Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Women in Science News Roundup: North America Edition

I am way behind my rounding up the news, so this week I'm splitting the posts by continent.

Blog bits:

The Jamaica Gleaner profiles scientist Dianah Barrett who received the Jennifer Cox Award from St. Andrew High School.

She laughs when asked why she pursued not only a doctorate in chemistry, but a post- graduate and a master’s degree in the discipline as well.

“That’s what people always (ask!),” she stated with a laugh. “Why chemistry?”

She explained that she has always enjoyed science subjects and that while she was in high school she realised that she wanted to pursue a career that would help people suffering from diseases.
[. . . snip]
“In father’s study, there were so many books about science as he has always liked technology and science and my mom’s background is in nursing and she also worked for drug companies.

“My parents are my heroes, my inspiration!” she revealed. “Pursuit of higher education was always encouraged in our household and what our parents told us, they lived themselves. Dad always said reachfor the Moon, if you don’t reach it, at least you’ll fall among the stars.”

Barrett was a 2005 United Negro College Fund-Merck Graduate Fellow at Harvard University.

Here are some news stories about women (and girls) in science and engineering from the US and Canada:

Read President Bush's speech when presenting the 2005 and 2006 National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology Awards at the White House. Two of the medal winners were women: Rita Colwell and Nina Federoff. Tara at Aetiology has has more about the work of Rita Colwell.

There are a record number of women (32%) enrolling for the fall 2007 semester at Princeton's graduate school of Engineering and Applied Science.
“We have reached a critical mass of women graduate students and we expect that number will only grow in the future,” said Stephen Friedfeld, associate dean for graduate affairs at Princeton Engineering.

Friedfeld said that women engineers seem to find Princeton a particularly hospitable place for a number of reasons, citing student groups such as Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, the Graduate Engineering Council, and the Graduate Engineering Ambassadors.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Caltech also has a record number of women enrolling this fall. 87 of the 235 members of the freshmen entering class (37%) are female, a significant increase from last year's 28.5% and the highest number since women were first admitted in 1970.
The new rise may not seem very dramatic to the outside world. Caltech still lags the 46.1% female enrollment expected in this fall's freshman class at its East Coast rival, MIT, which offers a broader range of majors, and the 42.6% expected at Harvey Mudd College, the science-and-math-focused school in Claremont. And all those schools still lag the current 57% female enrollment total at colleges nationwide.
They say they haven't lowered their admission standards, but made other changes to recruit young women.
Among other things, Caltech made its female applicants more aware that, for example, they could be physics majors but also study music and literature, said Rick Bischoff, director of undergraduate admissions."That's not to say men are not interested in those issues," but those seem to resonate more with women, Bischoff said.
Back when I was looking at universities, Caltech had the reputation of being an uncomfortable place for young women - typical behavior was described as groups of young men standing and staring with mouths agape when any female came within their vicinity. Based on this article, the atmosphere apparently hasn't changed much in 20 years.
Caltech students said they are not expecting a revolution in social life or an end to the much-discussed practice of "glomming," in which a posse of young men annoyingly seek the attention of one woman. But, they add, it doesn't require an 800 on your math SAT to realize that the improved ratio will boost men's chances for an on-campus girlfriend.
And no one thinks that this might be one reason why young women choose to attend one of the other fine universities in California or elsewhere in the U.S.? I know it made me think twice about going there.

The Tacoma (Washington) News Tribune reports that University of Puget Sound computer science professor Andrew Nierman and Washington State University Vancouver professor Scott Wallace have received NSF grant money "to craft a gaming engine specifically designed to make learning computer science more fun for students."

“Nationwide, computer science enrollments are down,” University of Puget Sound computer science professor Andrew Nierman said.

“Traditionally, computer science has also had trouble attracting women. I think we do have to think about marketing ourselves. I think we do have to work to make it interesting,” Nierman said.

KVOA News 4 in Tuscon, Arizona reports that the incoming class at the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State will have its largest number of women ever (14%), thanks to it's new female recruiter Melissa Luna.
Women tended to flock to residential housing until the market began to slow about a year or two ago, he said. Often it's the already established female presence that is responsible for enticing new workers."I think there tends to be more visibility as far as other senior leaders in those companies that were women," Eicher said.The lack of female faculty members has been a hindrance for attracting women to the school, he added."It has always been difficult no matter what the engineering curriculum ... to get women to come in," he said. "They're heavily recruited in the industry. It's hard to draw them back."To try to remedy the absence of female role models, the school tries to pair incoming students with female upperclassmen as part of a mentor system, Luna said.
The Honolulu Advertiser reports that The Maui Economic Development Board's Women in Technology Project is sponsoring MentorNet programs for students at the University of Hawaii.
MentorNet provides a one-on-one pairing with professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries, who are willing to serve as mentors to graduate and undergraduate students, providing advice and information on their fields.
They also report that U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye commented on the America COMPETES Act:

It includes a provision directing the National Science Foundation to develop a mentoring program for women interested in pursuing science education, modeled on the Women in Technology Project.

Inouye noted the Women in Technology Project has expanded across Hawaii with programs to assist female students who are interested in STEM careers.

He said it is important for the government to encourage women to pursue STEM opportunities.

"We need to ensure that we do not neglect a segment of the population, but rather maximize all of this country's great human resources," he said.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey was a co-sponsor of the COMPETES Act.
Menendez successfully fought to include provisions from his Partnership for Access to Laboratory Science (PALS) Act to ensure the bill will increase the number of women and minorities in the science and technology fields and aid in revitalizing high school science labs in rural communities.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that there a number of events for kids in Ohio and Kentucky who are interested in engineering, science and math. At least one is aimed at girls specifically.
The Society of Women Engineers University of Cincinnati chapter has several outreach events for middle and high school girls: They put up a building in October, testing its strength against earthquakes and other disasters; they take apart a toaster in December and design prosthetic devices for a fictional shark attack victim in February. Later they'll design a safety harness for Chip, the Hollywood stunt egg.
The Detroit Free Press reports that Camp Infinity at Lawrence Technological University (sponsored by the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation) gave girls in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties the opportunity to learn how to make web sites, program robots and learn about careers in technology fields.

Camp Infinity targets girls between fourth and seventh grades because studies show that a girl's interest in math, science and technology drops off at the middle school level, Bayer said.

"Once they get to high school, it's too late," Bayer said. "We go for the younger girls so when they get to high school, they will still think learning about math or science is cool."

While I think it's great the course is for younger girls, it seems defeatist to say that it's "too late" once they reach high school.

Lower Hudson Online reports on the Exploring Interests in Technology and Engineering (EX.I.T.E) Camp, run by IBM for middle-school girls, at the T.J. Watson Research Center.
"The best part of EX.I.T.E. Camp," said Aviva Frank, 13, of New Castle, "is the fact that I can be smart and do all kinds of crazy experiments without having people point at me and call me a nerd."
The Ottowa Business Journal reports on the EX.I.T.E. Camp that will be held at IBM's offices in Kanata in a couple of weeks.
IBM estimates that 85 per cent of the more than 5,000 girls who have participated in the camp worldwide since 1999 have indicated that they would be interested in pursuing a career in science, engineering, math or technology
CBS3 of Allentown, Pennsylvania has a video report on the Da Vinci Science Center's Material Girls Science Camp.
"A lot of girls, especially in 5th/6th grade, start to think science is just for boys and it’s really not. So we're just trying to encourage them that it’s a lot of fun," said Da Vinci Science Center Educator Ruth Brown.

Brown used to be a chemical engineer and now she's teaching girls how to their make their own hand sanitizers. The girls will locate areas with large amounts of germs at the center and test their sanitizers to see if they work.

"What we're trying to do is teach them science, biology, chemistry, some physics and nanotechnology with products they're familiar with, so they're definitely learning science," Brown said.
At Feministing Jessica posted video from Vermont's all-girl welding camp, Rosie's Girls.

The Deseret News looks at the summer camp for girls at the Utah Museum of Natural History.
"It's important for girls to do some science exploration and see females in scientific roles and science careers," said Shelli Campbell, public programs coordinator for the Museum of Natural History. "Sometimes when girls are in a mixed group doing science the boys can sometimes tend to take over."
Though the girls are a little young to look at career choices seriously, Campbell said she hopes the camp can plant a seed of science interest and that the girls will see that they can go far in a scientific career and they can do anything as long as they put their mind to it.
The Indy Star reports on a program at Purdue University, "Cheering in the Classroom," teaches girls science principles and how to apply them to cheerleading.
After the lecture Saturday, they hit the swimming pool for a "flying" competition. Climbing on the shoulders of two male Purdue cheerleaders, the girls squeezed their limbs together in an attempt to be flung across the pool the farthest -- and to be the most aerodynamic.
[snip . . .]
"I want the girls to realize there are other options out there other than the ones they see every day," Jacobs said. "There's more to do than be a nurse, an elementary school teacher or a housewife."
More posts tomorrow!

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Anonymous said...

Funny anecdote about Caltech. I considered going there as well in 1990, but was much more afraid of failing academically than anything else. But I guess back then I might have been more similar to them socially since I'd have virtually no experience dating and really wasn't even interested.

Of course, then I went to Stanford and got married a week ater graduation thus setting me off on a life course that I could never have imagined. ;)