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  • richardmitnick 11:05 am on October 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Hate to wait? Sandia looks to speed up climate research", DiPietro will use her fellowship to first apply her method to climate research, Her technique changes how often a model makes calculations., Kelsey DiPietro, , Women in STEM, Working with the Energy Department’s supercomputer-powered Energy Exascale Earth System Mode or E3SM.   

    From Sandia Lab: Women in STEM-“Hate to wait? Sandia looks to speed up climate research” Kelsey DiPietro 

    From Sandia Lab

    October 17, 2019
    Troy Rummler

    Presumably, Leonardo da Vinci could have saved a lot of time on his “Mona Lisa” if he had just slapped on two dots and a swoosh for a smiley face. But details take time. The same goes for running computer models and simulations. If you want oceans of calculations to study something as complex as Earth’s climate, you’d better be prepared to wait.

    That can be a problem for a couple reasons. If your wait drags on for days or weeks, you might have to find a better computer, which isn’t always possible, or ask a simpler question, which could defeat the point of the research.

    Sandia National Laboratories has awarded Kelsey DiPietro a Jill Hruby Fellowship, named for the first woman to direct a U.S. national security laboratory, to tackle this issue. The applied mathematician has proposed a way to make computer models more efficient — improving accuracy without increasing time or resources to run them.

    Sandia National Laboratories has awarded Kelsey DiPietro a Jill Hruby Fellowship for her work in applied and computational mathematics. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    Her technique changes how often a model makes calculations. If a model using her algorithms were predicting the thickness of an ice sheet over a large area, it would sprint through areas where there’s little change from one spot to the next, checking the ground perhaps every half mile, until it gets to an area that starts changing more noticeably. That’s when the model slows down and examines the ground perhaps every few feet.

    Conventional programming only allows researchers to choose between the big picture or the details, but it doesn’t let them switch back and forth.

    DiPietro will use her fellowship to first apply her method to climate research, working with the Energy Department’s supercomputer-powered Energy Exascale Earth System Model, or E3SM, which already has one of the finest resolutions ever achieved for simulating aspects of the planet’s climate. She previously proved her adaptive method as a doctoral student at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Her three-year research appointment at Sandia began on Oct. 7.

    Hruby Fellowship combines research and leadership

    In honor of Sandia’s former director, the Jill Hruby Fellowship couples research appointments with leadership training, led by Associate Laboratories Director Susan Seestrom.

    “Kelsey brings great technical breadth and depth in computational mathematics, combined with extraordinary curiosity and drive to learn more about Sandia applications,” Seestrom said.

    In addition to formal leadership training, DiPietro will participate on the Sandia committee that selects research proposals in computer information systems to be funded through Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.

    “This is exactly what I want in a position,” said DiPietro, who was also a member of two academic leadership organizations while at Notre Dame, the Society of Schmitt Fellows and Ethical Leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). DiPietro believes that strong leadership leads to strong interdisciplinary collaborations. This is especially important for mathematics and computer science, she says, because many people don’t see these fields as particularly collaborative.

    “There’s a lot of this weird stigma, or this idea, that we’re all isolated and work alone,” she said.

    DiPietro plans to expand her research and team up with multiple research groups, not just E3SM, to enhance their work.

    “National labs foster a collaboration that you don’t see in the private sector or in academia,” she said.

    Her Sandia research mentor, computational and applied mathematician Denis Ridzal, says the impact of her research could be two-fold. It could let researchers increase the accuracy of a model without slowing it down, or it could let them maintain accuracy while lowering the computer system requirements to run it.

    “There’s a strong need to reduce the size of computer models while maintaining their accuracy,” Ridzal said. “Kelsey’s work is a very important step in getting more people to use modeling and simulation tools. It helps achieve the required accuracy with limited computational resources.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Sandia Campus
    Sandia National Laboratory

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

  • richardmitnick 12:00 pm on September 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Women Scientists Were Written Out of History, Margaret Rossiter, , The "Matilda Effect" named after a suffragist Matilda Gage, Women in STEM   

    From smithsonian.com: Women in STEM-“Women Scientists Were Written Out of History. It’s Margaret Rossiter’s Lifelong Mission to Fix That” 

    From smithsonian.com

    October 2019
    Susan Dominus

    The historian has devoted her career to bringing to light the ingenious accomplishments of those who have been forgotten.

    Margaret Rossiter’s research spotlights the women in science whose intellectual contributions have not been given their due. (Illustration by Katherine Lam)

    In 1969, Margaret Rossiter, then 24 years old, was one of the few women enrolled in a graduate program at Yale devoted to the history of science. Every Friday, Rossiter made a point of attending a regular informal gathering of her department’s professors and fellow students. Usually, at those late afternoon meetings, there was beer-drinking, which Rossiter did not mind, but also pipe-smoking, which she did, and joke-making, which she might have enjoyed except that the brand of humor generally escaped her. Even so, she kept showing up, fighting to feel accepted in a mostly male enclave, fearful of being written off in absentia.

    During a lull in the conversation at one of those sessions, Rossiter threw out a question to the gathered professors. “Were there ever women scientists?” she asked. The answer she received was absolute: No. Never. None. “It was delivered quite authoritatively,” said Rossiter, now a professor emerita at Cornell University. Someone did mention at least one well-known female scientist, Marie Curie, two-time winner of the Nobel Prize. But the professors dismissed even Curie as merely the helper to her husband, casting him as the real genius behind their breakthroughs. Instead of arguing, though, Rossiter said nothing: “I realized this was not an acceptable subject.”

    Of her discoveries, Rossiter says, “I felt like a modern Alice who had fallen down a rabbit hole into a wonderland of the history of science.” (Evyn Morgan)

    Acceptable or not, the history of women in science would become Rossiter’s lifework, a topic she almost single-handedly made relevant. Her study, Women Scientists in America, which reflected more than a decade of toil in the archives and thousands of miles of dogged travel, broke new ground and brought hundreds of buried and forgotten contributions to light. The subtitle—Struggles and Strategies to 1940—announced its deeper project: an investigation into the systematic way that the field of science deterred women, and a chronicling of the ingenious methods that enterprising women nonetheless found to pursue the knowledge of nature. She would go on to document the stunted, slow, but intrepid progress of women in science in two subsequent volumes, following the field into the 21st century.

    “It is important to note early that women’s historically subordinate ‘place,’ in science (and thus their invisibility to even experienced historians of science) was not a coincidence and was not due to any lack of merit on their part,” Rossiter wrote at the outset in the first volume. “It was due to the camouflage intentionally placed over their presence in science.”

    Rossiter’s research has been “revolutionary,” said Anne Fausto-Sterling, a Brown University professor emerita and an expert on developmental genetics, who was astonished by the first volume when it came out. “It meant that I should never believe anything anybody tells me about what women did or didn’t do in the past, nor should I take that as any measure of what they could do in the future.”

    Academic historians typically don’t have an immediate impact on everyday life. Rossiter is the exception. In excavating the lives of forgotten women astronomers, physicists, chemists, entomologists and botanists, Rossiter helped clear the way for women scientists in the future. “Her work showed that there were women in science, and that we could increase those numbers, because women are quite capable of it,” said Londa Schiebinger, a historian of science at Stanford University. In addition, Rossiter’s work illustrated that administrators needed to reform academic institutions to make them more hospitable to women. “She showed that very talented women faced barriers—and so that sparks something.”

    Rossiter’s findings were impressive to key figures at the National Science Foundation, which funded her research over many years—and which, starting in the 1980s, also began funding efforts to increase “the representation and advancement of women in engineering and academic science degrees.” Schiebinger said, “All of Margaret Rossiter’s well-documented work gives an intellectual foundation for these things.”

    Today, Rossiter, 75, has scaled back her research efforts and carries a light teaching load at Cornell. But her work remains deeply important, in large part because she knew how to make a point stick. Back in 1993, Rossiter coined a phrase that captures an increasingly well-recognized phenomenon: the Matilda Effect, named after a suffragist, Matilda Gage, whose own work was overlooked by historians, and who also wrote about the way women scientists, in particular, had been erased by history. Rossiter’s 1993 paper decried the troubling recent history of male scientists receiving credit for work done by female scientists. The phrase—the Matilda Effect—took off, and has been cited in hundreds of subsequent studies. A 2013 paper, “The Matilda Effect in Science Communication,” [Gender Action Portal] reported that both men and women judged research papers by men to be stronger than those by women, and both men and women showed preference for the male authors as possible future collaborators. In the past year alone, dozens of papers on gender discrimination in science have cited the Matilda Effect. In naming the phenomenon, Rossiter identified the issue of misplaced credit as a problem that institutions would have to fight to rectify, and that equality-minded scholars are monitoring with even more rigor.

    Both Margaret Rossiter and Matilda Gage made substantial original contributions to American scholarship that were, for too long, not recognized as significant; and, interestingly, both tried to bring to light the work of other women who suffered the same fate. Their births separated by more than a century, the two nonetheless have almost a symbiotic relationship, with the work of one giving new life to that of the other in a collaboration across time to advance the role of women in the sciences, a fight ongoing in laboratories and the halls of academia.

    See the full article here .


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    Smithsonian magazine and Smithsonian.com place a Smithsonian lens on the world, looking at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution — science, history, art, popular culture and innovation — and chronicling them every day for our diverse readership.

  • richardmitnick 9:34 am on September 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Mona Wong-San Diego Supercomputer Center, Online gateways, , , Women in STEM   

    From Science Node: Women in STEM-“Don’t worry about the software” Mona Wong 

    Science Node bloc
    From Science Node

    09 Sep, 2019
    Alisa Alering

    Science gateway developer Mona Wong combines passion for programming with love of science.

    Have you ever set out to accomplish a new task but quickly discovered that it required new equipment? And then you had to learn how to use the equipment before you could move on, and before long you were bogged down in online instructional videos and wondering why you ever thought this was a good idea?

    Mona Wong develops online gateways that help scientists reach their goals without worrying about how to install and run complex software.

    That same thing can happen to scientists, particularly when they want to access new technologies to expedite their work. The hurdle can be especially big for researchers in fields like biology or the humanities, that don’t traditionally provide technological training.

    Enter Mona Wong, a software engineer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).

    SDSC Triton HP supercomputer

    SDSC Gordon-Simons supercomputer

    SDSC Dell Comet supercomputer

    Wong works behind-the-scenes to develop online gateways that help scientists reach their goals—whether that’s a better understanding of how the brain works or more accurate predictions of natural disasters.

    A science gateway is a tool that makes data, resources, or custom scientific workflows easier to use via a point-and-click web interface—no command lines or programming languages to learn.

    “Gateways allow people to not have to worry about the software and how to install and run it, to be able to try things,” says Wong. “I get to use what’s fun and easy for me to help scientists discover something.”

    Solving problems for scientists

    One way that Wong helps expand access to science is through her work with the Extended Developer Support (EDS) group at the Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI). Funded by the National Science Foundation, SGCI is a clearinghouse of support for developing, operating, and sustaining science gateways.

    In her role with EDS, Wong works on multiple gateways—often serving entirely different domains. When someone is interested in building a gateway, they apply to EDS. If they’re selected to receive support, they’re assigned to a developer who then meets with the principal investigator and comes up with a work plan for the engagement.

    One of her recent projects is the COSMIC2 Gateway which focuses on structural biology, a field currently undergoing something of a revolution. Structural biologists use cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to examine the structures of proteins and other macromolecular samples at near-atomic resolution.

    Cryo-Electron Microscope. No image credit.

    Cryo-EM is an invaluable tool for understanding human health and disease, but its widespread use is hindered by the incredibly large size of the datasets the equipment generates.

    In Cryo-EM, scientists use the microscope to collect images of a frozen specimen at increasing depths. The images are then reconstructed into a 3D representation of the original structure.

    The final images constitute very large datasets, currently up to 12K by 8K for a single image.

    Because the microscopes are very expensive instruments, scientists must wait to be allocated time, and when they get access, they collect as many images as they can, generating massive amounts of data at one time—up to tens of terabytes.

    Many biologists aren’t familiar with handling such large datasets or have the computing resources to do the calculations. That’s where a gateway comes in.

    Resolution revolution. The blob-like area on the left of this cryo-EM composite image of beta-galactosidase would have been considered state-of-the-art just a few years ago. The detailed structure on the right shows >10x greater resolution thanks to technological improvement and advanced computational methods. Courtesy Veronica Falconieri, Subramaniam Lab, National Cancer Institute.

    “The user uploads their data to the gateway and sets up parameters for their computational task,” says Wong. “Once the task is initiated by the user, the gateway will generate and submit the commands to the software running on the supercomputer to perform the calculations. The user is notified when the job is done, and they come back to the gateway to view the results.”

    One additional challenge with such large datasets, is how to reliably transfer the data from the scientist’s lab to the supercomputer that does the heavy lifting and back again.

    “If you have only one gigabyte of data and the transfer dies halfway through, you can start again,” says Wong. But that’s not a great solution when you’re dealing with multiple terabytes that can take days or weeks to transfer. That’s why COSMIC2and other gateways use the Globus platform for secure data transfer.

    “The great thing about Globus is if there’s a problem in the middle, it can restart from there,” says Wong. “At the end, it has mechanisms in place that check the data to make sure it wasn’t corrupted. In theory, you don’t have to worry about it.”

    Make the code do something

    Toiling behind-the-scenes might seem like thankless work, but Wong sees her role as actively supporting scientific discovery. She has always loved science, but her own unique path became clear when she took her first computer science course.

    “I discovered that it was actually easy for me,” she says. “It fits the way I think, and it’s also very creative, because you take code and you make it help you do something.”

    And the ‘something’ she is doing hasn’t gone unnoticed. Wong received the Young Professionals Award at the SGCI’s Gateways 2018 conference, which recognizes notable achievement in the advancement of science gateways.

    “It’s a great honor, a way to acknowledge the work that you do and the promise you hold for the community,” says Wong. “But I also sense a kind of responsibility.”

    That responsibility isn’t just to scientists. The use of science gateways is expanding as more research areas are discovering what can be accomplished with access to supercomputing power. Their ease of use allows even school children to learn about advanced scientific resources without worrying about how to install and run complex software—which just makes Wong’s work all the more rewarding.

    “I love that gateways are used a lot now in teaching students about science,” says Wong. “I love science, so I think that the more people who love science, the better.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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

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

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

    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 8:16 am on September 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Professor Martina Stenzel, , Women in STEM   

    From University of New South Wales: Women in STEM-“UNSW scientist first woman honoured with top chemistry prize” Professor Martina Stenzel 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    17 Sep 2019
    Lucy Carroll

    Professor Martina Stenzel is the first woman in almost 90 years to be awarded the Royal Society of NSW’s Liversidge Medal.


    One of the world’s leading experts in polymer chemistry, UNSW Sydney Scientia Professor Martina Stenzel, is the first woman to receive the Royal Society of NSW’s Liversidge Medal.

    The top science prize, which has been running since 1931, recognises Australian scientists who have made an outstanding contribution to chemistry research.

    Professor Stenzel, from UNSW Science’s School of Chemistry, is widely regarded as a global pioneer in the application of novel polymer architectures. By developing chemical techniques for new polymer architectures, Professor Stenzel is creating ‘smart’ nanoparticles for drug delivery that are revolutionising the way disease is targeted and treated.

    Her work focuses on the fundamental processes that underpin nanoparticle design to make them suitable for the delivery of proteins, DNA or metal-based drugs to treat cancer – specifically ovarian and pancreatic cancer.

    “The Liversidge Medal is such an established prize and it is truly wonderful to be recognised by this enduring and respected scientific academy,” Professor Stenzel said. “I hope it will encourage more women to enter the fields of chemistry and physics, two natural sciences where female scientists have traditionally been very few and far between.”

    As Co-Director at UNSW’s Centre for Advanced Macromolecular Design, Professor Stenzel leads a team of 20 researchers working to combine synthetic polymers with nature’s building blocks such as carbohydrates, peptides and proteins. The team of researches work at the intersection of polymer science, nanoparticle design and medicine.

    The creation and adaptation of nanoparticles for various biomedical applications is the focus of Professor Stenzel’s current research. By designing nanoparticles of different shapes, sizes and surface functionalities the nanoparticles can then be “loaded” with various drugs, mimicking a water-filled sponge.

    “The beautiful thing about nanoparticles is that they can be modified in endless ways,” Professor Stenzel said. “We are trying to better understand the physical properties of these drug-loaded nanoparticles as it is directly linked to the biological activity. The aim is to create nanoparticles with the right properties that can invade cancer cells but not attack healthy cells.

    “It is incredibly exciting to be able to work more closely with medical researchers, including the ovarian cancer researcher UNSW’s Associate Professor Caroline Ford and pancreatic researchers Associate Professor Joshua McCarroll and Associate Professor Phoebe Phillips to test the ability of patented protein-based nanoparticles to help treat some of the most challenging cancers.”

    Professor Stenzel said that while nanoparticles were most commonly used in cancer treatment, they could potentially be so used for treatment of many other diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and infectious diseases.

    Professor Stenzel is a recipient of the LeFevre Medal from the Australian Academy of Science, the H.G. Smith Medal of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute RACI and in 2018 was elected to the Australian Academy of Science.

    The Liversidge Lecture, awarded every two years, is given on the recommendation of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI). UNSW Scientia Professor Justin Gooding was the last recipient of the award in 2016.

    Professor Stenzel will give the Liversidge Lecture in February 2020. The lectures are published in the Journal and Proceedings of the Society.

    See the full article here.


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    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

  • richardmitnick 3:08 pm on September 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bailey Skinner, , , Women in STEM   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: Women in STEM “On Board for the First Time” Bailey Skinner 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Bailey Skinner

    Howdy! My name is Bailey Skinner and I a am junior environmental geoscience major at Texas A&M University. When I am done with school, I would like to go into ocean conservation work, so when Dr. Roark presented this opportunity to aid him in this research on deep-sea corals, I knew it was something I would not be able to pass up. Seeing the Falkor for the first time in person was a bit of a surreal and humbling moment – I knew right then that any nerves I had about coming on this expedition were instantly calmed.

    I have been living on the Falkor for almost over a week now, and have already learned so much. Each day has been something new and since I am on the 0:00-12:00 shift adjusting my sleep schedule. After unpacking all the equipment in the wet lab, we were given a run-through on how to process the samples once the ROV is back on deck. After Falkor left the harbor, the XBT, Expendable Bathythermograph, had to be calibrated. The XBT measures temperature through a water column and uses copper wires to transmit the data back to the ship as it is falling to the sea floor. This probe plays an essential role in multibeam mapping, such that the sound speed in water be calculated to the multibeam sonar gives accurate depth measurements.

    You don’t get a lot of sun during the 0:00-12:00 shift, but then again, no one inside Falkor’s Control Room does! OI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    During our 70-hour transit to our first dive site, one of the marine technicians taught us how to use the multibeam mapping system in two different programs: Qimera and Fledermaus. This software is important because after the XBT data is sent over and the calibration of the USBL, Ultra-short baseline – the tracker for the ROV, the multibeam echo sounder (MBES) should be ready to map the seafloor. These two pieces of software help to visually interpret the 3-D mapping of the seafloor. Once all of the background noise is removed, the maps can be used to find slopes of terrain for the ROV dives.

    Marine Technician John Fulmer explains how to process bathymetric data to members of the current research team. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    With all of that being said, let me tell you a little about the star of the show: SuBastian. This is the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) going down – deep down – into the Midnight Zone of the ocean, about 2000-4000 meters deep. ROVs were first developed for industrial processes (e.g.. internal and external process of underwater pipelines), but now ROVs have a wide range of applications, many of which are scientific. ROVs allow scientists to investigate areas that are too deep for humans to reach safely, and these machines can stay underwater much longer than a human diver, thus increasing time efficiency for exploration.

    I am eager to keep learning all that I can while aboard the Falkor, as it feels I have just begun to scratch the surface of the vast amount of knowledge that is on this vessel. By my next update I will have gotten a lot more hands on experience with sample processing and seeing SuBastian dive down a few times.

    Thanks and Gig’em!

    Bailey Skinner helps in the processing of samples collected during ROV SuBastian’s dives. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    See the full article here .


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    Our Vision
    The world’s oceans understood through technological advancement, intelligent observation, and open sharing of information.

    Schmidt Ocean Institute RV Falkor

    Schmidt Ocean Institute ROV Subastian

    Schmidt Ocean Institute is a 501(c)(3) private non-profit operating foundation established in March 2009 to advance oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge, and catalyze sharing of information about the oceans.

    Since the Earth’s oceans are a critically endangered and least understood part of the environment, the Institute dedicates its efforts to their comprehensive understanding across intentionally broad scope of research objectives.

    Eric and Wendy Schmidt established Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009 as a seagoing research facility operator, to support oceanographic research and technology development focusing on accelerating the pace in ocean sciences with operational, technological, and informational innovations. The Institute is devoted to the inspirational vision of our Founders that the advancement of technology and open sharing of information will remain crucial to expanding the understanding of the world’s oceans.

  • richardmitnick 2:36 pm on September 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Sonia Reilly, The math of machine learning to improve predictions of natural disasters, UROP-Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, We want to transform big data into perhaps what we might call smart data., Women in STEM   

    From MIT News: Women in STEM “Computing in Earth science: a non-linear path” Sonia Reilly 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    September 11, 2019
    Laura Carter | School of Science

    Course 18C student Sonia Reilly (right) stands with her UROP research advisor, Sai Ravela, in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, where she worked on a machine learning project this summer. Photo: Lauren Hinkel

    UROP student Sonia Reilly studies the math of machine learning to improve predictions of natural disasters.

    Machine learning is undeniably a tool that most disciplines like to have in their toolbox. However, scientists are still investigating the limits and barriers to incorporating machine learning into their research. Junior Sonia Reilly spent her summer opening up the machine learning black box to better understand how information flows through neural networks as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Her project, which investigates how machine learning works with the intention of improving its application to the observation of natural phenomena, was overseen by Sai Ravela in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). As a major in Course 18C (Mathematics with Computer Science), Reilly is uniquely equipped to help investigate these connections.

    “In recent years, deep learning has become an immensely popular tool in all kinds of research fields, but the mathematics of how and why it is so effective is still very poorly understood,” says Reilly. “Having that knowledge will enable the design of better-performing learning machines.” To do that, she looks more closely at how the algorithms evolve to produce their final most-probable conclusions, with the end goal of providing insights on information flow, bottlenecks, and maximizing gain from neural networks.

    “We don’t want to be drowning in big data. On the contrary, we want to transform big data into perhaps what we might call smart data,” Ravela says of how machine learning must proceed. “The end goal is always a sensing agent that gathers data from our environment, but one that is knowledge-driven and does just enough work to gather just enough information for meaningful inferences.”

    For Ravela, who leads the Earth Signals and Systems Group (ESSG), better-performing learning machines means more robust early predictions of potential disasters. His group’s research lies largely in how the Earth works as a system, primarily focusing on climate and natural hazards. They observe natural phenomena to produce effective predictive models for dynamic natural processes, such as hurricanes, clouds, volcanoes, earthquakes, glaciers, and wildlife conservation strategies, as well as making advances in engineering and learning itself.

    “In all these projects, it’s impossible to gather dense data in space and time. We show that actively mining the environment through a systems analytic approach is promising,” he says. Ravela recently delivered his group’s latest work — including Reilly’s contributions — to the Association of Computing Machinery’s special interest group on knowledge discovery and data mining (SIGKDD 2019) in early August. He teaches an “infinite course” with a duology of classes taught in spring and fall semesters that provides an overview of machine learning foundations for natural systems science, which anyone can follow along with online.

    According to Ravela, if Reilly is to succeed at advancing the mathematical basis for computational learning models, she will be one of the “early pioneers of learning that can be explained,” an achievement that can provide a promising career path.

    That is ideal for Reilly’s goals of obtaining a PhD in mathematics after graduating from MIT and remaining a contributor to research that can positively impact the world. She’s starting with cramming as much research as she can manage into her schedule over her final two undergraduate years at MIT, including her experience this summer.

    Although this was Reilly’s first UROP experience, it is her second time undertaking a research project that blends mathematics, computer science, and Earth science. Previously, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Reilly helped develop signal processing techniques and software that would improve the retrieval of useful climate change information from low-quality satellite data.

    “I’ve always wanted to be part of an interdisciplinary research environment where I could use my knowledge of math to contribute to the work of scientists and engineers,” Reilly says of working within EAPS. “It’s encouraging to see that type of environment and get a taste of what it would be like to work in one.”

    Ravela explains that the ESSG is fond of the mutually beneficial inclusion of UROP students. “For me, UROPs are better than grad student and postdocs if, and only if, one can create the right-sized questions for them to run with. But then they run the fastest and are the most clever of all.” He says he feels the UROP program is invaluable and could be beneficial for all students to incorporate, as it offers a chance to learn about other fields and interdisciplinary research, as well as how to incorporate what they learn into tangible results.

    For Reilly, research builds on her foundation obtained from taking classes at MIT, which are a controlled and predictable environment, she says, “but research is nowhere near so linear.” She has relied on her foundation of mathematics and computer science from her courses during her UROP experience while having to learn how to connect and apply them to new fields and to consider topics often outside an undergraduate education. “It often feels like every step I take requires me to learn about an entirely new field of mathematics, and it’s difficult to know where to start. I definitely feel lost sometimes, but I’m also learning an incredible amount.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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

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  • richardmitnick 1:19 pm on September 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Becky Thompson, , Women in STEM   

    From Symmetry: Women in STEM “Q&A: Becky Thompson” 

    Symmetry Mag
    From Symmetry

    Lauren Biron

    Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    Meet the comic-creating, triathlete, Hufflepuff physicist who’s also the new head of Fermilab’s Office of Education and Public Outreach.

    FNAL’s Becky Thompson

    Fermilab’s current suite of education and outreach is broad, reaching students and the public both locally and around the globe. At the lab itself, opportunities include a science education center, public tours, K-12 visits, and the lab’s famous bison. There are programs such as Ask-A-Scientist, the Fermilab Arts and Lecture Series, and events including the annual STEM Career Expo and Family Open House. Fermilab also reaches beyond the boundaries of the site to local fairs and festivals, talks at organizations and schools, the QuarkNet program, and much more.

    This is all now the purview of Becky Thompson, Fermilab’s new head of the Office of Education and Public Outreach. Previously the head of public outreach for the American Physical Society, her work has ranged from writing books about the science of Game of Thrones to building beds of nails for science expos. She sat down with Symmetry writer Lauren Biron to discuss physics, outreach, and life beyond the lab.

    We hear your recent wedding had science experiments as the centerpieces.
    BT: We did a DIY wedding and I went a little overboard. The reception was in a brewery. There were big tables and each had a different experiment. One had drinking birds, one had fake snow, one had a Chinese spouting bowl, one had density beads. I wanted something that people could interact with so that it wasn’t awkward, because receptions can be awkward! I brought in a smoke cannon trash can and put it aside with the fog machine. My friends from APS used it – until my aunt got confused that there was a fire and unplugged the smoke machine, so we stopped that. We had a really good time interacting with the experiments and with each other.

    Can you take us on a quick journey of how you got into physics outreach?
    BT: When I was in grad school, my advisor one day walked into my office and said, “What are you doing? I’m teaching professional development and I need the least intimidating physicist I can find.” I said, “I can do that.” He pushed me to do more education things, and teachers asked me to do demo shows. I started working more with the UTeach program at [the University of Texas] Austin, which gets undergrads teaching right away. When I was getting ready to graduate, my advisor and I talked about what I should do. He said, “You could go on in physics, but the skillset you have with the ability to connect with the audience and the public, not everyone has that.” From there I went to the American Physical Society and, over 11 years, expanded what they were doing. As part of that I started writing the Spectra comic book series.

    Tell us more about Spectra, the superhero with the powers of a laser. Why did you decide to make a comic? Is she based on you?
    BT: PhysicsQuest was a program where we made a kit with experiments and sent it out around the country. It was originally based on a physicist’s life, and you learned a bit about them as you worked through the kit. We made a comic book for it about Nikola Tesla, and people liked it. The next year was LaserFest, and we wanted to do something related to lasers. We did the obvious thing and invented a superhero.

    I sent a character sheet to our artist laying out how I envisioned her, and her powers – but let him design everything else. I used to wear red Converse high tops to work all the time, and when I got the first draft of Spectra I realized instantly what he had done: she had red Converse on. As for her personality, the story has been fun because it’s based on my middle school experience – but I get to rewrite it with the ending I wanted. It was neat to have something to pull on and make it very centered in middle school and what that felt like. This was all great until I went to my high school reunion. A bunch of the people I based characters on had kids that read Spectra.

    Do you have a favorite outreach project that you’ve worked on?
    BT: There are so many. One of my favorite things we’ve done with APS was the USA Science and Engineering festival. We had a 20-by-40-foot booth – it was huge! I built a bed of nails, and watching people be impressed and then understand why it works was really rewarding.

    Obviously, I’ve also loved making the comic books, and going to San Diego Comic Con was wonderful. I learned that one kid dressed up as Spectra for Halloween and it was the greatest thing ever.

    What are the most challenging – and rewarding – things about doing physics outreach?

    BT:If I’m on a plane or a bar and chatting with someone, they’ll usually ask me what I do. If I want to keep talking, I’ll tell them that I’m a comic book author, but if I want them to go away, I’ll say I’m a physicist. My career goal is to change that reaction.

    One of the most challenging things is that people have already decided that they don’t understand it. But they can understand it. The first step is breaking down that barrier. They think all physicists are like on The Big Bang Theory, and so smart, and that they could never get there. But I like to teach them that they already understand certain things that are based in physics – so they can learn to understand new things.

    One of the most rewarding things is seeing someone who was afraid of science or physics to start asking amazing detailed questions that make me really think. I got to teach at a girls’ STEM camp this summer and they asked questions that I never would have thought of. That moment of understanding when they get it is great, but that step forward of getting it enough to ask incredible questions is awesome.

    What are your first impressions of Fermilab, and what’s your vision for Fermilab education and outreach?

    BT:Everyone has been so welcoming. You go down to the cafeteria and everyone says “hi” to everyone. Everything Fermilab has done to make me part of the team so quickly has been incredible. I really am impressed with how focused the lab is on making sure everyone can be the best they can. I’m still learning everything EPO is doing – there’s so much and I’m excited about that.

    I want to make sure that we’re really highlighting where the lab is going, the science of the next 20 years at Fermilab, the experiments that are coming online, and what we’re doing now. Everybody outside needs to know that it’s cutting-edge science and cutting-edge high energy physics. I want to make sure that diversity and inclusion are reflected in everything we do. And I want to make sure that we’re aligned with the lab’s goals – and also the goals that Wilson set out when he started the place.

    Can you share a few facts that your new colleagues might not know about you?

    BT:There’s a lot of weird stuff. I make amazing brownies. In high school, I was the youngest person (in Delaware, at least) to get my skydiving license. When Felix Baumgartner did his jump for Red Bull, I got to talk to a lot of reporters about the physics of skydiving, because I could talk about it from both perspectives. Once, for Gizmodo, I got to calculate how many laser pointers it would take to kill someone. I love calculations like that. I did more of them for my Game of Thrones book.

    I also do triathlons. I’ve done eight Iron Mans. I took a break this year but did the Chicago Triple Challenge. It was fun. I’ve been eating a lot since then; I had three lunches yesterday. I love riding my bike, I was a swimmer in college, and I hate running – but it gets me to the finish line. I’ll do anything for a free t-shirt. And I knit.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 12:17 pm on September 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Francesca Ricci-Tam, Grace Cummings, , Women in STEM   

    From Symmetry: Women in STEM-“Finding happiness in hardware” Francesca Ricci-Tam, Grace Cummings 

    Symmetry Mag
    From Symmetry

    Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Corinne Mucha
    Francesca Ricci-Tam

    Sarah Charley

    Working on hardware doesn’t come easily to all physicists, but Francesca Ricci-Tam has learned that what matters most is a willingness to put in the practice.

    Francesca Ricci-Tam remembers an organic chemistry lab she took during her undergraduate studies, before she became a physicist.

    “The professor told us that the vacuum tubes were very expensive and delicate and that we shouldn’t destroy them,” she recalls.

    Five minutes later, her tube exploded.

    “I never considered myself very good at lab work,” she says. “I was very awkward.”

    The student who bashfully cleaned shards of glass from her lab bench is now a hardware specialist building electronics for one of the largest scientific experiments in the world. Over time, she has learned that this work is a skill to be learned through practice and that early mistakes like hers with the vacuum tube are an essential part of the process.

    Facing a fear of failure

    Ricci-Tam entered the University of California, Davis in 2006 as a premed student with a double major in biochemistry and physics. She was home-schooled for most of her education and had very little experience working with her hands.

    She describes herself as a perfectionist, a trait she struggled with while adjusting to the laboratory. “I was always worried about adding one too many drops of solution or breaking something,” she says.

    After being rejected from several medical schools, she was faced with two choices: Take a year to gain more experience through a clinical internship and then try again, or change course and apply to graduate school in physics. She chose the latter.

    Being a physicist requires learning the basic principles and equations that describe matter, and then performing experiments to test and possibly push beyond them. The transition from the classroom into the laboratory is where the next generation of physicists learns what being an experimentalist is all about—and that possessing a high level of intelligence means very little if you don’t cultivate an accompanying amount of persistence and just plain do the hard work.

    A few years into her PhD, Ricci-Tam’s advisor asked her to help the UC Davis team build components for the 14,000-ton CMS detector, which a collaboration of about 4000 scientists use to study the collisions generated by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.


    CERN CMS Higgs Event May 27, 2012

    Ricci-Tam had never done anything like it. She closely watched her colleagues as they unscrewed electronics and attached cables to the CMS pixel detector.

    She remembers flipping into a completely different mindset when it was her turn to work with the electronics. “I would be completely focused—and panic later,” she says.

    One day, a colleague told her that she worked like a surgeon. Ricci-Tam says the comment changed her perception of herself. “I thought, I can do this,” she says.

    “I’ve been doing hardware work on and off ever since.”

    The more Ricci-Tam worked on hardware, the more she discovered her own capabilities. As she gained experience and confidence, she began to find a balance between being completely focused and relaxed while working on tasks. She gradually let go of her perfectionist mindset and learned to give herself more space and time to work through problems.

    “You cannot afford to be a perfectionist,” she says. “Working on hardware teaches you patience.”

    Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Corinne Mucha
    Grace Cummings

    Gaining an ally

    Ricci-Tam is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland working on upgrades to the Hadronic Calorimeter, a part of the CMS detector that records the energy and trajectory of fundamental particles called quarks.

    Images of CMS HCAL Forward Calorimeter (HF) – CERN Document Server

    Scientists are preparing CMS for the High-Luminosity LHC, an upgrade to the LHC that will increase the collision rate by a factor of 10 and provide scientists with the huge amount of data they need to look for and study rare subatomic processes.

    The upgrades will make the CMS detector both more robust and more sensitive to the tiny particles produced in the collisions.

    Last winter, Ricci-Tam started working with University of Virginia graduate student Grace Cummings on assembling and testing new electronics for the calorimeter called ngCCMs: “Next Generation Clock Control Module.” Cummings was the resident expert on the project, and Ricci-Tam was impressed with her organization and self-assurance. The two soon became friends.

    “I’m not a very confident person, so I look to other people to learn how to be more confident,” Ricci-Tam says. “Grace is one of them.”

    Unlike Ricci-Tam, Cummings started her pursuit of experimental physics with a strong desire to work on hardware. Cummings connects it to the satisfaction she found building massive towers out of blocks and creating three-dimensional sculptures during her art classes as a kid. “I’ve always liked working with my hands,” Cummings says. “It makes me feel connected to my work.”

    She applied to colleges as a physics major and early on knew she wanted to go to graduate school. “I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t asking questions and answering them,” she says.

    During a summer internship at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, she was introduced to particle physics hardware and how a detector actually works. “I learned what scintillators are and how wavelength shifters work,” she says. “I got really excited. I wrote about how I wanted to do hardware in my graduate school applications.”

    Working on hardware showed Cummings that part of being an experimentalist is looking to answer questions she never realized she would need to ask—including “What’s that smudge?”

    In summer 2018 Cummings was tasked with inspecting freshly arrived electronics for the CMS calorimeter at Fermilab.

    CMS calorimeter at Fermilab. https://www.fnal.gov/pub/science/experiments/energy/lhc/cms.html

    She and her colleagues found an entire shipment of circuit boards, each with a strange blotch on one side.

    “It wouldn’t come off, so we thought it might be something intrinsic to the printed circuit board,” Cummings says. “These are going to be in detector for the rest of the lifetime of CMS, so we want to make sure that everything is as perfect as it possibly can be and think about all the ways it could fail. Even if you don’t think something’s a big deal, it could become a big deal later.”

    They ran through a series of tests and inspections, and the cards all seemed to be functioning as expected. She and her colleagues were scratching their heads when one of them thought to ask how the electronics had been packaged.

    “It turns out that the Fermilab logo hadn’t been completely dry when they were packaged,” Cummings says. “Those were our white smudges: the imprint of the screen-printing ink.”

    Cummings and her colleagues laugh about the situation today, but they know the work they do has serious implications for the experiments they’re building and repairing.

    Cummings says every time she goes underground to install electronics in the four-story CMS detector, she is amazed at just how important every little piece becomes. “Working on hardware for me has been the biggest thing that shows why CMS signs all its papers as ‘CMS collaboration,’” she says. “I’m flabbergasted it works. It’s really a wonder.

    “At the same time, I know how much time, effort and love I put into my work. If everyone cares half as much as I care, we’ll be fine.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 8:00 am on September 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Caitlin Mueller, Digital design tools date back to the very origins of the computer., Engineers generally don’t offer large-scale design suggestions in order to for example save a substantial amount of steel., Engineers should be an integral part of the process from the beginning., Engineers use computers for calculations. Architects use them for drafting., , Mueller’s goal is to employ machine learning to support the design process from both an architectural and engineering perspective., The tools she creates make it easier for architects and engineers to work together to find design solutions and assess how changes can influence metrics ranging from the energy needed to heat a buildi, Using digital tools to link architecture and engineering., Women in STEM   

    From MIT Spectrum: Women in STEM- “Building Bridges” Caitlin Mueller 

    MIT News

    From MIT



    MIT Spectrum

    Caitlin Mueller uses robotic 3-D printing to test architectural designs for non-standard elements, such as these culled tree limbs used to build a trellis. Photo: Alan Silfen

    Caitlin Mueller uses digital tools to link architecture, engineering.

    Digital design tools date back to the very origins of the computer. While earning his PhD at MIT in the early 1960s, Ivan Sutherland PhD ’63 developed Sketchpad, a computer program that allowed users to create images on a screen using a light pen instead of code.

    “He really explored this idea of how the computer would change the way we can think and design and create,” explains Caitlin Mueller, associate professor in the Building Technology Program at MIT, where she leads the Digital Structures research group. “Unfortunately, after that piece of work, it became more commonplace for both architects and engineers to think of the computer as replicating analog methods.” In other words, engineers use computers for calculations, and architects use them for drafting.

    Mueller’s goal is to employ machine learning to support the design process from both an architectural and engineering perspective. By creating software that generates design alternatives and simulates their performance, she hopes to qualitatively change how buildings are conceived and built. A big part of that is encouraging architects and engineers to work together—every step of the way.

    In the traditional building process, a client hires an architect and provides a set of specifications—X square feet, X number of rooms, etc. After finalizing the design, the architect hires an engineer, who typically looks at the design and says the building can be constructed using X amount of steel, for example. There’s often little back and forth. Engineers generally don’t offer large-scale design suggestions in order to, for example, save a substantial amount of steel. As a result, buildings that look great can often prove expensive to build and operate.

    That is a wasted opportunity, Mueller says, arguing that engineers should be an integral part of the process from the beginning. The tools she creates make it easier for architects and engineers to work together to find design solutions and assess how changes can influence metrics ranging from the energy needed to heat a building to the cost of labor in construction.

    Clients can also evaluate in real time how different designs affect costs, impact the environment, and influence factors such as occupant comfort—giving them better information on which to base decisions. Architects and engineers can further employ Mueller’s tools to ensure that, as designs are changed, a building continues to meet both a client’s requirements, such as number of rooms, and safety regulations, such as required number of egresses.

    The tools even work well on less traditional structures. Recently, Mueller’s research team used them to design a community garden trellis system in Somerville, Massachusetts, using wood from culled urban trees. “We generated interesting forms by discerning the intrinsic geometry of the trees’ branches to arrange them in structures that used the material efficiently and effectively,” Mueller says. “We would never have been able to understand how to use this complex geometry or the structural behavior of these forms without the tools we’re developing.”

    Bringing architecture and engineering together, and considering engineering problems during the design process, will ultimately lead to buildings that are more cost-effective, more environmentally friendly, and cheaper to build and operate, Mueller says.

    “People have long been lamenting the fact that architects and engineers don’t work together,” Mueller says. “Today, both because of the sustainability imperative that’s so serious and the abilities these new tools open up for us, I think in the next 5 or 10 years we’re going to see a big shift in the types of tools companies use.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    MIT Seal

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

    MIT Campus

  • richardmitnick 11:51 am on August 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , LSST will be the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, , , Women in STEM   

    From Scientific American: Women in STEM- “In Support of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory” 

    Scientific American

    From Scientific American

    August 23, 2019
    Megan Donahue

    The House of Representatives has taken the first step toward honoring a pioneering woman in astronomy.

    LSST the Vera C. Rubin Observatory

    LSST Camera, built at SLAC

    LSST telescope, currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    LSST Data Journey, Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    On July 23, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 3196, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory Designation Act, which was introduced by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas and Representative Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico (at large). If the Senate agrees, it will name the facility housing the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in honor of Carnegie Institution for Science researcher Vera Cooper Rubin, who died in 2016.

    Fritz Zwicky discovered Dark Matter when observing the movement of the Coma Cluster., Vera Rubin a Woman in STEM denied the Nobel, did most of the work on Dark Matter.

    Fritz Zwicky from http:// palomarskies.blogspot.com

    Coma cluster via NASA/ESA Hubble

    Astronomer Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory in 1965, worked on Dark Matter (The Carnegie Institution for Science)

    Vera Rubin measuring spectra, worked on Dark Matter (Emilio Segre Visual Archives AIP SPL)

    Vera Rubin, with Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) image tube spectrograph attached to the Kitt Peak 84-inch telescope, 1970. https://home.dtm.ciw.edu

    As a woman astronomer working in the field of cosmology and galaxy studies, Rubin has always been a personal hero of mine. I can’t think of a more appropriate tribute to her memory and her incredible contributions to science, astronomy and future astronomers than this honor.

    The text of the bill itself celebrates the milestones of Rubin’s scientific career. As a student and young professor, she studied how galaxies cluster and move inside such clusters. In 1970 she and astronomer W. Kent Ford, Jr., published measurements of the line-of-sight velocities and locations of individual ionized clouds of gas inside the nearby Andromeda galaxy (M31), showing that they were moving too fast to be gravitationally bound to the galaxy if the only matter binding it was the matter we can see (in the form of stars).

    We call these kinds of observations “rotation curves,” because inside spiral galaxies such as Andromeda or our own Milky Way, the orbits of stars and gas circle the center of the galaxy inside a volume of space shaped like a disk. A typical rotation curve plots the velocities of gas clouds or stars toward or away from us as a function of distance from the center of the disk. These curves can be fit to models of where the matter is inside those orbits to work out how much matter is inside the galaxy and where it sits.

    In Rubin and Ford’s paper, they did not make much of a fuss about the interpretation. By 1980 however, Rubin, Ford and the late Norbert Thonnard presented long-slit spectroscopy of a sample of 21 galaxies. They derived the rotation curves from these data, and in this, their most-cited work, and in the most cited work around this time in Rubin’s career, they boldly posited that gravity caused by something other than stars and gas must be binding the galaxies together. These observations provided some of the first direct evidence of the existence of dark matter inside of galaxies.

    Later observations of clusters of galaxies and of the cosmic microwave background confirm that dark matter exists in even larger structures, and it appears to outweigh the stars and gas in the universe by a factor of about seven. Rubin investigated questions related to the nature of spiral galaxies and dark matter for most of her life. We still don’t know exactly what dark matter is made out of, but her discoveries transformed our thinking about the universe and its contents.

    Although many of us astronomers thought Rubin should have won a Nobel Prize in Physics for her work in finding dark matter in galaxies, it’s not as if she went unrecognized during her life. She was a very highly regarded scientist, and she was recognized by her fellow researchers. In 1993, she was awarded the National Medal of Science, which is based on nomination by one’s peers, submitted to the National Science Foundation, and subsequent selection by 12 presidentially appointed scientists.

    This award was set up by John F. Kennedy in 1962. In the category of physical sciences, it was first given to a woman—Margaret Burbidge—20 years later, after more than 60 men had received that prize. After another 10 years and more than 30 male prizewinners, Rubin won it. (If you’re wondering: yes, an additional 14 years passed and 27 more men won the prize in the physical sciences category before any other women did so.)

    In 1996 Rubin was the second woman ever to receive the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. The first woman so honored was Caroline Herschel, nearly 170 years prior. As did many women of her generation (or any of them), Rubin faced many barriers in her career simply because she was a woman. For example, as a scientific staff member of the Carnegie Institution in the 1960s, she had institutional access to the world-class Palomar Observatory in California. But she was denied access to the observatory, with the excuse that there were limited bathroom facilities.

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

    Nevertheless, she persisted, and in 1965 she was finally allowed to observe at Palomar. She was the first woman to be officially allowed to do so. (Burbidge had gained access under the name of her husband Geoffrey.) Rubin carried on as an advocate for the equal treatment of women in science and helped many other women in their careers as astronomers. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, funded primarily by the NSF and the Department of Energy, will carry on her legacy and her work to study the nature of dark energy and dark matter and map out the structure of the universe as traced by billions of galaxies.

    We have come a long way from the days where women weren’t allowed in the same buildings as men. But we still have a long way to travel, because it is still too easy, even in science and with our desire to avoid bias, for a man to cast doubt on the worth of a woman’s work. We also apparently have much to learn about the nature of dark matter—which may be a dark sector of dark matter particle species, for all we know so far. Because of Rubin’s pioneering work, we are all further along these journeys than we would be without her. By hearing her name and her story, along with the wonderful discoveries we all anticipate from the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, little girls everywhere can learn they, too, can contribute to our understanding of the universe.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 160 years.

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