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  • richardmitnick 3:16 pm on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Meenakshi Narain, , , , Women in STEM   

    From Brown University: Women in STEM- “Brown physicist elected to represent U.S. in Large Hadron Collider experiment” Meenakshi Narain 

    Brown University
    From Brown University

    July 18, 2018
    Kevin Stacey

    Meenakshi Narain

    Meenakshi Narain will lead the collaboration board for U.S. institutions participating the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, an experiment pushing the frontiers of modern particle physics.

    Brown University physics professor Meenakshi Narain has been tapped to chair the collaboration board of U.S. institutions in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, one of two large-scale experiments happening at the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator headquartered in Geneva.

    CERN CMS Higgs Event

    CERN/CMS Detector

    The CMS experiment is an international collaboration of 4,000 particle physicists, engineers, computer scientists, technicians and students from approximately 200 institutes and universities around the world. With more than 1,200 participants, the U.S. CMS collaboration is the largest national group in the global experiment. As collaboration board chair, Narain will represent U.S. institutions within the broader collaboration, as well as with U.S. funding agencies. The board also plays a key role in shaping the vision and direction of the U.S. collaboration.

    “I’m honored that my colleagues from the 50 U.S. institutions that collaborate with the CMS Experiment have chosen me to represent them,” Narain said. “I see this position as an opportunity to help U.S. CMS to become a more inclusive community and to enable all young scientists to contribute to their full potential to CMS and find rewarding career opportunities in academia and industry.”

    Narain and other Brown physicists working with the CMS experiment played key roles in the discovery in 2012 of the Higgs Boson, which at the time was the final missing piece in the Standard Model of particle physics. After the Higgs, the CMS experiment has been searching for particles beyond the Standard Model, including a potential candidate particle for dark matter, the mysterious stuff thought to account for a majority of matter in the universe.

    Narain says part of her job is to maintain the research synergy created by the numerous U.S. scientists and institutions involved in the collaboration as they analyze data from the collider’s latest run. At the same time, the experiment must also prepare for the next stage of the Large Hadron Collider program slated to start around 2026. The next stage involves beam intensities five times higher the current level and 10 times more data than has been acquired to date. That will require parts of the CMS detector to be rebuilt.

    “We need the resources to maintain the detector during the current run as well as to start building the upgrades,” Narain said. “I will work with funding agencies to communicate what we’ll need to both maintain our involvement in the data analysis and play a leading role in the upgrade of the detector.”

    Narain says that as the first woman to chair the collaboration board, she plans to work toward cultivating more diversity in what is currently the largest physics collaboration in the U.S.

    “With this comes the opportunity to promote women and other underrepresented minorities to have the opportunity to develop their careers to their fullest potential,” she said. “I hope that I will be able to improve our community in the U.S. and in CMS in general to be more inclusive during my two-year term.”

    Narain joined the Brown faculty in 2007 and has worked at the Large Hadron Collider together with the Brown team that includes professors David Cutts, Ulrich Heintz and Greg Landsberg. She was also a member of the DZero experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, where she played a prominent role in the discoveries of the top quark and the anti-top quark, two fundamental constituents of matter. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the author of more than 500 journal articles.

    See the full article here .


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    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

  • richardmitnick 1:51 pm on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , EXPRES spectrograph on the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory Flagstaff AZ USA, Women in STEM   

    From Many Worlds: Women in STEM “A New Frontier for Exoplanet Hunting” Debra Fischer Quite a Story 

    NASA NExSS bloc


    Many Words icon

    From Many Worlds

    Marc Kaufman

    The spectrum from the newly-assembled EXtreme PREcision Spectrometer (EXPRES) shines on Yale astronomy professor Debra Fischer, who is principal investigator of the project. The stated goal of EXPRES is to find many Earth-size planets via the radial velocity method — something that has never been done. (Ryan Blackman/Yale)

    Radial Velocity Method-Las Cumbres Observatory

    Radial velocity Image via SuperWasp http:// http://www.superwasp.org/exoplanets.htm

    Yale EXtreme PREcision Spectrometer (EXPRES)

    Yale-designed instrument known as EXPRES, which is being installed on the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona

    Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory, Happy Jack AZ, USA, Altitude 2,360 m (7,740 ft)

    The first exoplanets were all found using the radial velocity method of measuring the “wobble” of a star — movement caused by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet.

    Radial velocity has been great for detecting large exoplanets relatively close to our solar system, for assessing their mass and for finding out how long it takes for the planet to orbit its host star.

    But so far the technique has not been able to identify and confirm many Earth-sized planets, a primary goal of much planet hunting. The wobble caused by the presence of a planet that size has been too faint to be detected by current radial velocity instruments and techniques.

    However, a new generation of instruments is coming on line with the goal of bringing the radial velocity technique into the small planet search. To do that, the new instruments, together with their telescopes. must be able to detect a sun wobble of 10 to 20 centimeters per second. That’s quite an improvement on the current detection limit of about one meter per second.

    At least three of these ultra high precision spectrographs (or sometimes called spectrometers) are now being developed or deployed. The European Southern Observatory’s ESPRESSO instrument has begun work in Chile; Pennsylvania State University’s NEID spectrograph (with NASA funding) is in development for installation at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona; and the just-deployed EXPRES spectrograph put together by a team led by Yale University astronomers (with National Science Foundation funding) is in place on the Discovery Channel Telescope at the Lowell Observatory outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.

    Espresso Layout



    Penn State NEID spectrographic instrument schematic for the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak, AZ, USA Altitude 2,096 m 6,877 ft

    NOAO WIYN 3.5 meter telescope at Kitt Peak, AZ, USA, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

    The principal investigator of EXPRES, Debra Fischer, attended the recent University of Cambridge Exoplanets2 conference with some of her team, and there I had the opportunity to talk with them. We discussed the decade-long history of the instrument, how and why Fischer thinks it can break that 1-meter-per-second barrier, and what it took to get it into attached and working.

    This animation shows how astronomers use very precise spectrographs to find exoplanets. As the planet orbits its gravitational pull causes the parent star to move back and forth. This tiny radial motion shifts the observed spectrum of the star by a correspondingly small amount because of the Doppler shift. With super-sensitive spectrographs the shifts can be measured and used to infer details of a planet’s mass and orbit. ESO/L. Calçada)

    One of the earliest and most difficult obstacles to the development of EXPRES, Fischer told me, was that many in the astronomy community did not believe it could work.

    Their view is that precision below that one meter per second of host star movement cannot be measured accurately. Stars have flares, sunspots and a generally constant churning, and many argue that the turbulent nature of stars creates too much “noise” for a precise measurement below that one-meter-per-second level.

    Yet European scientists were moving ahead with their ESPRESSO ultra high precision instrument aiming for that 10-centimeter-per-second mark, and they had a proven record of accomplishing what they set out to do with spectrographs.

    In addition to the definite competiti0n going on, Fisher also felt that radial velocity astronomers needed to make that leap to measuring small planets “to stay in the game” over the long haul.

    She arrived at Yale in 2009 and led an effort to build a spectrograph so stable and precise that it could find an Earth-like planet. To make clear that goal, the instrument is at the center of a project called “100 Earths.”

    Building on experience gained from developing two earlier spectrographs, Fischer and colleagues began the difficult and complicated process of getting backers for EXPRES, of finding a telescope observatory that would house it (The Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell) and in the end adapting the instrument to the telescope.

    And now comes the actual hard part: finding those Earth-like planets.

    As Fischer described it: “We know from {the Kepler Telescope mission} that most stars have small rocky planets orbiting them. But Kepler looked at stars very far away, and we’ll be looking at stars much, much closer to us.”

    Nonetheless, those small planets will still be extremely difficult to detect due to all that activity on the host suns.

    The 4.3 meter Discovery Channel Telescope in the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. The photons collected by the telescope are delivered via optical fiber to the EXPRES instrument. (Boston University)

    Spectrographs such as EXPRES are instruments astronomers use to study light emitted by planets, stars, and galaxies.

    They are connected to either a ground-based or orbital telescope and they stretch out or split a beam of light into a spectrum of frequencies. That spectrum is then analyzed to determine an object’s speed, direction, chemical composition, or mass. With planets, the work involves determining (via the Doppler shift seen in the spectrum) whether and how much a sun is moving to and away from Earth due to the pull of a planet.

    As Fisher and EXPRES postdoctoral fellow John Brewer explained it, the signal (noise) coming from the turbulence of the star is detectably different from the signal made by the wobble of a star due to the presence of an orbiting planet.

    While these differences — imprinted in the spectrum captured by the spectrograph — have been known for some time, current spectrographs haven’t had sufficient resolving power to actually detect the difference.

    If all works as planned for the EXPRES, Espresso and NEID spectrographs, they will have that necessary resolving power and so can, in effect, filter out the noise from the sun and identify what can only come from a planet-caused wobble. If they succeed, they provide a major new pathway to for astronomers to search for Earth-sized worlds.

    “This is my dream machine, the one I always wanted to build,” Fischer said. “I had a belief that if we went to higher resolution, we could disentangle (the stellar noise from the planet-caused wobble.)

    “I could still be wrong, but I definitely think that trying was the right choice to make.”

    This image shows spectral data from the first light last December of the ESPRESSO instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. The light from a star has been dispersed into its component colors. This view has been colorised to indicate how the wavelengths change across the image, but these are not exactly the colors that would be seen visually. (ESO/ESPRESSO)

    While Fischer and others have very high hopes for EXPRES, it is not the sort of big ticket project that is common in astronomy. Instead, it was developed and built primarily with a $6 million grant from National Science Foundation.

    It was completed on schedule by the Yale team, though the actual delivering of EXPRES to Arizona and connecting it to the telescope turned out to be a combination of hair-raising and edifying.

    Twice, she said, she drove from New Haven to Flagstaff with parts of the instrument; each trip in a Penske rental truck and with her son Ben helping out.

    And then when the instrumentation was in process late last year, Fischer and her team learned that funds for the scientists and engineers working on that process had come to an end.

    She was desperate, and sent a long-shot email to Francesco Pepe of University of Geneva, the lead scientist and wizard builder of several European spectrographs, including ESPRESSO. In theory, he and his instrument — which went into operation late last year at the ESO Very Large Telescope in Chile — will be competing with EXPRES for discoveries and acknowledgement.

    Nonetheless, Pepe heard Fischer out and understood the predicament she was in. ESPRESSO had been installed and so he was able to contact an associate who freed up two instrumentation specialists who flew to Flagstaff to finish the work. It was, Fischer said, an act of collegial generosity and scientific largesse that she will never forget.

    Fischer is at the Lowell observatory now, using the Arizona monsoon as a time to clean up many details before the team returns to full-time observing. She write about her days in an EXPRES blog. Earlier, in March after the instrumentation had been completed and observing had commenced, she wrote this:

    “Years of work went into EXPRES and as I look at this instrument, I am surprised that I ever had the audacity to start this project. The moment of truth starts now. It will take us a few more months of collecting and analyzing data to know if we made the right design decisions and I feel both humbled and hopeful. I’m proud of the fact that our design decisions were driven by evidence gleaned from many years of experience. But did I forget anything?”

    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 12:50 pm on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Francesca Toma, Johanna Eichhorn, , , Splitting Water: Nanoscale Imaging Yields Key Insights, Women in STEM   

    From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab: Women in STEM- “Splitting Water: Nanoscale Imaging Yields Key Insights” Francesca Toma and Johanna Eichhorn 

    Berkeley Logo

    From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

    July 18, 2018
    Julie Chao
    (510) 486-6491

    Berkeley Lab researchers Francesca Toma (left) and Johanna Eichhorn used a photoconductive atomic force microscope to better understand materials for artificial photosynthesis. (Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab)

    In the quest to realize artificial photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel – just as plants do – researchers need to not only identify materials to efficiently perform photoelectrochemical water splitting, but also to understand why a certain material may or may not work. Now scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have pioneered a technique that uses nanoscale imaging to understand how local, nanoscale properties can affect a material’s macroscopic performance.

    Their study, Nanoscale Imaging of Charge Carrier Transport in Water Splitting Anodes, has just been published in Nature Communications. The lead researchers were Johanna Eichhorn and Francesca Toma of Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division.

    “This technique correlates the material’s morphology to its functionality, and gives insights on the charge transport mechanism, or how the charges move inside the material, at the nanoscale,” said Toma, who is also a researcher in the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a Department of Energy Innovation Hub.

    Artificial photosynthesis seeks to produce energy-dense fuel using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide as inputs. The advantage of such an approach is that it does not compete against food stocks and would produce no or low greenhouse gas emissions. A photoelectrochemical water splitting system requires specialized semiconductors that use sunlight to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

    Bismuth vanadate has been identified as a promising material for a photoanode, which provides charges to oxidize water in a photoelectrochemical cell. “This material is a case example in which efficiency should be theoretically good, but in experimental tests you actually observe very poor efficiency,” Eichhorn said. “The reasons for that are not completely understood.”

    The researchers used photoconductive atomic force microscopy to map the current at every point of the sample with high spatial resolution. This technique has already been used to analyze local charge transport and optoelectronic properties of solar cell materials but is not known to have been used to understand the charge carrier transport limitations at the nanoscale in photoelectrochemical materials.

    Eichhorn and Toma worked with scientists at the Molecular Foundry, a nanoscale science research facility at Berkeley Lab, on these measurements through the Foundry’s user program. They found that there were differences in performance related to the nanoscale morphology of the material.

    “We discovered that the way charges are utilized is not homogeneous over the whole sample, but rather, there’s heterogeneity,” Eichhorn said. “Those differences in performance may account for its macroscopic performance – the overall output of the sample – when we perform water splitting.”

    To understand this characterization, Toma gives the example of a solar panel. “Let’s say the panel has 22 percent efficiency,” she said. “But can you tell at the nanoscale, at each point in the panel, that it will give you 22 percent efficiency? This technique enables you to say, yes or no, specifically for photoelectrochemical materials. If the answer is no, it means there are less active spots on your material. In the best case it just decreases your total efficiency, but if there are more complex processes, your efficiency can be decreased by a lot.”

    The improved understanding of how the bismuth vanadate is working will also allow researchers to synthesize new materials that may be able to drive the same reaction more efficiently. This study builds on previous research by Toma and others, in which she was able to analyze and predict the mechanism that defines (photo)chemical stability of a photoelectrochemical material.

    Toma said these results put scientists much closer to achieving efficient artificial photosynthesis. “Now we know how to measure local photocurrent in these materials, which have very low conductivity,” she said. “The next step is to put all of this in a liquid electrolyte and do exactly the same thing. We have the tools. Now we know how to interpret the results, and how to analyze them, which is an important first step for moving forward.”

    Other co-authors of the study were Christoph Kastl, Jason Cooper, Adam Schwartzberg, and Ian Sharp (now at the Technical University of Munich) of Berkeley Lab; and Dominik Ziegler of Scuba Probe Technologies, a startup company and Molecular Foundry user. The research was funded by Berkeley Lab’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program (LDRD). The Molecular Foundry is a Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility.

    See the full article here .

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    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California

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  • richardmitnick 9:02 am on June 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , DLR German Aerospace Center, , LRZ – Leibniz Supercomputing Centre Garching Germany, PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC, TUM SuperUMC IBM Linux super computer, Women in STEM, Xiaoxiang Zhu   

    From Science Node: Women in Stem- “The woman who maps the world” Xiaoxiang Zhu 

    Science Node bloc
    From Science Node

    13 Jun, 2018
    Alisa Alering

    Xiaoxiang Zhu, (image: U. Benz / TUM)
    Assistant Professor, Signal Processing in Earth Observation
    Department, Civil, Geo and Environmental Engineering

    DLR Earth Observation Center

    What can you discover about the earth from space?

    A lot, says Xiaoxiang Zhu, Head of Signal Processing in Earth Observation at the Technical University of Munich and head of department of EO Data Science at the German Aerospace Center, who uses satellite remote sensing to create data-rich topographical maps of our entire planet.

    Xiaoxiang Zhu received the 2018 Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her work in remote sensing and 3D tomography. Additional footage courtesy PRACE and Vision Consultancy.

    Zhu is the 2018 winner of the PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC. Initiated in 2016, the award recognizes an early-career female scientist working in Europe who has had an outstanding impact on HPC research and who provides a role model for other women beginning careers in HPC.

    Combining data from Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme, and from the German Aerospace Center, Zhu and her team derive maps on a global scale that will observe changes to cities over time, create 3D models of buildings and their functions, and also provide the first-ever transparent estimation of population density.

    ESA Sentinels (Copernicus)

    “In Europe, we have a very well-mapped environment. But in developing countries, particularly in areas with informal settlements and slums, the authorities don’t have access to basic information,” Zhu says.

    “Lack of data means it’s difficult to scale fundamental infrastructure like health care, clean water, and education according to actual population density,” she adds. “We are about to close this gap between nations and take the first step to provide this kind of information.”

    Global processing of petabytes of geospatial data requires big computing power. Working at a resolution of approximately ten meters means high-performance computing is absolutely essential. Since 2012, Zhu has used over 46 million core hours on the SuperMUC computer at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre.

    TUM SuperUMC IBM Linux super computer

    Global processing. To date, Zhu has used over 46 million core hours on the 6.8 PetaFLOPs SuperMUC supercomputer. Courtesy Technical University of Munich.

    LRZ – Leibniz Supercomputing Centre Garching, Germany

    “From the beginning, the data I/O and data storage alone required support from HPCs. When we get the data ready to process, we need supercomputers to be able to get results on a global or even city scale,” Zhu says. “And then, in order to convey our results to the public, the visualization of the data will again need HPC.”

    But, Zhu emphasizes, computation is only one aspect of her research. In addition to difficulties with storing such vast amounts of data, processing the satellite imagery presents its own challenges. Images must be modified to remove clouds and scientists must figure out how to fuse together images from different sources.

    “If we could have the computational details simplified,” Zhu says, “then our focus could be only on trying to improve the algorithm to reach the best accuracy. What I’m trying to do is better understand global organization and problems like climate change.”

    Combining passions for success

    About her decision to pursue a career in science, Zhu says, “When I was very young, I saw a picture of Earth taken from space and I thought ‘Wow, that’s really fantastic!’”

    But she’s also interested in mathematic models, and likes to work with people from different fields. “In earth observation, a lot of mathematics are involved, and we deal with data taken from space,” she says. “My team is very interdisciplinary—physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, urban geographic scientists—we all work together. This is just what I wanted.”

    Zhu believes that winning the award will help advance her connections in the HPC field and further her own research. But she says that accepting the award also brings a responsibility to assist other women working in science and HPC.

    For Zhu, this means trying to recruit more female team members, which she admits is sometimes difficult because there are fewer female candidates. She is also involved in groups that work to promote the participation of more women in all scientific fields.

    “Winning this award means that I should be a disseminator, who speaks for more women in HPC,” she says. “I’m very delighted to do this.”

    See the full article here .

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    Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

    “We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

    In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

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  • richardmitnick 11:52 am on June 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Halina Abramowicz, , , , , Women in STEM   

    From Symmetry: Women in STEM-“Q&A: Planning Europe’s physics future” Halina Abramowicz 

    Symmetry Mag
    From Symmetry

    Lauren Biron

    Artwork by Sandbox Studio, Chicago

    Halina Abramowicz leads the group effort to decide the future of European particle physics.

    Physics projects are getting bigger, more global, more collaborative and more advanced than ever—with long lead times for complex physics machines. That translates into more international planning to set the course for the future.

    In 2014, the United States particle physics community set its priorities for the coming years using recommendations from the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel, or P5.

    FNAL Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel -P5

    In 2020, the European community will refresh its vision with the European Strategy Update for Particle Physics.

    The first European strategy launched in 2006 and was revisited in 2013. In 2019, teams will gather input through planning meetings in preparation for the next refresh.

    Halina Abramowicz, a physicist who works on the ATLAS experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and the FCAL research and development collaboration through Tel Aviv University, is the chair of the massive undertaking. During a visit to Fermilab to provide US-based scientists with an overview of the process, she sat down with Symmetry writer Lauren Biron to discuss the future of physics in Europe.

    LB:What do you hope to achieve with the next European Strategy Update for Particle Physics?
    HA: Europe is a very good example of the fact that particle physics is very international, because of the size of the infrastructure that we need to progress, and because of the financial constraints.

    The community of physicists working on particle physics is very large; Europe has probably about 10,000 physicists. They have different interests, different expertise, and somehow, we have to make sure to have a very balanced program, such that the community is satisfied, and that at the same time it remains attractive, dynamic, and pushing the science forward. We have to take into account the interests of various national programs, universities, existing smaller laboratories, CERN, and make sure that there is a complementarity, a spread of activities—because that’s the way to keep the field attractive, that is, to be able to answer more questions faster.

    LB: How do you decide when to revisit the European plan for particle physics?
    HA: Once the Higgs was discovered, it became clear that it was time to revisit the strategy, and the first update happened in 2013. The recommendation was to vigorously pursue the preparations for the high-luminosity upgrade of the [Large Hadron Collider].

    The high-luminosity LHC program was formally approved by the CERN Council in September 2016. By the end of 2018, the LHC experiments will have collected almost a factor of 10 more data. It will be a good time to reflect on the latest results, to think about mid-term plans, to discuss what are the different options to consider next and their possible timelines, and to ponder what would make sense as we look into the long-term future.

    CERN HL-LHC map

    Machines, Projects and Experiments operating at CERN LHC and CLIC at three levels of power

    The other aspect which is very important is the fact that the process is called “strategy,” rather than “roadmap,” because it is a discussion not only of the scientific goals and associated projects, but also of how to achieve them. The strategy basically is about everything that the community should be doing in order to achieve the roadmap.

    LB: What’s the difference between a strategy and a roadmap?
    HA: The roadmap is about prioritizing the scientific goals and about the way to address them, while the strategy covers also all the different aspects to consider in order to make the program a success. For example, outreach is part of the strategy. We have to make sure we are doing something that society knows about and is interested in. Education: making sure we share our knowledge in a way which is understandable. Detector developments. Technology transfer. Work with industry. Making sure the byproducts of our activities can also be used for society. It’s a much wider view.

    LB: What is your role in this process?
    HA: The role of the secretary of the strategy is to organize the process and to chair the discussions so that there is an orderly process. At this stage, we have one year to prepare all the elements of the process that are needed—i.e. to collect the input. In the near future we will have to nominate people for the physics preparatory group that will help us organize the open symposium, which is basically the equivalent of a town-hall meeting.

    The hope is that if it’s well organized and we can reach a consensus, especially on the most important aspects, the outcome will come from the community. We have to make sure through interaction with the European community and the worldwide community that we aren’t forgetting anything. The more inputs we have, the better. It is very important that the process be open.

    The first year we debate the physics goals and try to organize the community around a possible plan. Then comes the process that is maybe a little shorter than a year, during which the constraints related to funding and interests of various national communities have to be integrated. I’m of course also hoping that we will get, as an input to the strategy discussions, some national roadmaps. It’s the role of the chair to keep this process flowing.

    LB: Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to serve as the chair for European Strategy Update?
    HA: That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I did my PhD in 1978; I was one of the youngest PhDs of Warsaw University, thus I’ve spent 40 years in the field. That means that I have participated in at least five large experiments and at least two or three smaller projects. I have a very broad view—not necessarily a deep view—but a broad view of what’s happening.

    LB: There are major particle physics projects going on around the world, like DUNE in the US and Belle II in Japan. How much will the panel look beyond Europe to coordinate activities, and how will it incorporate feedback from scientists on those projects?

    FNAL LBNF/DUNE from FNAL to SURF, Lead, South Dakota, USA

    KEK Belle 2 detector, in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan

    HA: This is one of the issues that was very much discussed during my visit. We shouldn’t try to organize the whole world—in fact, a little bit of competition is very healthy. And complementarity is also very important.

    At the physics-level discussions, we’ll make sure that we have representatives from the United States and other countries so we are provided with all the information. As I was discussing with many people here, if there are ideas, experiments or existing collaborations which already include European partners, then of course, there is no issue [because the European partners will provide input to the strategy].

    LB: How do you see Europe working with Asia, in particular China, which has ambitions for a major collider?
    HA: Collaboration is very important, and at the global level we have to find the right balance between competition, which is stimulating, and complementarity. So we’re very much hoping to have one representative from China in the physics preparatory group, because China seems to have ambitions to realize some of the projects which have been discussed. And I’m not talking only about the equivalent of [the Future Circular Collider]; they are also thinking about an [electron-positron] circular collider, and there are also other projects that could potentially be realized in China. I also think that if the Chinese community decides on one of these projects, it may need contributions from around the world. Funding is an important aspect for any future project, but it is also important to reach a critical mass of expertise, especially for large research infrastructures.

    LB: This is a huge effort. What are some of the benefits and challenges of meeting with physicists from across Europe to come up with a single plan?
    HA: The benefits are obvious. The more input we have, the fuller the picture we have, and the more likely we are to converge on something that satisfies maybe not everybody, but at least the majority—which I think is very important for a good feeling in the community.

    The challenges are also obvious. On one hand, we rely very much on individuals and their creative ideas. These are usually the people who also happen to be the big pushers and tend to generate most controversies. So we will have to find a balance to keep the process interesting but constructive. There is no doubt that there will be passionate and exciting discussions that will need to happen; this is part of the process. There would be no point in only discussing issues on which we all agree.

    The various physics communities, in the ideal situation, get organized. We have the neutrino community, [electron-positron collider] community, precision measurements community, the axion community—and here you can see all kinds of divisions. But if these communities can get organized and come up with what one could call their own white paper, or what I would call a 10-page proposal, of how various projects could be lined up, and what would be the advantages or disadvantages of such an approach, then the job will be very easy.

    LB: And that input is what you’re aiming to get by December 2018?
    HA: Yes, yes.

    LB: How far does the strategy look out?
    HA: It doesn’t have an end date. This is why one of the requests for the input is for people to estimate the time scale—how much time would be needed to prepare and to realize the project. This will allow us to build a timeline.

    We have at present a large project that is approved: the high-luminosity LHC. This will keep an important part of our community busy for the next 10 to 20 years. But will the entire community remain fully committed for the whole duration of the program if there are no major discoveries?

    I’m not sure that we can be fed intellectually by one project. I think we need more than one. There’s a diversity program—diversity in the sense of trying to maximize the physics output by asking questions which can be answered with the existing facilities. Maybe this is the time to pause and diversify while waiting for the next big step.

    LB: Do you see any particular topics that you think are likely to come up in the discussion?
    HA: There are many questions on the table. For example, should we go for a proton-proton or an [electron-positron] program? There are, for instance, voices advocating for a dedicated Higgs factory, which would allow us to make measurements of the Higgs properties to a precision that would be extremely hard to achieve at the LHC. So we will have to discuss if the next machine should be an [electron-positron] machine and check whether it is realistic and on what time scale.

    One of the subjects that I’m pretty sure will come up as well is about pushing the accelerating technologies. Are we getting to the limit of what we can do with the existing technologies, and is it time to think about something else?

    To learn more about the European Strategy Update for Particle Physics, watch Abramowicz’s colloquium at Fermilab.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 8:27 pm on June 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Australia in Space, , Kimberley Clayfield, Women in STEM   

    From CSIROscope: Women in STEM: “Fostering space start-ups to get us to the stars | Kimberley Clayfield” 

    CSIRO bloc

    From CSIROscope

    12 June 2018
    Tanya Griffiths

    Dr Kimberley Clayfield, our Executive Manager of Space Sciences and Technology.

    As Australia’s national science agency, we have a long and accomplished history in supporting and developing the space sector. Now, with Australia starting its journey to build a national space agency, we’d like to introduce you to some of our experts in the sector. From awards to supporting space start-ups, Dr Kimberley Clayfield has dedicated her career to space.

    When Kimberley Clayfield began reading science fiction novels as a kid, it wasn’t just the stories that drew her in. Instead, it was a sense of wonder.

    “I was fascinated by the vast unknown expanses of space. The excitement of using cutting-edge technologies to explore undiscovered aspects of the Universe has never left me,” she says.

    It’s a fascination Kimberley has managed to channel into a successful career. So successful, in fact, that in 2014 she was awarded the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Lawrence Sperry Award, an honour bestowed by the international aerospace sector’s largest professional association. She was the first Australian recipient of the award; the list of previous winners includes a former Apollo Mission Controller, a previous NASA Chief Technologist and the first American woman in space.

    Awards aside, Kimberley’s aerospace career has been broad, spanning national space policy development, Earth observation, space situational awareness, the international Square Kilometre Array radio-telescope project, and satellite technology development programs.

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    “CSIRO has developed advanced methodologies for using satellite data in a huge variety of ways,” she says, noting projects like a collaboration with Geoscience Australia on the Sentinel Hotspots live bushfire tracking application, or the development of Pastures from Space, which helps Australian farmers optimise their pasture productivity and improve the feed management of livestock.

    Today, as our Executive Manager of Space Sciences and Technology, Kimberley’s role combines space strategy, program management and technology development. She’s also actively involved in supporting Australia’s burgeoning space industry, and recently concluded a three-year term as Chair of Engineers Australia’s National Committee on Space Engineering.

    “It’s a really exciting time of growth across the sector” she says.

    One of those growth areas is the field of space start-ups. Five years ago there were perhaps a handful of space start-ups in Australia. Now there are dozens, including Cuberider, Fleet Space, FluroSat, Gilmour Space Technologies, Myriota, Neumann Space and Saber Astronautics.

    “Australia’s space start-ups have raised over $30m in venture capital over the past 18 months, and are continuing to grow.”

    Given that space start-ups face both business and technology development challenges, Kimberley has been involved in fostering the growth of space start-ups through increased collaboration.

    “We started with a workshop focused on building closer R&D connections between CSIRO and the emerging new space industry. This stimulated a lot of interest and we have recently followed up with another workshop aimed at fostering broader collaborations between space start-ups, SMEs and the key stakeholders across the wider Australian space sector.

    Kimberley finds time to focus on another collaboration, this time for the Defence Materials Technology Centre.

    The independent not-for-profit organisation operates collaborative innovation programs in the Australian defence and national security context. Kimberley is Program Leader of the recently established High Altitude Sensor Systems Program, currently a portfolio of four projects focused on the development of new sensor systems and related technologies for small satellites. Each project team includes partners from both the research sector and industry. While the results will assist Defence with its future space capabilities, civilian benefits will also follow.

    “All of these projects will advance the Australian space industry and the development of sovereign space capabilities for Australia,” says Kimberley.

    It is these types of projects where space technology can assist with many of the challenges we face in Australia, including climate change mitigation, environmental management, agricultural biosecurity plus societal benefits.

    Kimberley is also keen for the education sector to embrace a deeper level of involvement in space sciences.

    “We need to actively engage Australia’s young talent in space activities through STEM outreach. Fostering and nurturing the ideas and energy that the next generation can bring to the sector is key to Australia’s success,” she says.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

    So what can we expect these new radio projects to discover? We have no idea, but history tells us that they are almost certain to deliver some major surprises.

    Making these new discoveries may not be so simple. Gone are the days when astronomers could just notice something odd as they browse their tables and graphs.

    Nowadays, astronomers are more likely to be distilling their answers from carefully-posed queries to databases containing petabytes of data. Human brains are just not up to the job of making unexpected discoveries in these circumstances, and instead we will need to develop “learning machines” to help us discover the unexpected.

    With the right tools and careful insight, who knows what we might find.

    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 10:05 am on May 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Where are we?, Women in STEM   

    From Stanford University: Women in STEM? “How Technology Companies Alienate Women During Recruitment” 

    Stanford University Name
    From Stanford University


    The problem isn’t just the pipeline. Companies struggle to attract women through bad recruiting practices.

    New research shows how companies recruit women to tech jobs can be problematic. | Reuters/Rick Wilking

    Much of the debate about the paucity of women in technology focuses on the pipeline problem: how to get young schoolgirls interested in science and math. But what happens when girls do elect to study STEM fields? Why aren’t many women with technical qualifications moving into STEM-related careers?

    New research [Sage Journals] suggests that how technology companies recruit candidates during on-campus information sessions might play a role in dissuading women from the jobs.

    Researchers Shelley Correll, a professor by courtesy at Stanford Graduate School of Business and head of Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, and Alison Wynn, a postdoctoral researcher at the institute, focused their attention on these job information sessions to see how recruiters engage prospective employees on a West Coast college campus. The researchers sent a team of observers to 84 sessions where 66 companies recruited for technical roles, mainly as entry-level engineers.

    While these sessions, common to all elite universities, welcome both men and women, the researchers found that companies missed opportunities to draw women in and often actually pushed them away instead. The result is that women who hold or are about to graduate with computer science, engineering, or other quantitative degrees can be deterred from tech jobs.

    Gender Imbalance

    In the sessions, the researchers found, presenters often peppered their remarks with references to geek culture favorites like Star Trek and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, focused conversation on only the highly technical aspects of the job, or referred to high school coding experience. These topics often excluded women, who on average join the field after high school and can feel excluded from the images depicted in geek culture. Also, men overwhelmingly led the sessions, and when companies sent female employees, their roles most often consisted of discussing company culture or setting up food in the back of the room.

    “Through gender-imbalanced presenter roles, geek culture references, overt use of gender stereotypes, and other gendered speech and actions, representatives may puncture the pipeline, lessening the interest of women at the point of recruitment into technology careers,” the researchers write.

    There were other red flags. At some of the recruiting sessions the researchers attended, they were surprised to hear presenters referencing subjects like pornography and prostitution in their remarks, often when joking. Unprepared presenters, particularly men, were more likely to make inappropriate jokes.

    “A lot of the worst content came when the presenter was speaking off-the-cuff comments, trying to be relatable to students and funny,” Correll says. “You wouldn’t want to take a very talented woman who’s getting her degree in computer science and is coming to an info session for your company and do things like this. It’s just counterproductive.”

    Both large and small companies showed the same patterns of lauding geeky, fraternity-house culture, although big firms’ sessions were less egregious. The researchers also noticed some improvement when company sessions included videos. Videos were more likely to be vetted for questionable content by companies of all sizes.

    The overall effects of these patterns were noticeable: Female students tended to ask fewer questions than their male counterparts, and some left the sessions early.

    Finding Solutions

    There are ways for companies to fight this problem, the researchers say. Among their suggestions:

    Bring along female engineers as part of the recruiting team. Have them present core technical content during the event, not just set up the refreshments, pass out T-shirts, or speak about company culture.
    Feature the company’s technical work in a way that emphasizes its real-world impact, rather than describing the engineering staff as a group of people who sit in a darkened room all day. While some consider this the definition of hard-working tech-world glory, female students are less likely to feel this way.
    Present the technical work in an approachable way, showing that there are multiple successful pathways into a technical career. “Women often come to tech later than men and don’t always have the high school work, but this does not affect their success in the field,” Wynn says.

    These tactics pay off. At presentations where companies incorporated these ideas, female attendees asked twice as many questions and showed greater engagement, the researchers found.

    For executives, the paper offers a chance to consider whether their recruiting information sessions are having the intended effect or its opposite.

    “We’re looking at a place where companies can actually have an impact,” Wynn says.

    [Our society and social good are being adversely affected by keeping women either out of the loop or in subservient roles in STEM. We are not being able to take advantage of their brain power. This is true in all levels of education.]

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    Stem Education Coalition

    Stanford University campus. No image credit

    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 2:57 pm on May 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Women in STEM   

    From Symmetry: “Leveling the playing field” 

    Symmetry Mag
    From Symmetry

    Photo by Eleanor Starkman

    Ali Sundermier

    [When I read this article, my first reaction was that this is all worthless. I have been running a series in this blog which highlights “Women in STEM” in all of the phases that the expression implies. The simple fact is that there is and continues to be and will continue to be gender bias in the physical sciences (and probably elsewhere, but this is my area of choice). This is certainly unfair to women, but it is also unfair to all of mankind. We are losing a lot of great and powerful minds and voices as we try to push the future of knowledge and quality of life for all. So I am doing the post. But in all fields men need to call on and respect women if things are to improve. I personally see no evidence of this. As long as women only get to talk to women there will be no progress.]

    Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics aims to encourage more women and gender minorities to pursue careers in physics and improve diversity in the field.

    Nicole Pfiester, an engineering grad student at Tufts University, says she has been interested in physics since she was a child. She says she loves learning how things work, and physics provides a foundation for doing just that.

    But when Pfiester began pursuing a degree in physics as an undergraduate at Purdue University in 2006, she had a hard time feeling like she belonged in the male-dominated field.

    “In a class of about 30 physics students,” she says, “I think two of us were women. I just always stood out. I was kind of shy back then and much more inclined to open up to other women than I was to men, especially in study groups. Not being around people I could relate to, while it didn’t make things impossible, definitely made things more difficult.”

    In 2008, two years into her undergraduate career, Pfiester attended a conference at the University of Michigan that was designed to address this very issue. The meeting was part of the Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics, or CUWiP, a collection of annual three-day regional conferences to give undergraduate women a sense of belonging and motivate them to continue in the field.

    Pfiester says it was amazing to see so many female physicists in the same room and to learn that they had all gone through similar experiences. It inspired her and the other students she was with to start their own Women in Physics chapter at Purdue. Since then, the school has hosted two separate CUWiP events, in 2011 and 2015.

    “Just seeing that there are other people like you doing what it is you want to do is really powerful,” Pfiester says. “It can really help you get through some difficult moments where it’s really easy, especially in college, to feel like you don’t belong. When you see other people experiencing the same struggles and, even more importantly, you see role models who look and talk like you, you realize that this is something you can do, too. I always left those conferences really energized and ready to get back into it.”

    CUWiP was founded in 2006 when two graduate students at the University of Southern California realized that only 21 percent of US undergraduates in physics were women, a percentage that dropped even further in physics with career progression. In the 12 years since then, the percentage of undergraduate physics degrees going to women in the US has not grown, but CUWiP has. What began as one conference with 27 attendees has developed into a string of conferences held at sites across the country, as well as in Canada and the UK, with more than 1500 attendees per year. Since the American Physical Society took the conference under its umbrella in 2012, the number of participants has continued to grow every year.

    The conferences are supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the host institutions. Most student transportation to the conferences is almost covered by the students’ home institutions, and APS provides extensive administrative support. In addition, local organizing committees contribute a significant volunteer effort.

    “We want to provide women, gender minorities and anyone who attends the conference access to information and resources that are going to help them continue in science careers,” says Pearl Sandick, a dark-matter physicist at the University of Utah and chair of the National Organizing Committee for CUWiP.

    Some of the goals of the conference, Sandick says, are to make sure people leave with a greater sense of community, identify themselves more as physicists, become more aware of gender issues in physics, and feel valued and respected in their field. They accomplish this through workshops and panels featuring accomplished female physicists in a broad range of professions.

    Before the beginning of the shared video keynote talk, attendees at each CUWiP site cheer and wave on video. This gives a sense of the national scale of the conference and the huge number of people involved.
    Courtesy of Columbia University

    “Often students come to the conference and are very discouraged,” says past chair Daniela Bortoletto, a high-energy physicist at the University of Oxford who organizes CUWiP in the UK. “But then they meet these extremely accomplished scientists who tell the stories of their lives, and they learn that everybody struggles at different steps, everybody gets discouraged at some point, and there are ups and downs in everyone’s careers. I think it’s valuable to see that. The students walk out of the conference with a lot more confidence.”

    Through CUWiP, the organizers hope to equip students to make informed decisions about their education and expose them to the kinds of career opportunities that are open to them as physics majors, whether it means going to grad school or going into industry or science policy.

    “Not every student in physics is aware that physicists do all kinds of things,” says Kate Scholberg, a neutrino physicist at Duke and past chair. “Everybody who has been a physics undergrad gets the question, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ We want to show students there’s a lot more out there than grad school and help them expand their professional networks.”

    They also reach back to try to make conditions better for the next generations of physicists.

    At the 2018 conference, Hope Marks, now a senior at Utah State University majoring in physics, participated in a workshop in which she wrote a letter to her high school physics teacher, who she says really sparked her interest in the field.

    “I really liked the experiments we did and talking about some of the modern discoveries of physics,” she says. “I loved how physics allows us to explore the world from particles even smaller than atoms to literally the entire universe.”

    The workshop was meant to encourage high school science and math teachers to support women in their classes.

    One of the challenges to organizing the conferences, says Pat Burchat, an observational cosmologist at Stanford University and past chair, is to build experiences that are engaging and accessible for undergraduate women.

    “The tendency of organizers is naturally to think about the kinds of conferences they go to,” says Burchat says, “which usually consist of a bunch of research talks, often full of people sitting passively listening to someone talk. We want to make sure CUWiP consists of a lot of interactive sessions and workshops to keep the students engaged.”

    Candace Bryan, a physics major at the University of Utah who has wanted to be an astronomer since elementary school, says one of the most encouraging parts of the conference was learning about imposter syndrome, which occurs when someone believes that they have made it to where they are only by chance and don’t feel deserving of their achievements.

    “Science can be such an intimidating field,” she says. “It was the first time I’d ever heard that phrase, and it was really freeing to hear about it and know that so many others felt the same way. Every single person in that room raised their hand when they asked, ‘Who here has experienced imposter syndrome?’ That was really powerful. It helped me to try to move past that and improve awareness.”

    Women feeling imposter syndrome sometimes interpret their struggles as a sign that they don’t belong in physics, Bryan says.

    “It’s important to support women in physics and make sure they know there are other women out there who are struggling with the same things,” she says.

    “It was really inspirational for everyone to see how far they had come and receive encouragement to keep going. It was really nice to have that feeling after conference of ‘I can go to that class and kill it,’ or ‘I can take that test and not feel like I’m going to fail.’ And if you do fail, it’s OK, because everyone else has at some point. The important thing is to keep going.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 9:16 am on May 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Marianthi Ierapetritou, , Women in STEM   

    From Rutgers University: Women in STEM – Marianthi Ierapetritou 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our once and future Great Seal.

    Rutgers University

    April 30, 2018

    Carla Cantor

    Marianthi Ierapetritou, chair of Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, named associate vice president of Rutgers’ SciWomen.

    Marianthi Ierapetritou is taking on a role that will enable her to directly inspire more women to pursue careers in the STEM fields and offer support to those already there.
    Photo: Dennis Connors

    Marianthi Ierapetritou has always been something of an outlier.

    As an undergraduate at the National Technical University in her native Greece, she was one of the few female students majoring in chemical engineering, graduating first in her class. The story was similar as she pursued her Ph.D. at Imperial College in London and, later, at Princeton University, where she completed post-doctoral research.

    “I thought that by now the situation would be different,” said Ierapetritou, Distinguished Professor and chair of Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. “Women have made progress in STEM, but we’re not there yet.”

    Now Ierapetritou is taking on a role that will enable her to directly inspire more women to pursue careers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and offer support to those already there. On July 1, she will begin a new position at Rutgers as associate vice president for the promotion of women in science, engineering and mathematics, also known as SciWomen – Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics.

    Ierapetritiou, whose research focuses on modeling and computational analysis for chemical processing, has been an active scholar, leader and educator. She has developed an interdisciplinary program in the area of process systems engineering, establishing collaborations that have secured continuous funding exceeding $40 million. She has published more than 250-peer reviewed journal articles and has received numerous awards for undergraduate and graduate teaching.

    Barbara Lee, senior vice president for academic affairs, said that Ierapetritou, who joined Rutgers in 1998, was a natural choice to lead SciWomen.

    “Marianthi knows firsthand what it takes to break down barriers,” Lee says. “Her passion to support and promote women has been a constant in her leadership roles, acting as a role model but also initiating and leading successful programs, such as the leadership program for senior women in STEM.”

    SciWomen, created in 2006 and led initially by Joan Bennett, Distinguished Professor of plant biology and pathology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, is advised by a board of senior women scientists from Rutgers-Newark, Rutgers-New Brunswick, Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. The office provides resources and support for engagement and success in the sciences, acts as a catalyst and partner in achieving diversity, works to develop a well-trained workforce for the 21st century and contributes to the development of women leaders.

    Ierapetritou said she is taking a strategic approach to putting her personal stamp on the office. “I have very ambitious goals,” she said. On the short list: assessing the needs of women in STEM at Rutgers, a website redesign, reinvigorating and expanding SciWomen’s advisory board and holding a series of fall workshops. Eventually, she would like to set up a program that enlists coaches and mentors to help women in specific areas, such as how to negotiate salary and working conditions and how to deal with sexism in the workplace.

    “I want to create an inviting culture so that women perceive Rutgers as a great career choice in STEM,” Ierapetritiou says. “My hope is that Rutgers can be a leader in changing the face of STEM for women and that the university becomes a role model for others around the country.”

    See the full article here .

    Follow Rutgers Research here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition


    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

  • richardmitnick 12:34 pm on April 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Suzanna Randall, Women in STEM   

    From ESOblog: Women in STEM “Eyes on the Stars” Suzanna Randall 

    ESO 50 Large



    27 April 2018

    Over the last 40 years, 12 German men have journeyed into space — but no German women. The initiative Astronautin wants to change that. The ambitious programme is currently training two competitively-selected candidates with the goal of sending one on a research mission to the International Space Station. One of these incredible women is Suzanna Randall, an ESO astronomer based at our headquarters in Munich, Germany. We chatted to her about this amazing opportunity.

    Q: Tell us a bit about yourself! Where did you grow up? How did you end up at ESO?

    A: I was born in Cologne, in the west of Germany. I grew up there and then I went to university in the UK, at University College London, and then I did my PhD in Montreal, Canada. I’ve actually been at ESO since right after finishing my PhD. I first came here on a fellowship in 2006. I was an ESO Fellow first for three years, then I had an unpaid associate position for one year working for quality control at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and now I’ve been working with ALMA for eight years, in the ALMA regional centre.

    Q: What’s your role at ALMA?

    A: Well, over the past eight years I’ve been doing very different things. At the moment I’m a so-called “sub-system scientist” for a piece of software that is used to assess the quality of ALMA’s data and to make sure that astronomers around the world get the data they requested from the observatory. I also do shifts as the duty astronomer at the telescope, up on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile, as well as general responding to user queries and helping them prepare their observations.

    Then (in theory!) 20% of my time is spent doing science. I actually just got a referee report so I’m in a bit of a bad mood — it’s very long, filled with things to review and fix, not what you want to get on a Monday morning! The paper was based on VLT data using FORS, VIMOS and FLAMES. My work is essentially looking at very hot, compact stars and studying the way they pulsate. Recently, I’ve moved to looking at stars in globular clusters, specifically at their atmospheres. We’re trying work out how these stars formed and evolved — basically we don’t know where they came from. It’s a fascinating topic.

    This panoramic view of the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile shows the otherworldly site of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Astronomers use ALMA to study the Universe at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org)

    Q: And now alongside your research, you’re training to be an astronaut. What drove you to apply for the Astronautin program?

    A: For me, there was no question, really. Everyone always asks “why did you apply?” and my answer is “why didn’t you apply?” I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut, that’s been a childhood dream, but I was drawn to the Astronautin programme in particular because I like the fact that it’s inspiring German women and girls to go into areas where there aren’t many women. It just jumped out at me — I happened to see the advert online and I was like “okay, I have to go for this”.

    I also like the fact that it’s a short mission because I do want to keep doing astronomy and research at ESO, but the programme is just a couple of years in total, including the mission and training, and then that would be it. And, of course, the whole time being a role model for girls and women.

    Q: Your training schedule must be hectic. Are you still continuing to work at ESO?

    A: Yes I am — I’m very happy at ESO and luckily they are happy to continue paying me! I have reduced my working hours…I’ve gone down to 50% duties and 20% science, which means in theory 30% of my duties can now be used for the Astronautin programme. This includes both the outreach work, like giving interviews and going to events, and the training as well. I can manage that all for now, but once the training begins full-time I’ll have to take leave of absence for a year or two. But I plan to come back to ESO afterwards because I still want to work as an astronomer here.

    ESO astronomer Suzanna Randall has been selected as a new trainee of the initiative Astronautin, which aims to train the first female German astronaut and send her on a research mission to the International Space Station. The announcement was made at a press conference at ESO Headquarters in Garching, Germany on 16 February 2018. Credit: ESO/M.Zamani

    The other issue that we are facing is that funding is still a bit precarious for the Astronautin programme. Though we’ve received lots of enthusiastic support, the programme isn’t funded by a state-run space agency, so we’re still looking for companies to support us with sponsorship contracts where they get media attention in return for their support. So from that perspective, it’s really great that for now, ESO is continuing to employ me and being really flexible to allow me to train. ESO’s Director General, Xavier Barcons, is extremely supportive and enthusiastic about it, and for now, I have this deal that I can spend a big portion of my working time on the Astronautin programme.

    Q: So what exactly will your training involve?

    A: There are multiple parts to our training. At the moment, as I said, we’re kind of limited by funding, because lots of the more exciting things are quite expensive. But I was lucky enough to do parabolic flights right at the beginning of my training, where I got to experience weightlessness, which was amazing.

    For now, I’m focusing on getting my Private Pilot Licence (PPL), which I’m going to do around Munich. I’m looking for a school right now. I also need to read up loads — everyone thinks it’s all going to be exciting survival training, but actually, a lot of astronaut training is reading up on space exploration and the systems of the International Space Station — all the theory! Plus, I need to learn Russian. I’m planning to learn it by getting some basics here and then going to Russia for periods of a month or two and get intensive language tuition.

    Once we know who we’ll be flying with up to the ISS, we’ll go to either the US or Moscow to train on the actual modules. They have replicas of all the ISS modules and components to do all the safety and practical training on. In total, the basic training is about a year to a year and a half, full-time.

    Q: Aside from your research, what do you do in your spare time?

    A: One thing I really enjoy is paragliding. I actually started paragliding in Chile! When I was an ESO Fellow, as part of my programme I had to spend a certain number of nights at the VLT every year, working as a support astronomer. After one of my shifts back in 2008, I visited Iquique in northern Chile, which is one of the best places in the world for paragliding, and that’s where I learned. I’ve done a lot of paragliding in Chile, because I’m often there for work, as well as of course in the mountains near Munich.

    Q: Will this experience with an extreme sport help in the Astronautin programme?

    A: I think it came in handy in the application process because they were looking for someone who is a little bit adventurous, who is used to taking risks in a calculated way. As part of my training now, I have to get my PPL, so my paragliding experience might come in handy there, but officially a paragliding license is not something that you need to be an astronaut.

    Q: What about your work as an astronomer at ESO — do you think that will help?

    A: Well, astronauts are often people with a scientific background, so my experience in astrophysics was definitely a bonus. I’ve spent a lot of my time at both ESO and other telescopes, working under stress with international teams in a very isolated environment, doing other people’s experiments…that’s definitely going to come in handy on the ISS. I mean, of course, it will be in space rather than at ALMA (even though ALMA is quite close to space anyway!) but it’s a similar kind of work.

    ESO-NRAO-NAOJ ALMA several antennae at night with the Milky Way

    Q: What was it like to meet so many other extraordinary women during the selection process?

    A: It was great! During the first phase of the psychological and cognitive tests, I met half the remaining applicants — 45 women from all areas of science. There were doctors, pilots, physicists, engineers… It was actually amazing to be in a room full of so many women who were highly-qualified and also just really nice and interesting people to get to know. One of the most important qualities of an astronaut is the ability to communicate, meaning that you can’t just be a brilliant scientist who’s stuck in their office and can’t speak to others — that wouldn’t really be that useful in this job.

    So the other applicants were all fantastic, and what I took away from the experience is that this myth of intense female competition is just that — a myth! The environment was really supportive the whole time, and now we have a big network of previous candidates who are always keen to know what’s happening.

    Q: You’ll be competing against meteorologist Insa Thiele-Eich for a single place on a space mission. Are you on good terms with her?

    A: Well it is a competition, but also it’s always done this way: every mission has a prime crew and a backup crew, and each astronaut has a one-to-one backup in case anything happens. The thing with astronauts is that even if you get a cold a few days before the mission, that’s it — you’re out, and your backup flies. The idea is that they’ll train both of us right to the very end, and then at some point several months before the mission, it’ll be decided who is the prime and who is the backup. Then the prime will fly, unless something unexpected happens.

    Insa and I are actually on really good terms. Right now our main mission is one that requires teamwork: to get the mission off the ground and to get funding to make sure that one of us can fly. That’s by far the most important thing right now. I’d much rather see Insa go into space than have the project fail completely due to lack of funding.

    Of course, at some point there will be an element of competition — we both want to be the prime candidate — but we’re friends and are very supportive towards each other. I’m often asking how she’s getting on with getting her pilot’s licence because she’s been on the programme for longer than me, so at the moment she’s a bit ahead.

    ESO astronomer Suzanna Randall (left) with her colleague, 34-year-old meteorologist Insa Thiele-Eich (right). Both are training with the initiative Astronautin, which aims to train the first female German astronaut and send her on a research mission to the International Space Station. Credit: ESO/M.Zamani

    Q: What will you do if you miss out on the spot?

    A: I’m seeing the training as an opportunity. Even if I don’t get to fly it won’t be wasted time. I mean, getting my PPL and doing parabolic flights are cool experiences anyway, whether it goes anywhere or not. Of course I want to be chosen and go up to the ISS, but if not then I’ll have learnt a lot and maybe there’ll also be future opportunities. Once you’ve got the astronaut training, if they’re looking for more astronauts you’ve obviously got an advantage.

    I’m very lucky that I can do this training with essentially zero risk, since ESO have said that even if I take a year off I can still come back.

    Q: What excites you most about being part of the Astronautin programme?

    A: What — apart from the actual flight? Obviously, the “going to space” thing is one of the big attractions! Aside from that, it’s getting to be a role model and having the opportunity to do completely new things that motivates me. For example, next week I’m meant to be giving a motivational speech, which I’ve never done before. I’ve done scientific presentations and even outreach presentations, but the opportunity to interact in that way with the public has been very interesting. Very challenging, but also very exciting.

    Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers, particularly to young women who are interested in STEM?

    A: I would say: if you want to do something, do it. Even if you think that you can’t, just do it.

    For me, I always wanted to be an astronaut but thought it wasn’t realistic. Everyone always told me: “whatever, you’re never going to be an astronaut”. So my backup was astronomy — I read about the ESO telescopes when I was a kid. Chile was amazingly exotic at that time for me, and I thought, “I want to visit those telescopes” and made plans with my friend to go. I never thought I’d actually end up working at ESO! I mean, I’m from a small town in Germany near Cologne, and I was never that great at school in maths or physics. So I didn’t think I’d ever work for ESO, first of all, and now, potentially becoming an astronaut…I never thought that could be a possibility!

    I guess what I want to say is that even if you think it isn’t possible to make your dreams into a reality, don’t give up — you never know when you’re going to get a lucky break.

    See the full article here .

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres.

    ESO/E-ELT to be built at Cerro Armazones at 3,060 m.

    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres

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