Tagged: Women in STEM Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • 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.

    STEM Icon

    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.

    STEM Icon

    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 .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Visit ESO in Social Media-




    ESO Bloc Icon

    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

  • richardmitnick 12:13 pm on April 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 6 pioneering women helped create modern computers, , , The "Computers", Women in STEM   

    From IDEAS.TED.COM: Women in STEM -“These 6 pioneering women helped create modern computers” 

    Apr 17, 2018
    Kathy Kleiman

    In 1942, physicist John Mauchly proposed an all-electronic calculating machine. The U.S. Army, meanwhile, needed to calculate complex wartime ballistics tables. Proposal met patron.
    The result was ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), built between 1943 and 1945—the first large-scale computer to run at electronic speed without being slowed by any mechanical parts. For a decade, until a 1955 lightning strike, ENIAC may have run more calculations than all mankind had done up to that point. University of Pennsylvania Archives

    It seems like a story made for the movies: the first general-purpose computer was actually programmed by a half-dozen female math whizzes. Yet for too long, their efforts have been largely unknown. Lawyer and digital-rights advocate Kathy Kleiman describes her quest to learn about them and bring them some overdue recognition.

    “When I was a college student in the mid-1980s, I discovered something important about myself: I loved to program and I loved programming projects. But there was one problem. As I continued taking computer-science courses, I noticed that the number of women dropped dramatically. By the time I reached the advanced classes, there were just one or two women in the classroom — including me. I wondered, Did women belong in computing? Did we have any role models?

    I knew, of course, about Lady Ada Lovelace and Captain (later Rear Admiral) Grace Hopper of the US Navy. But Ada Lovelace was in the 19th century, and Grace Hopper was in the 20th century. One woman succeeding per century didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy about a future in computing.

    I started scouring the histories and encyclopedias of computer science to find other women, and I didn’t find any. That is, until I came across an archival photograph of the ENIAC computer. The great ENIAC was a secret US Army project during World War II. It was the world’s first, all-electronic, programmable general-purpose computer and the great-great-grandfather of everything on our smartphones and in our laptops. In a photo of ENIAC from 1946, taken about six months after it was unveiled, I saw men and women. However, only the men’s names were listed in the captions. I dug deeper and found more photos of women in front of ENIAC. I brought the pictures to my professor and asked, “Who are these women?” He didn’t know, and he sent me to the cofounder of the Computer History Museum that was across the river in Boston.

    Clutching the photographs, I went there and showed them to the museum’s cofounder. I’ll never forget her response. She rolled her eyes and said, “They’re models.” She told me the women were posed in front of the machine to make it look good. But they didn’t look like models to me — they looked very confident and self-assured in front of the machine. The ENIAC was eight feet tall and 80 feet long, and it dominated three sides of a large room. I had worked with some big computers, and I knew how overwhelming they are the first few times you used them. The women in the photos looked like they knew exactly what they were doing.

    To find out more, I started calling people at the University of Pennsylvania, which is where the ENIAC had been built during the war. One thing led to another, and I was invited to come to the 40th anniversary of ENIAC in 1986. That’s how I ended up in a room in Philadelphia celebrating the anniversary of the world’s first modern computer. It was very exciting, and there were clusters of men talking about how they had built ENIAC. I walked around, and I found a cluster of women. As I listened closely to them, they were talking about a bug in the program they had found the night before ENIAC’s first big demonstration. Suddenly I realized I was talking to the women in the pictures. They weren’t models; they were ENIAC’s first programmers!

    There were no programming languages, no manuals, no compilers and no operating systems, so the women had to figure out how to program this massive machine on their own.

    That day, I learned that ENIAC was programmed by six young women, who had been brought in specifically to write ENIAC’s first program for the Army: a ballistics trajectory. I met four of them at the celebration: Frances “Betty” Snyder Holberton, Jean Jennings Bartik, Kathleen “Kay” McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, and Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer. They told me about the two other women who were part of their project but not at the anniversary: Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum and Frances Bilas Spence. (The women in the vintage photograph are Jean Bartik and Frances Spence.)

    They were funny, dynamic women. In their 60s at the time of the anniversary, they told me they’d been recruited by the Army during WWII for their mathematics abilities. They’d all been brought to Philadelphia to hand-calculate ballistics trajectories — the path that a missile takes from the time it leaves the muzzle of an artillery gun until it hits its target eight to ten miles away. Calculated using differential calculus equations, it took them about 40 hours to do by hand. Because the men with these kinds of skills were involved in other war efforts, the military hired between 80 and 100 women to hand-calculate ballistics trajectories, and they called them “Computers.” Yes, a Computer was a person before it was a machine — that was actually their official title.

    During the war, the military realized it needed more and faster trajectory calculations. So it commissioned a highly experimental project: building the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, or ENIAC. ENIAC was designed to automate the ballistics equations, although few in the Army thought it would work. After it was built, the Army assigned six human Computers — that is, the six women — to the task of programming ENIAC. Of course, there were no programming languages, no manuals, no compilers and no operating systems, so the women had to figure out how to program this massive machine on their own. That was the story I learned at the 40th anniversary of ENIAC.

    Excited, I returned to school and finished my computer science courses. I started my own career in technology, but ten years later, a bell went off in my head. I realized the 50th anniversary of ENIAC was coming up, and I wanted to know what happened to the ENIAC programmers. I called the University of Pennsylvania and found the dean who was responsible for the event. When I asked who among the ENIAC programmers would be attending, he didn’t know who I was talking about. He knew only the names of the women who were widows of the engineers. Otherwise, their names and roles had been forgotten.

    The women had to track each piece of data, wire it into one of dozens of panels, such as a multiplier or square rooter, and then move the result by wire to another panel for storage

    I was determined to not let that happen to these amazing women. I applied for and received a grant to study the women of ENIAC. I planned to track them down, reintroduce myself, ask them about programming ENIAC, and record our interviews. I realized there was a chance that they might not remember the work because it had been done 50 years ago. I also worried that I’d ask the wrong questions. I knew modern programming and modern terminology, but what they did was different, even though they were performing the same basic functions of breaking down a calculation into steps that a computer could handle. If I could learn more about the technology, I could ask better questions. By that point, I was an attorney at a telecommunications law firm. I took a leave of absence from my job and spent a few months at the Library of Congress learning about ENIAC, BINAC and UNIVAC — three early computers created by overlapping teams of engineers and programmers. UNIVAC, which was the first commercial computer, was synonymous for years with the word “computer” in the minds of the public.

    The author and four of the ENIAC programmers in 1995 (clockwise from far left): Kathy Kleiman, Jean Bartik, Marlyn Meltzer, Kay Antonelli, Betty Holberton. Photographer Steven M. Falk © 1995 Kathryn A. Kleiman.

    Armed with my newfound knowledge, I went back to the programmers and asked detailed questions about ENIAC in their terms. The memories came flooding out. They told me how they’d been given wiring diagrams and logical diagrams of ENIAC, and they were asked to figure out how ENIAC’s dozens of panels worked. Then they not only had to break down their program into steps the computer could handle, but they had to wire that program into the machine. They had to track each piece of data, wire it into a panel, such as a multiplier or a “square rooter,” and then move the result (physically by wire) to another panel for storage. Flow chart technology didn’t exist, so the women created what they called “pedaling sheets” — enormous sheets of paper designed to keep track of each step of the program as well as where all the switches, cables and wires went. It was an amazing story.

    Producer/director David Roland and I recorded the interviews on tape and realized we had found programming pioneers that no one had ever heard of before. We wondered: Would anybody care? To see, some of the children of the ENIAC programmers and I nominated the women for awards. Happily, they were soon recognized from coast to coast, including induction into the Hall of Fame of Women in Technology International. Betty Holberton and Jean Bartik, in different years, were honored as Computer Pioneers by the IEEE Computer Society. My favorite award ceremony took place in 2008 when Jean Bartik was inducted as a fellow of the Computer History Museum alongside Linus Torvalds, who created Linux, and Bob Metcalfe, who created Ethernet.

    “After the screening, women came up to me with tears streaming down their faces. They worked for companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and the idea that women helped create computing and programming was so uplifting”

    Working with producers John Palfreman and Kate McMahon, I edited the oral histories together into a documentary called The Computers. Again, my question was: Would anybody care about this 70-year-old story? We premiered our movie at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2014. After the screening and the producer Q&A, women came up to me with tears streaming down their faces. They worked for companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and they told me that the ENIAC programmers’ story had moved them deeply. In their teams and meetings, they were often the only women, and the idea that women helped create computing and programming was so uplifting to them. We took the documentary around the world, and again, I wondered whether people in other countries would care? But no matter where we went, women were inspired by the film, and it seemed the challenges of women in computing were universal. Men liked it, too, and talked about showing it to their daughters to inspire them to STEM.

    But this story doesn’t have a completely happy ending — yet. Despite the fact that we now know the ENIAC, BINAC and UNIVAC teams were exceedingly diverse, much of the computer history community continues to tell the same story they’ve told for 70 years: that a small group of white men invented computing. That’s not true. Yes, there were brilliant white engineers, but there were also brilliant African-American engineers, Chinese engineers, and, of course, women. As we work to encourage girls and boys to enter careers in STEM, shouldn’t we be telling them that the pioneers of STEM looked like them and came from a range of diverse backgrounds? Shouldn’t we be sharing the names and inspiring stories of these individuals and teams?

    Please join me in sharing the story of the ENIAC programmers. Let’s help young women and young men who have an interest in computing know that these careers lie within their grasp — and that history clearly shows us the best teams were the most diverse. If we truly want to tap the full potential of technologies of the future, we will need everyone’s ingenuity and insight.”

    About the author

    Kathy Kleiman is the founder of the ENIAC Programmers Project, and her documentary, The Computers, can be found at Women Make Movies. She is also a lawyer in Internet law and policy and cofounder of the Domain Name Rights Coalition, a public rights group which fights for digital freedoms online. Kleiman is in the process of writing a book on the ENIAC programmers.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”. TED was founded in February 1984 as a conference, which has been held annually since 1990. TED’s early emphasis was technology and design, consistent with its Silicon Valley origins, but it has since broadened its focus to include talks on many scientific, cultural, and academic topics.

    The main TED conference is held annually in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Prior to 2014, the conference was held in Long Beach, California, United States. TED events are also held throughout North America and in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling. The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. Past speakers include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Temple Grandin, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Billy Graham, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Shah Rukh Khan, Dolph Lundgren, Bono, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners. TED’s current curator is the British former computer journalist and magazine publisher Chris Anderson.[

    Since June 2006, TED Talks have been offered for free viewing online, under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Creative Commons license, through TED.com. As of January 2018, over 2,600 TED Talks are freely available on the website. In June 2011, TED Talks’ combined viewing figure stood at more than 500 million, and by November 2012, TED Talks had been watched over one billion times worldwide. Not all TED Talks are equally popular, however. Those given by academics tend to be watched more online while art and design videos tend to be watched less than average.

  • richardmitnick 1:02 pm on April 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Anita Zanella, , , , , , , Women in STEM   

    From ESOblog: Women in STEM – “A Night in the Life of an Astronomer” Anita Zanella 

    ESO 50 Large


    Anita Zanella

    When most people picture an astronomer, they imagine a man in glasses peering up at the Universe through the lens of a huge telescope. While this might have been accurate a century ago, the life of a modern astronomer is a far cry from this stereotype. To learn more about what it’s like to spend a night at a telescope, we chatted to ESO Fellow Anita Zanella, who just wrapped up an observing run at ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

    Q: So Anita, tell us about your research and what you do at ESO.

    It’s really amazing to look at these beams of light departing from inside the dome and get lost in the darkness of the night sky.

    A: I’m an ESO Fellow who studies distant galaxies, trying to understand how they form and evolve through cosmic time. I’m interested in questions like: how are stars born inside galaxies? Why do some galaxies keep forming stars while others stop? Why are galaxies shaped like they are, and how does it change over time?

    I’m enjoying my time at ESO very much because it allows me to undertake my own research, but also discover so many other sides of astronomy that I did not even imagine: how observations are performed, how an observatory is run, how instruments are conceived of and built, how proposals of observations are evaluated and chosen, and so much more. It also allows me to meet and work with people from very different backgrounds, not just astronomers but also people such as instrument scientists and engineers, which is very enriching and mind-opening.

    Another cool thing is that as part of my fellowship, I have to spend 40 nights at the Paranal Observatory in Chile each year. I’m based at ESO Headquarters in Germany, so it takes a long time to reach Paranal — it’s almost a two-day trip! So I decided to have 14-night shifts, meaning I go to Chile three times a year.

    Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

    Taken from inside the dome of the fourth Unit Telescope of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), this spectacular shot captures the VLT’s Laser Guide Star (LGS) in action
    Credit: Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO

    Q: What is your daily (or rather, nightly) timetable like?

    A: One of the things I really like about observing is that everything depends on nature — not only when and what to observe, but also the daily schedule of people working at the observatory. Night astronomers work every day, from sunset to sunrise. Two and a half hours before sunset we have a meeting where the daytime crew summarises what work has been done to maintain or repair the telescopes, the status of the various instruments, and what needs to be finished in the remaining hours before sunset. At that meeting, night astronomers specify what instrument they need at the beginning of the night and when they need to start observing.

    So usually I get up in the afternoon a few hours before sunset, grab a quick breakfast, and go to the afternoon meeting. It takes place in the control building, on top of the mountain just below where the telescopes are, but we sleep in the Residencia, a wonderful building, located a couple of kilometres from the telescopes. During the Chilean winter (from June to August) nights are very long, so I travel to the control building by car in about five minutes. But during the Chilean summer (from November to January) nights are short, so I usually get up early enough to have the time to hike to the meeting on the so-called “star track”, a steep path that takes you up to the control building in about 45 minutes. I love walking there, listening to the silence of the desert, watching how the shades and colours change during the day. Sometimes I can also see small animals: a lizard, a bird, some insects…

    After the meeting, we have dinner (or lunch, depending on your perspective!) at the Residencia and drive up to the mountain once again to be in control building a few minutes before sunset. Every time I can, I enjoy looking at the Sun disappearing into the ocean on the horizon, while the sky around becomes orange and pink. It is a show that never ceases to amaze me. And for the first time during my last shift, I also saw the famous green flash: it is not a legend, it’s real!

    Often we have calibrations to make at the beginning of the night. Some of them can be started about half an hour before sunset so the daytime crew takes care of them, while others have to be taken in twilight so the night astronomer is responsible for them. What time the dome first opens depends on the calibrations, but at latest it’s sunset — then the telescopes are ready to observe. Infrared observations can actually be carried out during the evening twilight, as soon as the first stars are visible, and can be used to guide the telescope in order to correct for the rotation of the Earth. Similarly, we can keep observing in the infrared in the morning twilight. But for observations at optical wavelengths, we need full dark so we have to wait for the end of twilight before observing.

    Then half an hour before sunrise, the telescope’s dome has to be closed. The daytime crew arrives at the top of the mountain, where they start their day with a meeting, to check if anything did not function during the night and agree on what needs to be done that day. But at this point, the telescope operators and night astronomers are already in bed!

    Q: Are you working the whole time, or are there times when you’re waiting around?

    A: Often, the observations last for one hour, so while I wait I usually plan what to observe afterwards, or I assess the data taken previously. I’m also always monitoring the current observations, making sure they’re running to plan. In case of bad weather (like if the humidity is above 70% or the wind is stronger than 18 metres per second), we have to close the dome, so I usually just go on with my own research. Of course, from time to time I take a break and go outside to look at the sky with my own eyes: to me, it is always more magical than looking at it through a screen!

    Q: The sky must look amazing without light pollution. Do you also have to keep the observatory dark during the night?

    A: Yes! As soon as sunset is over, blackout blinds are put over the windows in the control room, so artificial light does not pollute the observations. Similarly, blinds cover the windows of the Residencia. From this moment on, astronomers can only use torches if they walk outside, and cars have to keep their lights off. If there is full Moon it is still relatively easy to see the road and even distinguish shapes in the desert, but when the Moon is not there, the darkness is complete. The small artificial lights that help drivers to see the road are really necessary because otherwise the desert is completely swallowed by the night. At that point, the stars above us are the only source of light and it is always amazing for me to stay outside and stare at them.

    Q: Can you leave the control room once you’ve begun your shift?

    A: Well there are always at least two people at each telescope — one night astronomer and one telescope operator — and there are six consoles (or workstations) in the control room at Paranal: four for the UTs, one shared between the two survey telescopes (VST and VISTA), and one for the VLTI. So there are at least twelve people in the control building, plus visiting astronomers and trainees too. The atmosphere is always very pleasant and often funny, chatting and joking.

    Someone always has to stay at the telescope to check that everything is working properly, which means you’ll always find either the telescope operator or the night astronomer sitting in front of the console. From time to time we leave the control building to take a short walk on the platform where the telescopes are to look at the night sky, or to take visitor astronomers back to the Residencia when they have finished their observations, or to have dinner. (Eating is the last worry in Paranal — food is always available at any time of the day and night!)

    Also, sometimes astronomers are required to work on other projects during the day, so they only have to remain at the telescope until 3 am. In this case, they prepare a queue of observations for the rest of the night and the telescope operator is in charge of carrying them out. Telescope operators always have to stay for the full night, as they are the only ones allowed to move the telescopes. They are very precious because they have an incredible knowledge of how to operate telescopes and instruments!

    A 360-degree panorama of the Control Room, inside the control building, at night: when the action takes place
    Credit: ESO

    Q: Do you also get the chance to make observations for your own research?

    A: Usually I make observations for other astronomers who request them through proposals, but I was once able to observe targets for my own research. The experience was much more intense than observing for others, and it was really special to go through the whole process of conceiving an idea, writing it down in a proposal, having it accepted, taking the data at the telescope, and then using them! It was really thrilling to be at the telescope, waiting for the first image to arrive and immediately seeing if it was what I expected!

    These telescopes and instruments are so complex and made of so many different pieces that it is very normal that sometimes something goes wrong.

    Q: You said that the daytime crew keeps telescopes and instruments running smoothly, but what happens if something goes wrong during the night?

    A: It may happen that during the night something fails! These telescopes and instruments are so complex and made of so many different pieces that it is very normal that sometimes something goes wrong. Actually, I find it a miracle that everything keeps working smoothly almost every night! So, if something goes wrong during the observations, the night astronomer and the telescope operator leave a message for the daytime crew, who usually fix the issues the next day and the observatory is ready to go again by sunset.

    Q: The length of the night changes from summer to winter — does this affect your observations?

    A: I knew that nights in the winter are longer than in the summer, but realising it at the telescope is a whole different experience and I will never forget it! In the summer nights are short and the twilight is long, so of course, we can observe less, but we can sleep longer during the day and I usually also manage to take some time for myself — for example, taking a walk. In the winter it’s the opposite: sometimes nights are so long they become exasperating!

    On one hand, I like them, because I manage to take many observations and I feel that a lot of science is coming out of the observatory. But on the other hand, the available hours of sleep are barely enough to get enough fresh energy for the coming night, and I usually don’t manage to do anything else except observe, sleep, and eat. After 14 nights it gets a bit exhausting — but very satisfying.

    Surprisingly, it’s more difficult for me to adjust to the season change, especially when I come back from the Chilean summer (+30°C) to the German winter (-10°C). My body gets confused and it takes me a week to get used to the cold again. Switching from cold to warm weather is actually way easier for me…but I have to admit that I am a real fan of summertime!

    Q: What is your favourite part of working at Paranal?

    A: There are so many things that I like about Paranal! I always enjoy being amazed by the night sky, as well as by sunsets and sunrises. I also like to hike in the desert, watching how colours and the light change, stopping from time to time to look at the ocean on the horizon. I still find it amazing that we can see water from the top of a mountain, in the middle of the driest desert in the world! I really like to lie outside sometimes, stopping to breathe for a while and just listen to the silence of the desert.

    I like the working environment of Paranal as well: people really cooperate and work together to get this incredible observatory to function every night. They are always available to help and happy to share their knowledge, to teach you and show you around. I like the enthusiasm. It always gives me a lot of energy!

    Finally, I always find observing itself quite thrilling, waiting for the images to appear on the monitor and having the impression that science is flowing through the telescope!

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Visit ESO in Social Media-




    ESO Bloc Icon

    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

  • richardmitnick 6:37 am on April 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil, Burçin’s Galaxy - PGC 1000174, Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory Chile over 2500 m (8200 ft) high, , , , , Women in STEM   

    From Science Node: Women in STEM – “Burçin’s galaxy” Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil 

    Science Node bloc
    Science Node

    30 Mar, 2018
    Ellen Glover

    Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil

    As a little girl growing up in Turkey, Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil loved the stars.

    Burçin’s galaxy, AKA PGC 1000714, is a unique, double-ringed, Hoag-type galaxy exhibiting features never observed before. Courtesy North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

    “How is it possible not to fall in love with stars?” wonders Mutlu-Pakdil. “I find it very difficult not to be curious about the Universe, about the Milky Way and how everything got together. I really want to learn more. I love my job because of that.”

    Young or old? The object’s blue outer rings suggests it may have formed more recently than the center.

    Her job is at The University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, one of the world’s premier astronomy facilities, where she works as a postdoctoral astrophysics research associate.

    U Arizona Steward Observatory at Kitt Peak, AZ, USA, altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

    Just a few years ago, while earning her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, Mutlu-Pakdil and her colleagues discovered PGC 1000174, a galaxy with qualities so rare they’ve never been observed anywhere else. For now, it’s known as Burçin’s Galaxy.

    The object was originally detected by Patrick Treuthardt, who was observing a different galaxy when he spotted it in the background. It piqued the astronomers’ attention because of an initial resemblance to Hoag’s Object. This rare galaxy is known for its yellow-orange center surrounded by a detached outer ring.

    “Our object looks very similar to Hoag’s Object. It has a very symmetric central body with a very symmetric outer ring,” explains Mutlu-Pakdil. “But my work showed that there is actually a second ring on this object. This makes it much more complex.”

    Through extensive imaging and analysis, Mutlu-Pakdil found that, unlike Hoag’s Object, this new galaxy has two rings with no visible materials attaching them, a phenomenon not seen before. It offered the first-ever observation and description of a double-ringed elliptical galaxy.

    Eye on the universe. Sophisticated instruments like the 8.2 meter optical-infrared Subaru Telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii allow astronomers to peer ever further into the stars–and into the origins of the universe.

    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Since spotting the intriguing galaxy, Mutlu-Pakdil and her team have evaluated it in several ways. They initially observed it via the Irénéé du Pont two-meter telescope at the Las Campanas observatory in Chile. And they recently captured infrared images with the Magellan 6.5-meter telescope also at Las Campanas.

    Carnegie Las Campanas Dupont telescope, Atacama Desert, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the city of La Serena,Chile

    Carnegie 6.5 meter Magellan Baade and Clay Telescopes located at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, Chile. over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    The optical images reveal that the components of Burçin’s Galaxy have different histories. Some parts of the galaxy are significantly older than others. The blue outer ring suggests a newer formation, while the red inner ring indicates the presence of older stars.

    Mutlu-Pakdil and her colleagues suspect that this galaxy was formed as some material accumulated into one massive object through gravitational attraction, AKA an accretion event.

    However, beyond that, PGC1000174’s unique qualities largely remain a mystery. There are about three trillion galaxies in our observable universe and more are being found all the time.

    “In such a vast universe, finding these rare objects is really important,” says Mutlu-Pakdil. “We are trying to create a complete picture of how the Universe works. These peculiar systems challenge our understanding. So far, we don’t have any theory that can explain the existence of this particular object, so we still have a lot to learn.”

    Challenging norms and changing lives

    In a way, Mutlu-Pakdil has been challenging the norms of science all her life.

    Though her parents weren’t educated beyond elementary school, they supported her desire to pursue her dreams of the stars.

    “When I was in college, I was the only female in my class, and I remember I felt so much like an outsider. I felt like I wasn’t fitting in,” she recalls of her time studying physics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.

    Bilkent University

    Astronomical ambassador. Mutlu-Pakdil believes in sharing her fascination for space and works to encourage students from all backgrounds to explore astronomy and other STEM fields.

    Throughout her education and career, Mutlu-Pakdil has experienced being a minority in an otherwise male-dominated field. It hasn’t slowed her down, but it has made her more passionate about promoting diversity in science and being a mentor to young people.

    “I realized, it is not about me, it is society that needs to change,” she says. “Now I really want to inspire people to do similar things. So kids from all backgrounds will be able to understand they can do science, too.”

    That’s why she serves as an ambassador for the American Astronomical Society and volunteers to mentor children in low-income neighborhoods to encourage them to pursue college and, hopefully, a career in STEM.

    She was also recently selected to be a 2018 TED Fellow and will present a TED talk about her discoveries and career on April 10.

    Through her work, Mutlu-Pakdil hopes to show people how important it is to learn about our universe. It behooves us all to take an interest in the night sky and the groundbreaking discoveries being made by astronomers like her around the world.

    “We are a part of this Universe, and we need to know what is going on in it. We have strong theories about how common galaxies form and evolve, but, for rare ones, we don’t have much information,” says Mutlu-Pakdil. “Those unique objects present the extreme cases, so they really give us a big picture for the Universe’s evolution — they stretch our understanding of everything.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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.

    You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

  • richardmitnick 3:27 pm on April 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Virginia Trimble, , Women in STEM   

    From UCSC and UC Irvine via WIRED: Women in STEM – “The Woman Who Knows Everything About the Universe” Virginia Trimble 

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Irvine bloc

    UC Irvine


    For 16 years, Virginia Trimble read every astronomy paper in 23 journals. Now, her review papers are part of the canon. Universitat de València.

    In 1965, physicist Richard Feynman was busy.

    Richard Feynman © Open University

    He was busy winning the Nobel Prize, and he was busy learning to draw. One day during that productive time in his life, he saw astrophysics student Virginia Trimble striding across Caltech’s campus and thought, There’s a good model.

    Soon, she was posing for him a couple Tuesdays a month, in exchange for $5.50 each session and a lot of physics talk. She was studying a nebula, and he was, sometimes, sharing anecdotes that would later appear in one of his books, which featured everything from his bongo playing to his work on the Manhattan Project. Treatment of women in professional and academic situations has changed—and significantly so—since those sixties-California-campus days. Trimble was a student at a university that enrolled few women, in a field that enlisted few women. But her experience at Caltech wasn’t limited to sidelining model gigs. Those early days of learning and research were the beginning of a five-decade career that has turned Trimble into a powerhouse of astronomy.

    I first encountered Trimble’s work when I was an undergraduate astrophysics major. On the first day of seminar, my professor handed out a 101-page stack of paper. Flipping through its 13 sections, he explained that Trimble trawled the scientific journals and collated the year’s cosmic progress into a tome like this one. It wasn’t just a review paper laying out the state of atmospheric studies of Jupiter, or asteroid hunting, or massive star formation. It was all of everything important that had happened the previous year in astronomy—broad, comprehensive, and utterly unusual. Most unusual of all was that it contained jokes.

    Today, new technologies promise to synthesize masses of publication data for scientists. But before artificial intelligence even tried, astronomers had Trimble, who wrote these comprehensive articles every year. For 16 years, she devoted her mind to this task of curation, contextualization, and commentary. And throughout her career, she has largely eschewed long-term research with fancy telescopes, competitive funding, and approving nods from university administrators. Refusing narrow focus, she has gone solo on most of her 850 publications, focusing as much on the nature of doing astronomy as studying the universe itself.

    “I just asked questions,” she says, “and sometimes found a way to answer them.” That’s business as usual for Trimble, who has spent much of her career branching off from the already thin bough of bushwhacking female astronomers.

    When Trimble enrolled at UCLA in the 1960s, she wanted to major in archaeology. But the school only offered that field of study to graduate students. Right there in the A section of the catalog, though, was “astronomy,” a topic that her father informed her she’d always been interested in.

    So she enrolled as an astronomy student, living at home while attending the university’s gifted program. Which she was—gifted. In a 1962 LIFE package about California’s educational system, a journalist profiled Trimble for a piece called Behind a Lovely Face, a 180 I.Q. The title acted surprised that a pretty lady might also have a productive brain—but Trimble quickly made it clear that people should cease to be surprised at her smarts.

    Trimble’s father was right, and she felt drawn to the mysteries of the universe. After she finished her undergraduate degree, Trimble was accepted to a PhD program at Caltech. “It was only later that I looked in their catalog and saw that women were only admitted under exceptional circumstances,” she says, “exceptional” usually meaning “married to a male Caltech admittee.” There, Trimble studied the Crab Nebula, the dust, gas, and plasma sent speeding into space during a supernova explosion whose light reached Earth in 1054.

    Supernova remnant Crab nebula. NASA/ESA Hubble

    To work on this project, she applied for time at Palomar Observatory, an iconic be-domed telescope east of San Diego.

    Caltech Palomar Observatory, located in San Diego County, California, US, at 1,712 m (5,617 ft)

    She was only the third woman to use the telescope, and only the second to actually be granted her own time on it (Vera Rubin, a dark-matter pioneer, was the first).

    Vera Rubin measuring spectra (Emilio Segre Visual Archives AIP SPL)

    Astronomer Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory in 1965. (The Carnegie Institution for Science)

    The nebula’s contents are still, these centuries later, lit. They beam out bright radiation across a spectrum of wavelengths. Today, scientists know that a pulsar—the corpse of a massive star, as dense as an atomic nucleus and the size of a city, spinning 30 times a second—lurks at the center and energizes it. But back when Trimble was doing her dissertation, pulsars were just being discovered, and no one knew the Crab hosted one. “It was quite a mystery what kept the thing as bright as it is now,” she says.

    For her doctoral work, she measured the motions of the nebula’s filaments, and found, among other things, that the gas had sped up its flight from the center of the explosion since that explosion had happened (weird!) and that it was around 6,500 light-years away. Discovery was all right, but its details—so many photographic plates, so many similar, tedious observations—wasn’t the most fun. She sang, danced, on the side, to liven life up. But did she enjoy the telescope part? I ask. Going to a mountaintop, commanding a large instrument, gathering her own data about the universe with her own hands?

    “Noooooo,” she says. “It was cold, and I hate being cold.”

    Trimble soon realized she didn’t want to look at the Crab Nebula—or at supernova remnants more generally, or at anything, really—for the rest of her life. She preferred independence to teams. She didn’t want to hand a bunch of her grant money over to UC Irvine, where she became a tenured astronomer. So, instead of all that, she started publishing papers that took an aerial view of the field of astronomy.

    Like any scientist, she liked to wonder. And, when people began asking her to give big talks at conferences, she started wondering more about how science gets made, and why, and by whom. “I always figured this was my opportunity to say something that might not otherwise not get said,” she says. So instead of, say, summarizing the conference’s topic, she analyzed big-picture questions: How did this sub-field become interesting? Why are we worrying about this particular research subject now? Whose work did we leave out at this meeting?

    She wondered whether it paid to go to a good graduate school, in terms of career advancement (it did). She wondered which telescopes birthed the most papers, and found that a huge number of papers came from non-celebrity instruments. She wondered about the narrative arc that led to scientific consensus, and wrote a paper that tracked the progress of different scientific debates—over things like the nature of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and the existence of dark matter.

    And then there was that time she trolled her colleagues, publishing this paper suggesting that the blue star next to a suspected black hole—the first real black hole candidate—was smaller than people thought. If that was true, it would also mean the black hole was smaller. Too small, in fact, to be a black hole at all. Two different groups instantly set out to prove her incorrect.

    “I knew it was wrong when I suggested doing it,” she says. “It was a way to get people to go out and do observations.”

    Much of her work seems to demand that astronomers think differently, perhaps situate themselves a little more, rather than imagining that their research is standalone, decoupled from larger culture. She’s recently been working, for instance, on a series about how World War I influenced the development of general relativity, and on a chapter for a book about people who maybe should have won the Nobel Prize and didn’t.

    “Is it fun?” I ask.

    “It’s certainly fun,” she says, “or I wouldn’t do it.”

    If Trimble was asking questions other astronomers didn’t think of, or at least didn’t investigate, it may have been because she knew so much more than them. Each year starting in 1991, she read every article—every one—in 23 journals. “I quickly decided whether this was anything I would ever want to know about again,” she says. If it was, it got a line in her notebook (two lines if it was super interesting). When it came time to write, she’d go back to her notebook, cull a bit, organize the entries into topics, and then write what was essentially a historical record of that annum, with the year’s accumulated cosmic knowledge.

    Here’s what she liked best about it: “I got to tell these nasty jokes,” she says. Like this one, from the 2005 paper that I read in college: “If every galaxy has [a black hole], why do people talk about them so much? Well, the same could probably be said about human private parts, which also have in common with black holes a central location and, as a rule, concealing material around.”

    But around 2007, editorial interest in the review declined, around the same time that printing and reading journal articles on paper went out of fashion. “I can’t read 6,000 papers online,” she says. Staring at a screen that long is intense. “I start seeing jagged lightning patterns,” she says.

    Now, no single person knows what all the world’s astronomers do all day. And it would be hard for a younger scientist to take Trimble’s task on again: Academic science doesn’t value broad-mindedness, in practice. It’s a publish or perish world full of big collaborations, in which most people nest in their niche of the knowledge-creation establishment.

    But despite that, the larger astronomical community seems to agree that Trimble’s contributions were valuable. Trimble has been a vice president within the International Astronomical Union and the vice president of the American Astronomical Society, which also gave her the George Van Biesbroeck prize, “for long-term extraordinary or unselfish service to astronomy.” The American Association of Physics Teachers gave her its Klopsteg Memorial Lecture Award, which “recognizes outstanding communication of the excitement of contemporary physics to the general public.”

    But, perhaps most fittingly, the International Astronomical Union recently named an asteroid after her. Now called 9271Trimble, the space rock travels solo, within a belt of others like itself.

    When I called to interview Trimble for this article, she asked if I received the 40 or so scanned pages she sent—the beginning of her memoir. In it, she recounts those posing sessions at Caltech. Feynman “didn’t like silence,” Trimble wrote, so he talked, and sometimes listened. “Heard many of the anecdotes that appear in Surely You’re Joking,” she continued, referring to Feynman’s most-famous book, “and some that don’t.”

    The memoir is obviously unfinished, she says—dozens of pages and not even past her early years. “I got bored,” she explains. “I just got bored.” It was never, after all, Trimble’s style to stick to one topic.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Irvine Campus

    Since 1965, the University of California, Irvine has combined the strengths of a major research university with the bounty of an incomparable Southern California location. UCI’s unyielding commitment to rigorous academics, cutting-edge research, and leadership and character development makes the campus a driving force for innovation and discovery that serves our local, national and global communities in many ways.

    With more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,400 staff, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system. Increasingly a first-choice campus for students, UCI ranks among the top 10 U.S. universities in the number of undergraduate applications and continues to admit freshmen with highly competitive academic profiles.

    UCI fosters the rigorous expansion and creation of knowledge through quality education. Graduates are equipped with the tools of analysis, expression and cultural understanding necessary for leadership in today’s world.

    Consistently ranked among the nation’s best universities – public and private – UCI excels in a broad range of fields, garnering national recognition for many schools, departments and programs. Times Higher Education ranked UCI No. 1 among universities in the U.S. under 50 years old. Three UCI researchers have won Nobel Prizes – two in chemistry and one in physics.

    The university is noted for its top-rated research and graduate programs, extensive commitment to undergraduate education, and growing number of professional schools and programs of academic and social significance. Recent additions include highly successful programs in public health, pharmaceutical sciences and nursing science; an expanding education school; and a law school already ranked among the nation’s top 10 for its scholarly impact.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

  • richardmitnick 9:48 am on April 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Welcoming Women into the Geosciences, Women in STEM   

    From Eos: Women in STEM – “Welcoming Women into the Geosciences” 

    Eos news bloc


    3 April 2018
    Emily V. Fischer
    Amanda Adam,
    Rebecca Barnes
    Brittany Bloodhart
    Melissa Burt
    Sandra Clinton
    Elaine Godfrey
    Ilana Pollack
    Paul R. Hernandez

    Early results of a program to foster the careers of women entering the geosciences demonstrate the effectiveness of several specific factors.

    Early-career scientists and their mentors share a lighthearted moment while learning firsthand about snow crystal formation and snowpack metamorphism at a snow science event in Laramie, Wyo. The event, organized by the University of Wyoming’s Multicultural Association of Student Scientists, included participants from PROGRESS, a program that supports undergraduate women as they begin careers in the geosciences. Credit: Ilana Pollack

    Women are underrepresented in the geosciences, in part because of systemic attitudes and behaviors [e.g., Rosen, 2017]. Why do we need to close this gap? Diverse teams produce better ideas—they set the bar for scholarly excellence [McLeod et al., 1996]. So what are the best ways to welcome the next generation of women into geoscience careers?

    Born from Collaboration

    The Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) set out to find and test some answers to this question. ESWN, an organization with more than 3,000 members around the world, focuses on the peer mentoring and professional development of early-career women at the graduate and postdoc levels. This organization grew out of an informal gathering of six early-career women at the 2002 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

    In 2014, members of the ESWN Leadership Board sought out expertise in gender and quantitative educational psychology. We wanted to find out the effects of connecting undergraduate women to a same-gender mentoring network and challenging their perceptions of their ability to succeed in science. We designed an experiment to quantify and qualify such effects on first- and second-year undergraduate women.

    We implemented our experiment at nine universities in two U.S. regions (Colorado/Wyoming Front Range and North and South Carolina) between fall 2015 and fall 2016. We are now halfway through our National Science Foundation–funded project, and we see positive results [Hernandez et al., 2017]: Undergraduate women with large mentoring networks that include faculty mentors are more likely than those without such networks to identify as scientists and are more intent on pursuing the geosciences.

    Our experiment has developed into an effective and scalable program that benefits the undergraduate women it serves and thus may be part of the solution to the gender gap in the geosciences. Although we are still learning the full effect of our intentionally designed mentoring experiment, the early results are robust enough for us to share the general format of the resulting program in the hope that similar programs can be implemented at additional universities.

    A Recipe for PROGRESS

    This program, the Promoting Geoscience, Research, Education and Success (PROGRESS) framework, offers three resources to undergraduate participants: a professional development workshop, access to female mentors and role models, and online discussions and resources. Many of the PROGRESS volunteer mentors and role models are also members of ESWN.

    Here we explain the essential components of our professional development workshop because this module of PROGRESS is mature and ready to be propagated. The goals of this first intervention component are as follows:

    to introduce the women to geoscience careers
    to establish connections among students
    to help participants identify role models and the value of mentoring
    to discuss how to overcome expected hurdles

    The workshop module begins with an introduction to the geosciences that focuses on teamwork and societal context. Why? People value people-oriented work environments [Su and Rounds, 2015], and linking to societal context enhances learning.

    Two panel discussions follow this introduction. Each panel features women representing different ethnic, career, and other perspectives because when people see others like themselves succeeding, they feel like they belong [Rattan et al., 2012]. Panelists give “Ignite”-style presentations—5 minutes, 20 slides—followed by student questions. In the first panel, the women present their career and personal pathways. The second panel has a “day in the life” theme because exposure to women succeeding in counterstereotypic roles helps break down stereotypes [Zawadzki et al., 2013].

    Engaging the Participants

    Seeing specific factors that fuel curiosity, frustration, and thrill of discovery in the geosciences is important to students. To add more exposure to women doing science, we offer our workshop participants hands-on activities, including a weather balloon launch, a Doppler on Wheels demonstration, and a water quality experiment.

    The workshop introduces gender stereotypes and biases—discussing these issues is important for overcoming their effects. We introduce these topics via a board game [Shields et al., 2011] and using group exercises, including a modified version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) that helps reveal unconscious attitudes toward gender. The students also identify other stereotypes (e.g., socioeconomic status and race), and we review the ubiquity of these issues.

    Throughout the session, the facilitator reiterates that ability can be improved with effort. This conception appears important for building academic tenacity [Dweck et al., 2014] and overcoming the effects of stereotype threat—the idea that people underperform when they feel at risk of conforming to negative stereotypes surrounding their social group [Good et al., 2003]. Discussions also offer the chance for students to validate sexism and racism they may have experienced [Moss-Racusin et al., 2012].

    A Network of Support

    PROGRESS students consider all the support they will need by completing a mentor map exercise, where they reflect on who advocates for them, who they turn to for scientific advice, who gives them safe spaces to discuss their frustrations, etc. [Glessmer et al., 2015]. Supportive connections help students attain academic goals [Skahill, 2002]. We also teach skills like constructing emails to help students connect themselves to faculty.

    Following the workshop, students can be paired with a mentor who also identifies as a woman in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), or they can continue their interactions with each other via campus get-togethers. There is evidence that same-gender mentoring can be more effective than cross-gender mentoring for female undergraduates [Blake-Beard et al., 2011].

    As discussed in a recent National Academy of Sciences report, more research is needed on how to foster effective mentoring relationships. We are exploring multiple models, such as one-to-one versus group mentoring, and also different ways of pairing students with mentors on the basis of perceived similar interests [Gehlbach et al., 2016].

    We do not yet know which strategy is better, but our program is already serving women across multiple institutions in two U.S. regions, which speaks to its transferability. In addition to a website, we have a closed Facebook group where we share news, internships, and other professional development opportunities, and students can also seek advice on their challenge du jour [Ellison et al., 2007].

    PROGRESS to Date

    As a result of our study, we found that PROGRESS participants develop larger mentor networks than their peers and that having a faculty mentor is related to greater personal identity as a scientist and greater intent on pursuing the geosciences. This is a critical result because most students who change their major away from STEM do so early in their college education.

    Many of our PROGRESS participants, who began the program as freshmen and sophomores, are now thinking about graduation and planning for their next steps. As we continue to track the women in the PROGRESS program, we will continue to update the geoscience community on widely transferable aspects of our research. All of our PROGRESS materials are available online for anyone who wants to start a similar program.


    Support was provided by the National Science Foundation (DUE-1431795, DUE-1431823, and DUE-1460229). We thank all our volunteer mentors.


    Blake-Beard, S., et al. (2011), Matching by race and gender in mentoring relationships: Keeping our eyes on the prize, J. Soc. Issues, 67(3), 622–643, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2011.01717.x.

    Dweck, C. S., G. M. Walton, and G. L. Cohen (2014), Academic tenacity: Mindsets and skills that promote long-term learning, Bill & Melinda Gates Found., Seattle, Wash., https://ed.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/manual/dweck-walton-cohen-2014.pdf.

    Ellison, N. B., C. Steinfield, and C. Lampe (2007), The benefits of Facebook “friends:” Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites, J. Comput. Mediated Commun., 12(4), 1,143–1,168, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00367.x.

    Gehlbach, H., et al. (2016), Creating birds of similar feathers: Leveraging similarity to improve teacher–student relationships and academic achievement, J. Educ. Psychol., 108(3), 342–352, https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000042.

    Glessmer, M. S., et al. (2015), Taking ownership of your own mentoring: Lessons learned from participating in the Earth Science Women’s Network, in The Mentoring Continuum: From Graduate School Through Tenure, edited by G. Wright, pp. 113–132, Syracuse Univ. Grad. Sch. Press, Syracuse, N.Y.

    Good, C., J. Aronson, and M. Inzlicht (2003), Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat, J. Appl. Dev. Psychol., 24(6), 645–662, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2003.09.002.

    Hernandez, P. R., et al. (2017), Promoting professional identity, motivation, and persistence: Benefits of an informal mentoring program for female undergraduate students, PLoS One, 12(11), e0187531, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187531.

    McLeod, P. L., S. A. Lobel, and T. H. Cox Jr. (1996), Ethnic diversity and creativity in small groups, Small Group Res., 27(2), 248–264, https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496496272003.

    Moss-Racusin, C. A., et al. (2012), Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 109(41), 16,474–16,479, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1211286109.

    Paunesku, D., et al. (2015), Mind-set interventions are a scalable treatment for academic underachievement, Psychol. Sci., 26, 784–793, https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615571017.

    Rattan, A., C. Good, and C. S. Dweck (2012), Why do women opt out? Sense of belonging and women’s representation in mathematics, J. Pers. Soc. Psychol., 102(4), 700–717, https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026659.

    Rosen, J. (2017), Data illuminate a mountain of molehills facing women scientists, Eos, 98, https://doi.org/10.1029/2017EO066733.

    Shields, S. A., M. Zawadzki, and R. N. Johnson (2011), The impact of the Workshop Activity for Gender Equity Simulation in the Academy (WAGES-Academic) in demonstrating cumulative effects of gender bias, J. Diversity Higher Educ., 4(2), 120–129, https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022953.

    Skahill, M. P. (2002), The role of social support network in college persistence among freshman students, J. Coll. Stud. Retention, 4(1), 39–52, https://doi.org/10.2190/LB7C-9AYV-9R84-Q2Q5.

    Su, R., and J. Rounds (2015), All STEM fields are not created equal: People and things interests explain gender disparities across STEM fields, Front. Psychol., 6, 189, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00189.

    Zawadzki, M. J., et al. (2013), Reducing the endorsement of sexism using experiential learning, Psychol. Women Q., 38(1), 75–92, https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684313498573.

    Author Information

    Emily V. Fischer (evf@atmos.colostate.edu), Colorado State University, Fort Collins; Amanda Adams, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Rebecca Barnes, Colorado College, Colorado Springs; Brittany Bloodhart and Melissa Burt, Colorado State University, Fort Collins; Sandra Clinton and Elaine Godfrey, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Ilana Pollack, Colorado State University, Fort Collins; and Paul R. Hernandez, West Virginia University, Morgantown
    Citation: Fischer, E. V., A. Adams, R. Barnes, B. Bloodhart, M. Burt, S. Clinton, E. Godfrey, I. Pollack, and P. R. Hernandez (2018), Welcoming women into the geosciences, Eos, 99, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018EO095017. Published on 03 April 2018.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 8:03 am on April 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Kathryn Neugent, , , Women in STEM, Yellow supergiant star   

    From University of Washington: Women in STEM -“Stellar break-up likely behind ‘runaway’ star’s fast pace, researcher says” Kathryn Neugent Interview 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    March 29, 2018
    James Urton

    An infrared image of the Small Magellanic Cloud taken by VISTA, a survey telescope in Chile operated by the European Southern Observatory.European Southern Observatory/VISTA VMC

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

    During a recent survey of supermassive stars, an international team of astronomers discovered a star that is in quite a hurry. The star is J01020100-7122208. As they report in a paper accepted to The Astronomical Journal and a story by the Lowell Observatory, the team tracked one yellow supergiant star cruising along at about 300,000 miles per hour, a velocity that would get you from the Earth to the Moon in about 48 minutes.

    Kathryn Neugent, a University of Washington doctoral student in astronomy, is lead author on the paper — which stems from work she began as a researcher at the Lowell Observatory. Neugent sat down with the UW News Office to answer some questions about this star and its journey.

    How did you and your colleagues discover this yellow supergiant traveling at 300,000 miles per hour?

    I have been at Lowell Observatory as a part-time researcher for the past 9 years, and we were in the process of searching for yellow supergiant stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies, when we found this star.

    What is a yellow supergiant star?

    A yellow supergiant is a brief phase in the life of certain “massive stars” — any star generally greater than about 10 solar masses. Yellow supergiants only exist for a relatively short period of time as a star goes from being very hot to very cool or very cool to very hot again. They’re also yellow in color, much like our sun. Polaris, the north star, is a yellow supergiant.

    How brief is the yellow supergiant phase?

    Massive stars spend only about 10,000 to 100,000 years as a yellow supergiant. Our sun, by comparison, will spend about 10 billion years as a main sequence star. The yellow supergiant phase is a very unstable phase, so stars don’t spend too much time in it. They are more stable either on the blue side, which are hotter stars, or red side, which are cooler stars.

    How did you and your colleagues discover that this particular yellow supergiant is moving so fast?

    We collected data on yellow supergiants at the International Observatory in Chile.

    CTIO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, CTIO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory,approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 2200 meters

    Carnegie 6.5 meter Magellan Baade and Clay Telescopes located at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, Chile. over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    Also used in this work, he Victor M Blanco Telescope.

    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam at an altitude of 7200 feet

    CTIO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, CTIO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory,approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 2200 meters

    Specifically, the way you find yellow supergiants is by observing the spectrum of light coming from the star and looking to see how the spectral lines shift to the right and left. This is called Doppler shifting. This shift gives you the radial velocity, or how fast the star is traveling.

    Radial Velociity Method. ESO

    Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud are going to be traveling at very specific radial velocities. One of the stars, this runaway yellow supergiant, was traveling at a much larger radial velocity than we expected and thus we decided to investigate it further.

    How old is this runaway star?

    We estimate that it is about 30 million years old. Compare this with the age of the sun which is about 5 billion years.

    Have fast-moving stars been observed before?

    Yes, they have. Up to 50 percent of main-sequence massive stars are thought to be runaway stars, those with radial velocities greater than 40 kilometers per second. What makes this discovery so exciting is that this star is moving much faster — about 150 kilometers per second — and this is a star that has left the main sequence and is slowly dying, making it what astronomers call an “evolved” star. This is only the second runaway evolved star found outside of our own galaxy, and the first runaway yellow supergiant described.

    Why is this yellow supergiant moving so quickly?

    Something needed to have happened to this star to make it move so fast. There are a few different ways a runaway star can be created but most of them create low-velocity runaways (more like 50 km/s). We believe that this star once had a companion star — and that companion star went supernovae, propelling this star away at an extremely high velocity. It needs to have interacted with something to be propelled through space at such a high velocity. Supernovae explosions in binary systems have been known to create high velocity runaways like the one we’ve found.

    As this star hurtles forward, will it disrupt other stars or planets it passes near?

    Doubtful. I’m not sure what the probability is of it running into another star, but it is incredibly small. Space is big!

    Neugent’s co-authors on the paper are Phil Massey and Brian Skiff at the Lowell Observatory, Nidia Morrell with Las Campanas Observatory and Cyril Gregory at Geneva University. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 10:11 am on March 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Big wage gap between male and female R.I. doctors, , , Providence Journal, Women in STEM   

    From Brown University via Providence Journal: Women in STEM -“My Turn: Katherine M. Sharkey: Big wage gap between male and female R.I. doctors” 

    Brown University
    Brown University


    Providence Journal

    Mar 21, 2018

    Katherine M. Sharkey, M.D.

    “I grew up in Rhode Island. I am always thrilled when Providence makes it onto a list of the top five hippest cities or our beaches are singled out as the most beautiful in the world.

    The other day, though, Little Rhody made it onto a Top Five list of more dubious distinction: a national survey of 65,000 physicians showed that Providence-area women physicians have the fourth-largest gender wage gap in the nation — at a whopping 31 percent difference between men and women — and the fifth-lowest average salary for female physicians.

    Translated into dollars and cents, this means that a woman physician in Rhode Island earns about $110,000 less per year than her male counterparts. Added up over the course of a career, the compensation difference is staggering.

    Many possible explanations for the lack of gender equity in physician compensation have been put forth.

    One hypothesis is that male physicians are in higher-paying specialties than women. The data, however, do not support this explanation. Indeed, although women in more lucrative specialties have higher salaries than the average women physician’s salary, the gap is even wider in higher paying specialties.

    Perhaps then, male physicians have higher salaries because they do a better job than women? Again, the data do not support this explanation. A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine showed that patients who were cared for by women physicians had lower death rates and were less likely to be readmitted to the hospital than patients treated by a male physician.

    Finally, there is a theory that women don’t get raises because they simply do not ask. Once again, the data do not bear this out. A 2017 study of 70,000 people by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co showed that women do ask, but they are denied more frequently than men and are viewed more negatively after broaching the issue of a raise.

    While discussing these data with a male colleague, he responded, “There is only so much money in the system, so if women doctors get paid more, then men will end up getting paid less.” My reply: “That is exactly what women experience. It doesn’t feel good, does it?”

    Now is the time to call this gender gap in pay — in medicine, science, and other industries — exactly what it is. The people in power want to hold onto that power and are reluctant to give it up. And often they are indignant when they are confronted about the issue, as if to say, “Wait a minute, we’ve been so generous and let you in to our boys’ club, and now you have the nerve to ask to be treated equally?”

    Some may wonder why this issue matters, and here the data are clear. Paying women less hurts working families and perpetuates the structural sexism and racism that has advantaged men and white people across occupations and industries for generations. Men who accept this gap in compensation for their female colleagues are complicit in prolonging these inequities.

    While it is true that no male physician today is responsible for the sexism and racism in our field, it is time for them to join the fight to end these disparities. As Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

    What can be done? First, both male and female physicians must demand transparency with regard to salaries. Until we break the taboo of discussing money, and pay gap information is examined in the light of day, we cannot come up with solutions to divide the pot more equally.

    I also call upon my colleagues to support legislation, such as the Fair Pay Act currently before the General Assembly, that would make gender pay gaps illegal.”

    Katherine M. Sharkey, M.D., is associate professor of medicine and psychiatry and human behavior, and assistant dean for women in medicine and science at Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

    See the full article here.

    [Full disclosure: I have personal interests in what goes on at Brown Univertsity and in the State of Rhode Island.]

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    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.

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
%d bloggers like this: