e-mails with smiley faces and exclamation marks. She says she has a handful of close friends but has never had a boyfriend, an alcoholic drink or a cigarette. Pasterski says: “I’d rather stay alert, and hopefully I’m known for what I do and not what I don’t do.”

    While mentors offer predictions of physics fame, Pasterski appears well grounded. “A theorist saying he will figure out something in particular over a long time frame almost guarantees that he will not do it,” she says. And Bezos’s pledge notwithstanding, the big picture for science grads in the U.S. is challenging: The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey shows that only about 26 percent of science grads in the U.S. had jobs in their chosen fields, while nearly 30 percent of physics and chemistry post-docs are unemployed. Pasterski seems unperturbed. “Physics itself is exciting enough,” she says. ”It’s not like a 9-to-5 thing. When you’re tired you sleep, and when you’re not, you do physics.”
    Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski (born June 3, 1993) is an American physicist from Chicago, Illinois who studies string theory and high energy physics. She describes herself as “a proud first-generation Cuban-American & Chicago Public Schools alumna.” She completed her undergraduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is currently a graduate student at Harvard University.

    Pasterski has made contributions in the field of gravitational memories.[9] She is best known for her concept of “the Triangle,” which connects several physical ideas.

    Pasterski was born in Chicago on June 3, 1993. She enrolled at the Edison Regional Gifted Center in 1998, and graduated from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in 2010.[10]

    Pasterski holds an active interest in aviation. She took her first flying lesson in 2003, co-piloted FAA1 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2005 and started building a kit aircraft by 2006. She soloed her Cessna 150 in Canada in 2007 and certified the aircraft she had built from a kit as airworthy in 2008, with MIT’s assistance.[citation needed] Her first U.S. solo flight was in that kit aircraft in 2009 after being signed off by her CFI Jay Maynard.[citation needed]

    Pasterski’s scientific heroes include Leon Lederman, Dudley Herschbach, and Freeman Dyson, and she was drawn to physics by Jeff Bezos. She has received job offers from Blue Origin, an aerospace company founded by Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

    Before focusing on high energy theory, Pasterski worked on the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. At 21, Pasterski spoke at Harvard about her concepts of “the Triangle” and “Spin Memory”, and completed “the Triangle” for EM during an invited talk at MIT’s Center for Theoretical Physics. This work has formed the basis for further work, with one 2015 paper describing it as “a recently discovered universal triangle connecting soft theorems, symmetries and memory in gauge and gravitational theories. At 22, she spoke at a Harvard Faculty Conference about whether or not those concepts should be applied to black hole hair and discussed her new method for detecting gravitational waves.

    In early 2016, a paper by Stephen Hawking, Malcolm J. Perry, and Andrew Strominger (Pasterski’s doctoral advisor of whom she was working independently at the time) titled “Soft Hair on Black Holes” cited Pasterski’s work, making hers the only one of twelve single-author papers referenced that was authored by a female scientist.[non-primary source needed] This resulted in extensive media coverage after its appearance on the arXiv and in the days leading up to it.

    Shortly after the 2016 Hawking paper was released, actor George Takei referenced Pasterski on his Twitter account with her quote, “‘Hopefully I’m known for what I do and not what I don’t do.’ A poignant sentiment.” The Steven P. Jobs Trust article included in the tweet has been shared over 527,000 times.

    International coverage of the paper and Pasterski’s work subsequently appeared in Russia Today, Poland’s Angora newspaper and DNES in the Czech Republic. In 2016, rapper Chris Brown posted a page with a video promoting Pasterski. Forbes and The History Channel ran stories about Pasterski for their audiences in Mexico and Latin America respectively. People en Español, one of the most widely read Spanish language magazines, featured Pasterski in their April 2016 print edition. [Wikipedia]

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    MIT Seal

    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.

    MIT Campus

    The Department of Physics at Harvard is large and diverse. With 10 Nobel Prize winners (see above) to its credit, the distinguished faculty of today engages in teaching and research that spans the discipline and defines its borders, and as a result Harvard is consistently one of the top-ranked physics departments in the nation.

    Harvard University campus

  • richardmitnick 11:02 am on March 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Gulden Othman, , , , , Women in STEM   

    From UNC: Women in STEM – “Gulden Othman” 

    U NC bloc

    University of North Carolina

    Gulden Othman is a third-year graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She currently works in the Experimental Nuclear and Astroparticle Physics group and is also on the executive board of UNC Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). Her research focuses on observing the interactions of the building blocks of matter to understand how the universe has evolved from the Big Bang to present day.

    March 8th, 2017

    When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

    I always wanted to be an astronaut. I grew up in west Texas in an area where there was not very much light pollution. I spent a lot of time musing at the stars, imagining the vast unknown. I decided that, one day, I would go to the stars and discover the unknown myself.

    Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose research as a career path.

    When I began my involvement in research as a sophomore undergraduate, I was astonished at how much work was still being done to understand physics. What was even more amazing was that I was able to make a contribution, although small, to this field — to working toward a better understanding of our universe. The more I progressed through my undergraduate coursework, the more certain I was that I would not be done learning by the time I graduated. Now that I am in graduate school, I know that I am still not done learning and never will be.

    What’s an interesting thing that’s happened during your research?

    I spent a few months designing a large electromagnet that will be used in an experiment I am no longer involved in. Because of the complexity of the design, we could not build it on campus and needed to submit the design to a vendor. I was very worried that the magnet would be built and come nowhere near the specifications I intended it for. After double-checking my design, though, the vendor believed it would meet the specifications we desired. It’s surreal to think that my design will actually be built and functional someday soon.

    In honor of Women’s History Month, share an anecdote that shows why women need to continue breaking barriers.

    Upon beginning to do research my sophomore year, an upperclassman tutored me on advanced physics topics that I had not yet taken courses on, but that would be necessary for my research. He quizzed me on courses I had already taken and asked me to write down equations from memory. Being put on the spot was difficult, and I could not write down most of what he asked for. He responded by telling me I wasn’t smart enough to be a physicist and that I should consider other career options in sciences that are “less difficult.” He believed he was being helpful. I was distraught and, for one night, considered changing my major. But I couldn’t think of any subject I wanted to study more than physics.

    The next day, I talked to the professor who was advising my research about what happened. I told him that I was fine with not being the best physicist, as long as I could study physics, and that I would work hard and not give up or change my major. He was very supportive of me, even after I chose to leave his group and transition into the field of research I am in now — experimental nuclear and particle physics. Almost six years later, I now have a prestigious fellowship and am working toward my PhD in physics. I am glad I did not let someone else’s view of me discourage me from reaching my goals.

    What advice would you give to up-and-coming female researchers in your field?

    If you love science, never give up pursuing it. You may at times, as I did, feel like everyone around you is so naturally brilliant, and that you will never be able to be as smart or talented as them. That is never the case. Hard work means a lot more than you might think. Always have a support group. At UNC, two great places to find support are the local Women in Physics group and the Society of Physics Students chapter.

    UNC Research is proud of every scientist on this campus, but we are especially excited to promote our female researchers in 2017. Each week this year, we will publish a short Q&A feature on one of them — whether she is an undergrad, PhD candidate, or full professor.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    U NC campus

    Carolina’s vibrant people and programs attest to the University’s long-standing place among leaders in higher education since it was chartered in 1789 and opened its doors for students in 1795 as the nation’s first public university. Situated in the beautiful college town of Chapel Hill, N.C., UNC has earned a reputation as one of the best universities in the world. Carolina prides itself on a strong, diverse student body, academic opportunities not found anywhere else, and a value unmatched by any public university in the nation.

  • richardmitnick 10:14 am on March 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Francesca Maclean, Women in STEM   

    From ANU: Women in STEM – “Engineering student named 2017 Young ACT Woman of the Year” Francesca Maclean 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    8 March 2017

    ANU PhD student Francesca Maclean. Image: Stuart Hay, ANU.

    ANU engineering PhD student Francesca Maclean has been awarded the 2017 Young ACT Woman of the Year for her work to promote gender equity in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) at the University.

    The award was announced as part of celebrations for International Women’s Day, and was one of three ACT Women’s Awards presented by the ACT Minister for Women, Yvette Berry MLA.

    Francesca and fellow student Emily Campbell founded a student-run volunteer organisation called Fifty50, which aims to develop an equitable and inclusive study and work environment, particularly for women.

    Francesca was surprised and delighted to have received the award.

    “It was a really big surprise. It’s great to know that the wider community value the work we’re doing to promote gender equity with Fifty50, and fostering a more inclusive STEM culture generally,” she said.

    Francesca has played a vital role in leading the group to run mentoring programs, workshops and public events, as well as mentoring many undergraduate female students herself.

    The ACT Women’s Awards recognise the achievements of women who have made an outstanding contribution to the lives of women and girls in the Canberra community.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

  • richardmitnick 9:51 am on March 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Australian Broadcast Corporation, , Greta Stephensen, Wide Bay Indigenous student recognised by CSIRO for excelling in STEM, Women in STEM   

    From CSIRO: Women in STEM – “Wide Bay Indigenous student recognised by CSIRO for excelling in STEM” Greta Stephensen 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation


    Australian Broadcast Corporation

    Ross Kay

    Photo: Indigenous student Greta Stephensen receives her award. (ABC Wide Bay: Ross Kay)

    A young Indigenous woman has been recognised by the CSIRO for her passion and pursuit of excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

    Greta Stephensen, from St Mary’s College in Maryborough, received the CSIRO Indigenous STEM Student Award after attending an Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSETS) camp, as well as demonstrating her work on an experiment.

    “The award is about passion for science as an Indigenous student,” Greta said.

    “I had to submit an application with all the things I had done, so that included the camps and the competitions and an [extended experimental investigation] that I had done, that presented my skills and my passion for STEM.”

    Photo: STEM subjects centre around science, technology, engineering and mathematics. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)

    In May Greta will fly to the United States for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair as a guest of the CSIRO, where she will observe competing teams from around the world, including Australia.

    ASSETS program manager Jen Parsons said the importance of diversity in the sciences could not be overstated.

    “We have a lot of knowledge and expertise in our Indigenous communities,” she said.

    “A lot of time the reason why we don’t see good representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is purely because they may not know that opportunities exist, or they may not have those types of aspirations.

    “What we’re doing with the Indigenous STEM awards is showcasing some of these great Indigenous leaders that we do have.”

    Quantum mysteries of the double-slit experiment

    The subject Greta chose for her investigation was one that was originally performed more than 200 years ago but still confounds scientists to this day — the double-slit experiment.

    The experiment shows how light can demonstrate characteristics of both a particle and a wave.

    Photons or matter are shot towards a plate with one narrow slit and a screen behind it.

    On the screen over time the particles arrange in the shape of the narrow slit.

    Access mp4 video here .

    When you introduce a second narrow slit, things get interesting. When the particles are observed or measured, they arrange in the shape of the two narrow slits.

    But when unobserved, the particles arrange in multiple lines, as though the particle waves have interfered with each other.

    “When they’re not observed they create a bunch of lines at the back of the wall, and they think that is due to diffraction, so we chose to do our [experiment] on the diffraction of people,” Greta said.

    “So we set up the experiment and came up with the same results, which is really hard to explain considering scientists still don’t know why the particles are doing that.”

    Encouraging more women into science

    Greta has plans for university study in the future.

    “If I get a good enough OP I’m hoping to apply for the University of Queensland and get into the dual degree of engineering honours and maths, and then I would like to apply for a cadetship with the CSIRO,” she said.

    “If I get that I can work with them all through uni and then after that I don’t know where I’ll go. Anywhere in STEM, NASA maybe.

    “I’m very passionate about STEM, and I don’t think anyone could influence me not to do it.”

    Her advice for any woman considering studying STEM subjects is simple — your perspective is important.

    “I think if you’re a woman and you’re wanting to go into the STEM field then you really need to just try,” Greta said.

    “You really need women and people from diverse backgrounds to go into the workforce.

    It is an idea echoed by Dr Parsons, who adds that broader perspectives can lead to better problem solving.

    “Research shows that when you do have diverse groups you have greater results, you have a diversity of opinion, and you have different ways of looking at problems,” she said.

    “If you have a single type of person working on a problem, they may not look at all the possible angles, but if you do have a mixed group of people they may think of things that you may never have considered.

    “It’s really important not only for women to recognise that it’s a fantastic career opportunity, but also for organisations to see the benefits of having women, and Indigenous women in their organisation.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 9:23 am on March 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , cure cancer, , , Push button, Women in STEM   

    From Paulson: Women in STEM – “Push button, cure cancer” Ph.D. candidates Nabiha Saklayen and Marinna Madrid 

    Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
    John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

    March 7, 2017
    Adam Zewe

    Two Harvard graduate students want to make curing blood cancer or HIV as easy as pressing a button.

    Saklayen and Madrid are excited to move forward with their startup, Cellino. (Photo by Adam Zewe/SEAS Communications)

    Cellino is a spinoff of the nanotechnology research being conducted in the Mazur lab. (Photo by Adam Zewe/SEAS Communications)

    Ph.D. candidates Nabiha Saklayen and Marinna Madrid have launched a startup to develop a simple, push-button device clinicians could use for gene therapy treatments. Their enterprise, Cellino, hopes to commercialize technology being developed in the lab of Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

    The early-stage laboratory spinoff, which the pair launched in November, claimed first prize in the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) Startup Challenge, a pitch-off contest between more than 40 startups from around the world. In addition to winning $10,000 cash and $5,000 in optics products, Saklayen and Madrid were lauded for the impressive business potential of their startup.

    Their technique uses laser-activated nanostructures to deliver gene therapies directly into cells. When a laser is shined onto the nanostructures, the intense hot spots can open transient pores in nearby cells, Saklayen explained.

    “These pores are open long enough for any cargo that is around in the surrounding liquid to diffuse into the cell, and then the pores seal,” she said. “It is sort of like a magical opening where we can deliver molecules into the cell without damaging it, in a very targeted, quick way.”

    Developing effective intracellular delivery methods is a problem that has plagued biologists for decades, partly because the plasma membrane that surrounds a cell is selectively permeable and bars most molecules from entering.

    “Biologists have tried a number of different methods to do this, including viruses and chemical and physical processes, but none of them have been consistent enough and safe enough to be used reliably in treatments for blood disease,” said Madrid.

    The reliability of the nanostructure method developed at SEAS would give it a leg up over current practices. The biggest hurdle Madrid and Saklayen face now is translating the Mazur lab’s technology into a scalable, turnkey device.

    Their goal is to package the technology into a shoebox-sized device that contains everything a user needs—the laser, substrates, optical components, and computer interface. A user would put a patient’s cells and the nanofabricated chips into the device and use a touch screen to treat the cells, which could then be implanted into the patient.

    According to the Cellino team, those cells could be used to treat a number of different blood diseases, including HIV and blood cancers. By delivering gene-editing molecules into a patient’s hematopoietic stem cells, for instance, a clinician could repopulate a patient’s bone marrow with HIV-resistant cells. To treat cancers that affect the blood, the technology could be used to weaponize a patient’s T-cells, and then return them to the blood stream to attack the cancer.

    “What I find really exciting about this project is it is really pushing the barriers of what is the norm,” Saklayen said. “People talk about curing blood cancer all the time, but we have this unique opportunity to really enable that. That is the most inspiring part—we have an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. That is what drives me everyday to keep working hard.”

    As they move forward with Cellino, Saklayen and Madrid are working closely with Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), which has filed patent applications to secure the lab’s intellectual property and develop a viable commercialization strategy for the technology. Alan Gordon, a Director of Business Development in OTD, has been advising the team on how to develop a business plan and launch the company.

    After graduating from the Ph.D. program this spring, Saklayen will pursue Cellino full time. Madrid plans to graduate early so she can soon focus solely on the company, too. The co-founders have applied to a number of startup incubators and plan to enter additional pitch competitions to gain more validation for both their technology and their business plan.

    “There is definitely a production challenge when you talk about making things at a larger scale, but we are making good progress,” Madrid said. “The technology is very powerful because it is so streamlined. Now it is all about packaging.”

    Mazur is proud of his students’ accomplishments and excited for the potential of their startup. “This work is really transformative and opens the door to new therapies for currently incurable diseases,” he said.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    Through research and scholarship, the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) will create collaborative bridges across Harvard and educate the next generation of global leaders. By harnessing the power of engineering and applied sciences we will address the greatest challenges facing our society.

    Specifically, that means that SEAS will provide to all Harvard College students an introduction to and familiarity with engineering and technology as this is essential knowledge in the 21st century.

    Moreover, our concentrators will be immersed in the liberal arts environment and be able to understand the societal context for their problem solving, capable of working seamlessly withothers, including those in the arts, the sciences, and the professional schools. They will focus on the fundamental engineering and applied science disciplines for the 21st century; as we will not teach legacy 20th century engineering disciplines.

    Instead, our curriculum will be rigorous but inviting to students, and be infused with active learning, interdisciplinary research, entrepreneurship and engineering design experiences. For our concentrators and graduate students, we will educate “T-shaped” individuals – with depth in one discipline but capable of working seamlessly with others, including arts, humanities, natural science and social science.

    To address current and future societal challenges, knowledge from fundamental science, art, and the humanities must all be linked through the application of engineering principles with the professions of law, medicine, public policy, design and business practice.

    In other words, solving important issues requires a multidisciplinary approach.

    With the combined strengths of SEAS, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools, Harvard is ideally positioned to both broadly educate the next generation of leaders who understand the complexities of technology and society and to use its intellectual resources and innovative thinking to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

    Ultimately, we will provide to our graduates a rigorous quantitative liberal arts education that is an excellent launching point for any career and profession.

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