Monday, June 30, 2008

Good Websites for Young Geeky Girls

There's a discussion at Feministe about websites for young geeky girls. Here's what I suggested:

  • Smart Girls Rock! is an online community for girls into math, science and general geekydom.
  • BrainCake is the web site of The Girls, Math & Science Partnership.
  • Engineer Girl and Engineer Your Life are sites about engineering for girls.
  • Inkling Magazine is a fun online science magazine written by women.
  • Girl Start is another science site targeted to girls.
  • Girls Go Tech is run by the Girl Scouts.
  • She might be interested in reading science blogs by women too. She might enjoy, the Science Sisters blog (written by two young women) or the beauty brains (about the science of beauty products). There are many women science bloggers - I have a bunch in the blogroll of my women in science blog, linked to my name, above.

I've updated the sidebar list of sites for girls interested in science based on some of the suggestions on that thread.

Scientiae Carnival Reminder

This is just a reminder that this month's Scientiae Carnival will be published on July 3 at PodBlack Blog, and there's still time to submit an entry. This month's theme:

"A voice in the crowd" - are you heard? How are you heard? Are you one of a team that works as a choir or does discordance rule the roost?

If you're singing solo in the shower, can you be idolised for your Idol-qualities or not care if you're called tone-deaf - as long as you're enjoying your song?

There's many ways that we can let ourselves be heard but who really has control of the megaphone? And who carries the tune after you've stopped? Feel free to work with the theme or ignore it altogether, as long as we're listening front and center for your brilliant aria or swan-song on a Scientiae subject.
So submit your (or someone else's) blog post that relates to women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by July 2nd. Submission instructions are here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Blog roll update: supplemental

Thanks to everyone who sent me blog suggestions!

As always, if you'd rather your blog not be listed, drop me a note and I'll remove it from the list. And if you have another suggestion, let me know!

General and Miscellaneous

The Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS) has news about meetings and fellowships.

The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (CWiST) blog has news about Canadian women in, well, you know . . .

Physical Sciences

Christie at the Cape teaches in the geology department at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She says "I am pretty new here. This blog is about settling in."

Mel at Ripples in the Sand is "a graduate student in the Rocky Mountain region. My interests include sedimentology, stratigraphy, and diagenesis - with an emphasis on deserts."

Alessia Maggi is a research seismologist in Strasbourg, France who blogs at Sismordia - Seismology at Concordia.

Ordinary High Water Mark is written by Coconino, "a woman geoscientist and I primarily work on conducting wetland/waters jurisdictional determinations in the greater southwest."

Dr. Lisa is an astrophysicist who blogs at Things I Find Important. "I'm a scientist and an educator. And occasionally, I want to say things that I shouldn't say in front of the students. So, here I am."

Louise Riofrio blogs at A Babe in the Universe. She's a "Full-time researcher in cosmology. Before graduating I learned that the speed of light is slowing down and came up with the GM=tc^3 equation, which most physicists still can't explain. More recent work seeks Black Holes in some very unexpected places. I enjoy exploring a strange world and unusual forms of life."

Marni Dee Sheppeard is a physics and astronomy postgrad in New Zealand. Her blog, "Arcadian Functor" has "occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world."

Wayward Elf is an "American expat in Switzerland who, to the horror of everyone she meets, shipped over a spinning wheel and ten (small and liftable) boxes of books. And a lot of knitting needles. All padded with my yarn and fiber stash." She just successfully defended her thesis - congrats Dr. Elf!

Life Sciences

Rock Doctor writes at Life v. 3.0 . She says: "After many bumps, twists, and turns in the life of a military spouse, I have finally reclaimed my own space and place. I am for myself and all the world, a geobiologist."

Adopt a Microbe is the blog of Emma Lurie, a student in Perth, Australia. Each post is a portrait of a bacterium, virus, or other microbe, with a description and cute original illustration. I never thought I'd want to give herpes a hug!

Alethea of Humans in Science suggested several French women science bloggers:

Ingénieur Bioinformaticienne is written by "Evelyne, is a research engineer in bioinformatics and has been actively writing for the last year on her career."

Dr. Caroline Legrand, anthropologist, "has a diverse blog covering her academic specialty, genealogy, searching for origins, and her view of French academic politics."

Dr. Sophie Pène "has been keeping a blog about her research in networking on her university site"

Mathematics and Computer Science

Ivory Tower Tales blogger Science Cog is "a newly appointed tenure-track assistant professor in the mathematical sciences at a large research university in the United States. Cast of characters on this blog include the cog family consisting of spouse with demanding job and several kids."

Jessika at Middle Raged Punk is "a 30-something punk/geek chick living in Oklahoma. I am married with one Baby Grrl, and am still struggling with working full time, doing the home stuff, and rebelling against the system while trying to find time to satisfy the geek in me by playing video and other games." She asks "Where'd all the women in IT go?"

The Women and Mathematics EMS Committee blog has the following description:

The idea to try and provide European women mathematicians with a meeting point between the two EWM meetings, was born at the EWM Cambridge meeting. The European Mathematical Society Committee Women and Mathematics launched the blog on September 12, 2007, with a wish to put this idea into work.

We are doing our best to publish the materials as regularly as possible. Of course, people are more than welcome to leave their comments. (Unfortunately, this opportunity has not been very much exploited.) So far we have published various materials : statistical data, reports on past activities of the Committee, materials about EWM; we have also started a gallery of portraits of living women mathematicians, each of whom is introduced by one of her women colleagues.


Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men is written by Janiece Murphy, "a Hot Chick living in Parker, CO with my Smart Man, my family and my Giant Schnauzer. I'm a 17 year veteran of the United States Navy, and I currently work as a Systems Engineer at a major manufacturer of Telecommunications equipment. I'm an amateur skeptic and a fan-girl of science, and I think Neil deGrasse Tyson knows the secret of the Universe. I'm unashamedly liberal. I attend the University of Denver, knit cold weather accessories for various charities, and I'm learning to play bass guitar in an effort to stave off the Mad Cow."

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lia Merminga: Particle Physicist

TRIUMF, Canada's National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics, recently appointed particle physicist Nikolitsa "Lia" Merminga as the new Head of it's Accelerator Division, "one of Canada's most senior scientific posts".

Merminga spoke to the Vancouver Courier about growing up in Greece. Her love for science was stimulated by a young female physics teacher:

"She impressed me so much and she became my role model at that very sensitive age. Somehow my vague interest in science was solidified during that year," Merminga said.

"I also had a love for math. I loved mathematics, and to me, the fact that I could use mathematical models to describe physical phenomena was very powerful," she added. "I had the framework to explain physical phenomena and predict more extreme conditions, if you like."

She feels that attending all-girl middle and high schools helped her build up confidence, so that her arrival at the University of Athens - where less than 10% of the physics students were women - wasn't as intimidating as it could have been. However, she doesn't believe that separate schools for boys and girls is necessarily the answer to stimulating girls' interest in science careers:
"The answer is more to share with boys and girls all together at a young age the excitement of doing science, of doing physics, and to show them the ties of science with everyday life," she said. "And also that it's a means of answering some very fundamental questions."
Merminga ultimately came the United States, where she earned masters degrees in physics and mathematics, and a PhD in physics from the University of Michigan. Her subsequent research has made her "widely recognized for expertise in identifying problems and solutions associated with the push for higher energy, higher quality accelerator beams, and developing concepts for new accelerators." She is currently the Director of the Center for Advanced Studies of Accelerators (CASA) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Alice Ting: Innovative Chemist

MIT Associate Professor Alice Ting does beautiful science at the crossroads of chemistry and biology. She and her lab have developed a method of connecting small fluorescent labels to proteins in living cells. Named one of the 2006 Young Innovators by Technology Review, her work makes her one of the top young chemists in the US:

"Alice Ting is a true innovator and is one of the best chemists of her generation," says Timothy Swager, chair of MIT's chemistry department. "Scores of research groups around the world are already applying her methods." One of Ting's latest projects is to fluorescently image the junction between nerve cells, illuminating a biochemical process that appears to play a key role in learning and memory. So it may be possible one day to see an actual film of how a brain learns. "Mammalian cells are so beautiful and funky," says Ting--with the appreciation of a true director.
You can watch movies of living cells on the Ting Lab web site (there is also video of a recent talk she gave at Stanford).

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tales from the birdbath: The Scientist

Null Hypothesis, the UK "Journal of Unlikely Science" has rounded up a cool list of indie science-related music for their Geek Pop 08 Festival. My fave is the pop song "The Scientist" by Tales from the Birdbath, not only because it captures the often long hours of data collection, but because the scientist is a "she".

From the lyrics:

She falls asleep at her machine
While her husband and children dream
Her tired eyes and tired hands
Search for the data she has planned
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Monday, June 23, 2008

Where is she now? Moon Duchin

As part of their ongoing series on Westinghouse (now Intel) Science Talent Search finalists, Scientific American profiles mathematician Moon Duchin, who was a finalist in 1993. Both of Duchin's parents loved numbers, and she knew she wanted to be a mathematician from the tender age of 7. She not only enjoyed math, but excelled at it. She completed all the math classes her high school had to offer her freshman year, and, the summer before her senior year she had the opportunity to work with Harvard number theorist Noam Elkies. Elkies suggested she do some work on lattice geometry, and the resulting paper was entered into the Science Talent Search.

But mathematics wasn't her only interest:

Duchin went to Harvard to study math, but even as she pursued a fairly traditional track for a promising young mathematician, she was becoming suspicious of the traditional great "Men of Mathematics" (to quote a famous book title) concept. "Does it hinge on specific people or is it inevitable it will come out that way?" she asks. The Great Man model of a genius working alone in his garret "started to seem like it was obscuring some of the important community aspects of mathematics, and like it was controlling who would even think to enter the field," she says. Duchin stuck it out because of her 7-year-old dream and "adolescent stubbornness," but "it wasn't always easy to see my way through. Meanwhile, I'd picked up an enduring interest in cultural practices and philosophical issues in science."

So at Harvard, Duchin wound up double majoring in math and women's studies. She did a mathematics research thesis, and also one for the women's studies department looking at "Why the notion of genius is so attractive with thinking about math and how it functions, and what it does to math as a field," she says. "Lots of people think this is a non-social field—would math come out differently in a society with a different social organization?" While she's not trying to debunk the existence of genius ("there really are people you meet in math and you learn about who just synthesize things in ways that other people don't have access to with any investment of time"), the Great Man theory "definitely stilts the narrative. A real intellectual history is harder to do but it illuminates the math very differently."
She completed her PhD in mathematics at the University of Chicago, where she also taught a class in gender studies. Currently she is a post-doc at UC Davis, and is due to start a second postdoc at the University of Michigan this fall. She "ultimately hopes to do cross-disciplinary teaching and research incorporating math and her interest in the humanities."
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

India's Children of Liberalisation

The Financial Times profiled the generation of Indians born in the 1980s and early 1990s who are just coming into adulthood (free reg. required or BugMeNot).

Finding a place in the country’s 24-7 economy might be a breeze for the 24-year-olds of First World India. But for the 800 million inhabitants of Third World India who live on less than $2 a day, growth has been little more than a spectator sport. FT interviews with seven 24-year-olds from across the spectrum of religious, caste and geographic backgrounds highlight not just the widening gap between these two worlds, but the danger of a backlash against liberalisation that could prompt a return of the politics of envy and the socialist remedies that consigned India to decades of disappointing growth.
Among the profilees is Sweta Singh, a software engineer for Infosys.
Women account for 32 per cent of the Infosys workforce. Even if the number of people employed in the IT sector – under 2 million – is small, it has been an engine of female empowerment. “Sixty per cent of my classmates are working like me, but there are still 40 per cent who got settled down and married,” she says. “Part of them must always be thinking ‘I should have gone out there and taken a chance.’ ”
Her life is in stark contrast to Ranno Banwasi, who is a Musahar, "a low-ranking Dalit – literally “oppressed” – caste that remains ostracised long after the abolition of “untouchabilty”. She and her husband only earn enough money to eat one small meal a day, and her soon-to-be born baby will almost certainly suffer from malnutrition - if it survives. Only 2.6% of Musahar woman and 6% of Musahar men are literate and their educational opportunities are limited.
The few Musahar children who attend school find themselves taunted by their higher-caste teachers, who will often try to turn them away or segregate them from their peers. Who, they ask, will do the manual labour if Musahar children become educated? Banwasi never even got that far. “My father was a fool – he never sent us to school,” she says, offering her visitors a snack of puffed rice and molasses. “The family needed the money, so I had to work.”
The article concludes that India must educate their entire population to assure the country's place in the global economy.
The isolated existence of the country’s Dalit population exposes one of the India’s greatest myths: that caste has disappeared. For middle-class Indians, the idea that wealth will eventually trickle down is accepted as fact. For Banwasi and millions like her, that idea is nothing more than a self-serving upper-caste delusion. Unless India invests in educating all its people and equipping them for employment, it is hard to see how the country will enjoy a demographic dividend on the scale that some are predicting. Indeed, unless a far greater proportion of the population is able to participate in the country’s growth, India’s economic model could prove politically unsustainable.
It will be interesting to see if international initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child, which currently has a a program in Khairat-Dhangarwada village, 81 km from Mumbai. It seems like a neat idea, but it likely won't help the very poorest of the poor and those children who are kept out of school for cultural reasons. See the recent Technology Review article for more about the successes and limitations of the OLPC program.

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Women in Science Link Roundup: June 21 edition

Here are some women in science and engineering news bits and blog posts from the past couple of weeks (in no particular order):

First off some shameless self-promotion: you might be interested in my posts @ Biology in Science fiction about Isabella Rossellini's short film series Green Porno (which, other than the title, is totally SFW), and a discussion of "Hard Science Fiction, Biology and Women (again)"

At Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog: "You feminists just want to tell women to do what you want, instead of letting them CHOOSE (and we all know girls *choose* the girly stuff)"

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon writes about "Defending the Feminine" in response to the Nerd Girls video.

Vanessa Richmond at AlterNet writes that Nerdy Girls Have Attained Sexy Status. I think she sums up my ambivalence about the whole "Nerd Girls" phenomenon pretty well:

Let's hope there's something to the new sex appeal of nerdy women, who love nothing more than a hard equation, have a penchant for gadgets, and spend their free time looking for bugs in new software applications -- and happen to like girly things as well. [. . .]

Then again, if we're all just being reminded, once again, that smart women get more male attention and career success if they wear high heels and makeup, then, please, call me when you've changed the channel from Mary Tyler Moore.

Alice at Sciencewomen liveblogged the Inclusive Science Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The OC Register has an article about a report (“Gender Equity in Academia: Bad News From the Trenches, and Some Possible Solutions” ) based on interviews with UC Irvine faculty members.
In the interviews, women frequently said that their work was often considered less valuable than similar work by men, and that they were pressured to take on service jobs that took time away from their research duties. One woman said she never wore pink clothes or talked about children at work, because of an unspoken stigma.
UCI's vice chancellor for research, Susan V. Bryant, was (not surprisingly) critical of the report:
"It's a very one-sided view of what's been happening over the last eight years," said Bryant. "We've been trying very hard to change things, but there's still more to be done."
There's a more detailed article and discussion about the report at Inside Higher Education. (Surprisingly, there is a commenter there who believes that professors get "3-month summer vacations." That person is definitely not a faculty member.)

The 8th Annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing will be held October 1-4 at the Keystone Resort in Keystone, Colorado. Keynote speakers will be Fran Allen, IBM Fellow Emerita and Mary Lou Jepsen, founder and CTO of One Laptop per Child. Registration is now open.

The 2008 British Computer Society Lovelace Medal lecture was a tribute to Karen Spärck Jones, who was the first women to receive Lovelace Medal. She received the award just weeks before she died last year. Watch the video of the lecture.

A Babe in the Universe has an obit of Janet Christine Dietrich, one of the "Mercury 13" women who trained as astronauts but were disbanded before being allowed to go into pace. There's another obit for Dietrich at io9.

At Blue Lab Coats drdrA writes about faculty who are at a loss when talented women they are training drop out of the academic science pipeline. Her suggestion: "Don't just cry about it, DO SOMETHING!"

The University of Texas at San Antonio profiles Floretta Jones:
She is the first African-American woman to earn a biology doctorate at UTSA and one of only 100 African-American women across the country to have earned the degree. She credits much of her success to the funding of her doctorate by the MBRS-RISE (Minority Biomedical Research Support - Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement) program.

Fabio at "asked female scholars and graduate students to share their thoughts for the benefit of women working their way through the academic system". He summarized their responses as "grad skool rulz #19: words for women"

Scientific American writes about Hedy Lamarr and the new play Frequency Hopping.

Medical resident Dr. Signout writes about the significance of being "Dr. Signout" instead of "Trixie."

Geeky Mom on Women and Science Again

Jake at Pure Pedantry onMore Gender Equal Countries have Smaller Gender Gaps for Math Performance

In the LA Times: Women vs. Men: Who's Better At Business? Short answer: neither.

Suzie at Echidne of the Snakes asks whether "Just add women and stir?" is sufficient to increase the representation of women in male-dominated fields.

Daisy Grewal writes about Explaining the Math Gender Gap for the Psychology Today Sexual Stereotypes blog.

While this blog is pretty USA-focused, there is a gender gap in Europe too. TMCnet writes about the gender gap in science the Netherlands and Technika 10, a Dutch network of science and technology clubs for girls.

Green Gabro has Advice for the Mathphobe who wants to go into geoscience.

Just for fun: easternblot points out buffalonerdproject's very cool Laboratory Rockstar embellished lab coat at Etsy.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Science and 19th Century American Women

Astronomer Maria Mitchell was born in 1818 into a Quaker family living on the island of Nantucket. Her Quaker family believed in equal education of the sexes, and her father, a school principal, taught her astronomy. She pursued her interest in science, becoming a professor of astronomy at Vassar College in 1865. Her honors included becoming the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Reneé Bergland's recent biography, Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer Among the American Romantics, takes a look at her life and the attitudes towards women doing science in the 19th century. In an essay for the Beacon Broadside Bergland wrote:

The great surprise for me was that Mitchell faced relatively little bias. In her time, girls were thought of as naturally scientific—and science itself was considered a feminine pastime. The shocks of history can be hard to parse. On one hand, it’s exciting to realize that there was a time (not that long ago) when a girl like the young Maria Mitchell grew up believing that there was nothing preventing her from achieving scientific greatness. On the other hand, it’s a bit discouraging to realize that when I was born in New York City in the late twentieth century, the odds were worse for girls in astronomy than they had been when Mitchell was born on Nantucket more than a hundred and fifty years before.
Not having read Bergland's book, I don't completely follow how the odds for girls interested in pursuing astronomy were so much better 150 years ago. Would an average girl growing up in New York City in the mid-1800s have really have had the same opportunities as Mitchell to pursue science? Probably not, at least according to The Science Education of American Girls: A Historical Perspective, which Bergland links to in her article. While mid-19th century girls seminaries did include chemistry, physics and other science in their curricula, those seminaries were not open to all girls:
In actuality , the opportunity to study the sciences was largely confined to females from wealthy families. Relatively few American girls had either the leisure or financial means to study the sciences during the antebellum era. Some of the textbooks published during the antebellum period reveal the assumptions of contemporaries about the social status of females who engaged in scientific investigation. For example, Ricard G. Parker's Juvenile Philosophy, a popular elementary text, conveys scientific principles through the medium of a mother's conversation with her daughter. The elite status of this pair is implied in their surroundings and apparatus. One illustration depicts the two of them in a well-appointed drawing room, using a gold coin to perform a science experiment [. . .]"
So as long as a girl was from a well-off family, she would be given an education in the sciences, which was seen as naturally feminine subject matter. That is indeed a change from 20th century attitudes that girls are inherently incapable of understanding chemistry and physics. However, it's not clear to me that the education of girls in science necessarily gave them more opportunities to be scientists. Could most women really go beyond pursuing science as an amateur hobby and expect to have a career? And could a woman who wanted to marry and have children pursue her scientific interests?

As for Mitchell, she strove to improve the status of women in the sciences.
Throughout her career, Mitchell stressed the importance of women being hired for professional jobs, paid fairly, and encouraged rather than discouraged. Regarding the proportion of women faculty, she once asked, “Do you know of any case in which a boy’s college has offered a professorship to a woman? Until you do, it is absurd to say that the highest learning is within the reach of women.” Regarding pay, one of Mitchell’s students, Anna Brackett commented, “The indignant protest” with which she “called for an equal salary, was not a personal affair. She flamed out on behalf of all women, and of abstract justice.” As for efforts to encourage women, the New York Times reported in 1881, “The question of equality of the sexes is one that does not naturally disturb such a woman. She merely says if women are regarded as equals, in mental capacity, they should have equal advantages, and if considered inferior, they should be given better chances.” Her words hold true today, too. Women need better chances because, as Mitchell put it, “Science needs women.”
It's an interesting topic, and I think I'll have to find a copy of Bergland's book to learn more.

(via Green Gabbro, who also has some links about women and geology)
More books about Maria Mitchell.
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Were you encouraged to be a scientist or an engineer?

Sciencewoman has a story and a hypothesis:

You see, back when I was a girl, my parents encouraged my interest in the natural world. And they encouraged my brother's interest in all things electrical and mechanical. Today, I'm a scientist and he's an engineer.
Her hypothesis:
"More boys than girls with interested in the way things* work get encouraged** to go into engineering."
She wants to hear from both women and men, scientists and engineers, and you can help her out by heading over to her blog and participating in her (non-scientific) poll. You can see the current results by clicking the "View" button next to the questions.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kristina M. Johnson wins John Fritz Medal

The John Fritz Medal is awarded by the American Association of Engineering Societies, and is considered "the highest award in the engineering profession". In April, Kristina M Johnson, Ph.D. became it first woman recipient.

Johnson is being recognized for her internationally acknowledged expertise in optics, optoelectronic switching, and display technology and her commitment to education and the engineering profession.

Johnson is currently the senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University. Prior to that position, Johnson was the Dean of the Edmund T. Pratt Jr. School of Engineering at Duke University where she implemented the importance of engineering education. During her tenure, the Pratt School experienced significant growth in both size and quality. The engineering faculty grew by 50%, women faculty in engineering tripled in number, and teaching and research facilities increased tremendously.

In addition to her profound influence at Duke, Johnson co-founded the Colorado Advanced Technology Institute for Excellence in Optoelectronics and is director emeritus of the Optoelectronics Computing Systems Center at the University of Colorado. Johnson holds numerous patents and has authored over 140 referred journal publications.

Johnson has been a science star since she was a teenager:
Johnson's reputation, however, has a habit of preceding her-at least since her senior year at Denver's Thomas Jefferson High School in 1975. That was the year she decided to map the growth of a fungus, using holography, for a science fair project. Chemistry had been her first love, but she had moved on to physics because, as she now recalls, "It was harder, so I thought I should try to become a physicist." Her project won the city contest, then the state, and ended up with a first and a second in the physics division at the International Science and Engineering Fair. "I figured there was something to this and that I should stick with it," she says.
She was encouraged by her parents: her mother "always believed that education was the way forward" and her father who gave books on electricity, taught her how to build a telegraph set and "presented her with her first slide rule." She went on to receive her doctorate from Stanford, and after a postdoc at Trinity College in Dublin, returned to the US as an assistant professor in electrical engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. There she earned tenure in less than five years, worked on a television series for children about the physics of light, and helped found (and was appointed the deputy director of) the Engineering Research Center for Optical Computing Systems. From 1999-2007 she was the dean of the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering. Currently she's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at The Johns Hopkins University.

In 2002 she testified before Congress about the need for more women and minorities in science and engineering, telling them:
“What was once a moral obligation to promote diversity by providing equal opportunity for interesting, high-paying careers for all citizens is now a national imperative,” [. . .] “Simply put, unless we bring more women and minorities into science and engineering fields, we will not have the intellectual capital to address the major economic, environmental, health, and security issues facing our nation. Developing our underutilized human resources can be our competitive advantage.”
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Blog Roll Update

I've been kind of neglecting the list of women science bloggers in the sidebar. If you asked to be included and I'm just now getting around to adding you, I apologize. I've done a bit of spring cleaning, and removed blogs that either have gone dormant (not updated for at least 6 months) or have been deleted completely. I also added the new Blogger widget that shows the most recent post for each blog. I like it, for the most part, but the one drawback is that it can only include blog feeds - blogs without feeds (and there are some out there) aren't included, and there usually aren't separate feeds for individual authors in multi-author blogs.

What's exciting to me is the sheer variety of women science bloggers. Some talk about their personal experiences, while others are purely science. Some bloggers are pseudonymous, others blog under their real names. The authors are undergrads, college students, grad students, post docs, faculty members, scientists in industry, programmers, teachers, science writers, and more. And what are all these blogs good for (other than interesting reading, of course)? Fairer Science's Building Web Communities has some suggestions for "Using Women in Science Blogs to Encourage Girls in Science" (and I'm not just mentioning because they link back here). There's also a good discussion of using "Women in Science" blogs as a recruitment tool at Sciencewomen.

Please let me know if there are blogs you think should be included (I apologize if your blog vanished in the transition to the new widget), I've miscategorized your blog, misspelled your name or you'd rather not be included in the blog roll at all.

So without any more ado, here are the most recently added blogs:

General & Miscellaneous

This category is for blogs that are about science or women in science in general, or it's unclear whether author is a life scientist, physical scientist or other.

Parsnip Parsimony is a "vegan baking and science blog". Her most recent post is about donuts and chemistry. Yummy!

Inside Higher Education's Mama PhD is a group blog by mothers "attempting to balance motherhood and academics", that includes "ABCs and PhDs: Biologists at Home" Liz Stockwell, Dana Campbell, and Susan Bassow, as well as "Math Mom" Della Fenster.

Scientia Matris is "A female post-doc in some field or another. A mother of two divine little creatures who sometimes I refer to as 'career killers' (they are my highest impact productions whose citation rate will long outlive me and possibly also my science!). I work in a big group at present but am about to take the big leap and set up on my own."

Jennie at Just a Girl is "in the last year of my Ph.D. dissertation
and have currently moved from the East Coast to the Midwest for my
husbands job." She turned in her dissertation on June 2 - congrats!

Becky at Sweet Life in Seattle is a "postdoc in science trying to navigate being a full-time working mom and wife and all of the minutia that entails."

Kate's Controversies "is a place for conversation and discussion about controversies in science, technology, engineering, and many other topics. Kate, the blog's owner, will use this blog to publicly ask "WHY?" to controversial topics that catch her eye."

Life Sciences

This is definitely the largest category. I'm not sure if that's because there are more women who blog about the life sciences (which would make sense because there are more women life scientists than physical scientists), or if it's because I'm most interested in biological science topics.

Neurotic Physiology is a blog by "SciCurious", who is "a graduate student struggling through the vagaries of a PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology at a southeastern university. She tried to stay focused on her work, but she can’t help it, she’s sci-curious. In her free time, she is a nerd, a geek, and also a dork. And every once in a while, she talks about herself in the third person. "

R.E.S.E.A.R.C.H.E.R.S is a co-ed blog by postdocs Dr. A and Dr. J. What their blog is about:

Dr J and I used to work on the same floor in the institute where I did my Ph.D. and where J came for a postdoctoral position from across the pond. The last year for me, and the first for him were very busy times but we helped each other through by providing counseling over a pint or 5, a bottle of shiraz, chocolate and sushi. These sessions were instrumental in getting me through the hardest year of my life and now that I have moved for my own postdoctoral work, and we are unable to chat, bitch, wine, or cry in person - why not start a blog!
Scientist Mother is pursuing a PhD at "a university in Western Canada". She's an indo-Canadian, and, as the title of her blog indicates, a mother. Her latest post is on the Validity of Leaving Academia.

The biology blog is written by Regina Baily, who is "active in the development of biology and science related content for a Web content development firm. She has written the forward for a book from the well known Complete Idiot's Guide series: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Cloning." Her goal "make biology meaningful and fun, and to provide you with fresh, up-to-date information that will make you wonder why all of those science courses were so boring."

Biotech Brazil is written by Luciana di Ciero, "an Agronomic Engineer with a Masters Degree in Agronomy and Doctorate Degree in Science."

Tina at Raising Scientists is 'Full time post-doc. Part-time teacher. Mother of two. And sleep deprived."

Julie R at In My (Not So) Abundant Spare Time . . . is "Postdoc by day. Wife and mother of twins by night."

WomanScientist is a graduate student "Trying to figure out what it means to be a woman and a scientist. Trying to figure out how this career fits into real life. Trying to convince myself that I can do this.

Physical Sciences

This category includes physics, chemistry, geosciences, astronomy, and related sciences.

Magma Cum Laude is written by Jessica, a soon-to-be graduate student in volcanology.

Science writer Jennifer Ouellette, who blogs at Cocktail Party Physics, has a second blog at called Twisted Physics.

Physicality of Words is a blog by postdoc Åka, who writes about "physics, about going abroad for postdoc, about literature and ideas, and about fandom and Sweden and related things that I find interesting."

Dr. RMC, Non-Fiction Scientist is written by "a female postdoc in the general area of env. chem."

Nerd-land is a blog (in English) by Darwi, a Bosnian scientist now working in the UK. Read about her experience as a woman in science.

A Wallflower Physicist's Perspective is written by "a female undergraduate about to begin the stressful journey of applying to and then trying to survive graduate school in physics. If all goes as planned, I will earn my Ph.D. sometime within the next decade and go on to enjoy a life of research and unabashed nerdiness."

Nancy Atkinson @ Universe Today is freelance writer and journalist who writes about space exploration and science. She's also a NASA Solar System Ambassador.

Emily Lakdawalla pens (keys?) the Planetary Society Weblog.

Feminist Chemists
have a manifesto (my term, not theirs):

Feminist Chemists believe that all women are created equal too.

Our site is a central repository of information that will educate and inspire and likely infuriate.

We are astonished that there is still a debate about the existence of discrimination against women in chemistry. If anyone still doubts this fact, our site provides irrefutable proof from diverse credible sources.

As Feminist Chemists we are opening chemistry to all people.

We are challenging the status quo of the androcentric field of chemistry and demanding that the conscious and subconscious gender bias operating within the field be acknowledged, addressed and stopped!

We emphatically believe that ending gender bias in chemistry is of the utmost importance to our national interest and the realization of our species’ potential.

This is a call to action.

Silver Fox at Looking for Detachment is a "fifty-something exploration
geologist working here and there in the West, mostly. Geologist,
exploration- ist, artist. Former pool player, Austin Rules (no slop,
bank the 8)."

Mathematics and Computer Science

For those of you who want to make suggestions for this category, note that "computer science" doesn't include blogs that focus on gaming or technogadgets.

Isobel Lugo - a "third-year PhD student in mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania" - blogs at God Plays Dice, "A random walk through mathematics -- mostly through the random part."

Girly Geekdom is a group blog associated with Girl Geek Dinners.

Geek Girl Blogs is an aggregate of blogs by and for Women in IT.
We know that there are many amazing women working in the IT industry, across all areas, countries and backgrounds. Many of these amazing women have decided to keep blogs that give insight into their daily life: some purely technical, some social, others cover dealing with the constraints of working in this so called mans world, balancing work with family and achieving amazing personal & career goals, while others are just damned entertaining.
The Haxr Chick Blog is "a hacker chick's thoughts on life and software" written by Abby Fichtner, who is a "writer, runner, cyclist, boxer/kickboxer, book worm, couch potato, food lover, perpetual dieter, hacker, software engineer, ScrumMaster extraordinaire".

The Math blog is written by Deb Russell "an experienced teacher having taught both elementary, middle and high school students. Deb has presented math implementation and math exemplar inservices to hundreds of teachers throughout her school board and educational jurisdiction. " She says:
I love teaching and learning all about Mathematical concepts. As an educator, parent and math enthusiast, I'm committed to providing you with the best mathematical resources. A solid foundation in Mathematics can pave the way to success and is an important factor in many careers. The problem solving strategies required in math help prepare us for today's complex, information age. After all, it's the wealth of rich resources used appropriately that improves mathematical understanding.
Rivikah at Life and Then Some is a mathematician.


This is currently the smallest category, so more links to women engineers who blog would be appreciated.

Also Worth Reading

Educated Woman is a series of articles Science Minority Scientists Network about the "grad school adventures" of the pseudonymous Micella Phoenix Dewhyse. I'm kind of late to the game, since the series started in 2002 and is on its next-to-last installment, but it's definitely worth reading.

The PBS Wired Science Correlations blog has a few women bloggers (but no individual feeds), including antarctic meteorologist Tasmin Gray (who also blogs at Melted Cheese), biologist Tara Smith (of Aetiology), and marine biologist Sheril Kirshenbaum (who also blogs at The Intersection).

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

25 Years of American Women in Space

On June 18, 1983 the Space Shuttle Challenger was launched carrying astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman astronaut. In honor of that anniversary, The Scotsman looks at the major milestones of women in space since Yuri Gagarin first orbited the Earth in 1961.

  • 1963: Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space. She was selected for the Soviet space program based on politics, rather than having any piloting or scientific background. However, after her flight, she graduated as a cosmonaut engineer from the Zhokovsky Air Force Academy, and, in 1977 received her engineering doctorate degree.
  • 1982 (note the almost 20-year gap): Svetlana Savitskaya became the second woman in space, and the first to take a space walk. Savitskaya was a test pilot and sports pilot.
  • 1983: Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. Ride earned her doctorate in physics shortly before being accepted as an astronaut candidate. In 1989 she joined the faculty of the University of California at San Diego as a Professor of Physics and Director of the California Space Institute. She now runs her own company, Sally Ride Science, that focuses on introducing girls to science. SRS runs festivals, science camps, and other programs across the US.
  • 1991: Helen Sharman became the first Brit in space, riding a Soviet Soyuz space capsule to the Mir space station. Sharman was a chemist for the Mars chocolate company who was selected after responding to an advertisement looking for astronauts "no experience required." She currently works as a broadcaster and lecturer in science education. Watch her lecture about her personal experiences in space and the science of spaceflight.
  • 1992: Mae Jemison became the first black woman in space. Jemison's background was in medical research and engineering, and conducted a bone-cell experiment during the mission. After leaving NASA, she started her own company, the Jemison Group, that "researches, markets, and develops science and technology for daily life" and founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence which runs (ran?) science camps for teenagers. Her current business is the BioSentient corporation, a medical technology company. (Jemison was also the first real astronaut to appear on Star Trek.)
  • 1995: Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. Before joining NASA she was and Air Force aircraft commander and instructor pilot. She holds a masters degree in operations research and a masters degree in space systems management. In 2005 she commanded the Discovery shuttle mission - the first woman to hold that position. She retired from NASA in 2006.
  • 2007: Biochemist Peggy Whitson became the first woman to command the International Space Station. She returned to Earth on April 21 of this year, breaking the American record for time spent in space.
Read the article for more.

For more information about Sally Ride, you can download a pdf version of her book Blastoff! about adventures in outer space, find out her answers to girls' questions, or join the 25th Anniversary Celebration at the "Earth Then, Earth Now: Our Changing Climate" conference at the NOAA Science Center in Sliver Spring, Maryland.

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Why women quit technology careers

ComputerWorld interviewed Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center of Work-Life Policy about her research for the Harvard Business Review report The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering and Technology. (I posted on the report previously.) She talks about the factors that result in women in their 30s leaving science and technology fields. While issues with work-life balance are a factor, it isn't the primary women that women are dropping out:

We call them "antigens," because they repel women.
[. . .] The most important antigen is the machismo that continues to permeate these work environments. We found that 63% of women in science, engineering and technology have experienced sexual harassment. That's a really high figure.

They talk about demeaning and condescending attitudes, lots of off-color jokes, sexual innuendo, arrogance; colleagues, particularly in the tech culture, who genuinely think women don't have what it takes -- who see them as genetically inferior. It's hard to take as a steady stream. It's predatory and demeaning. It's distressing to find this kind of data in 2008.

The other "antigens" are isolation being the only woman, lack of mentors, and reward of "risky behavior patterns". And, not to be left out, extremely long hours and a family-unfriendy atmosphere.

Their study focused on American private-sector jobs, but they did look at three international companies.
We also did a bunch of focus groups in Australia, Shanghai and Moscow. The data were pretty consistent. Actually, India is a little better than the U.S. But there's not much variation across geography.
The solution? More mentors - senior women or men. They not only help to map out career paths, but also help insulate younger women from the worst of the "macho" behaviors.

There is more discussion at Shakesville.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Do you want to be a star?

A post on LA Craigslist, NY Craigslist and Boston Craigslist (and maybe others, I didn't check):

Leading cable television network is casting for female scientists (professionals or grad students) to host a reality/documentary series. Smart, energetic, charismatic candidates wanted. No previous media experience required.

Please submit the following via email to two photos of yourself, a short bio with info about your job or studies and your passions/hobbies, a résumé/CV outlining your background in science, and your contact info (full name, email, phone number with area code, and your mailing address). Also include links to video of candidate (e.g. on YouTube), if available.
If you feel comfortable in front of the camera - and aren't too concerned about how your image might be "spun" for show - you might want to check it out. (Also the posts are almost a month old, so they may be cast already).

The same casting company is also looking for engineers (sex not specified). That ad was posted today.

(via Pharyngula)

Sexist Chemistry Sets

The inaugural episode of the PBS series Wired Science (which first aired last October) looked at chemistry sets past and present. In a visit to the Chemical Heritage Foundation, chemistry sets from the 1960s were targeted by gender: there were regular chemistry sets for boys, with lots of dangerous and exciting chemicals, and lab technician sets for girls. Apparently they didn't want to get girls' expectations up that they might be chemists themselves.

Today's chemistry sets aren't nearly as nifty (or dangerous) as they were back in the 1960s. However, there are resources for the enterprising home chemist:

There's discussion of the episode at SciAm Observations.

Image: Chemical & Engineering News article about chemistry memorabilia. It talks about the chemistry kits and chemical industry advertising from the 1950s and 1960s that featured nude women. I'm sure that made the women who were chemists feel welcome in their profession.
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Nerd Girls

Lisa at Sociological Images points out a new reality show show, The Nerd Girls:

From the website:

Nerd Girls are as complex as the codes they crack.

They are she-brains who love equations, high heels, lipgloss and gadgets…

Nerd girls dig digits and boys ask for theirs.

They are Nerd-a-licious.

“She-brains.” Get it? Because brains are a masculine trait, you have to modify it to make it make sense when used to refer to a female. From the news story:

These girl geeks aren’t social misfits; their identities don’t hinge on outsider status. They may love all things sci-tech, but first and foremost they are girls—and they’ve made that part of their appeal.

Never forget, first and foremost, girls are girls (but boys are people… that’s why we can just call them “brains”).

While I like the idea that they break the stereotype that engineers are necessarily socially-maladjusted males, I find it a bit depressing that the only way women are considered "normal" is when they are wearing lots of makeup and feminine clothing. Also the bit that says "first and foremost they are girls" really emphasizes the stereotype that being an engineer = male. Personally, I don't think wielding a soldering iron or brandishing a calculator magically adds a Y chromosome.

See also Alice at Sciencewomen on the Newsweek article, "Revenge of the Nerdette" (that's the "news article" linked above).
Are smart women (those profiled are undergrads and grad students at Tufts, huzzah!) less threatening if we call them "girls" and they show a lot of skin or wear pink high heels? I guess so - if they're challenging one gender stereotype, at least they're conforming to others. This all being said, I'm glad women feel like they can dress how they want, look "girly" and all; when I was in school (not that long ago!), it seemed to me that women tried to blend in in how they dressed rather than stand out (undergraduate engineering education is still 80% men, after all). I just challenge that now women are experiencing a simple choice for how to display themselves, and that they just happen to choose to do so in hegemonically feminine ways. Note that the photo of the women profiled portrays them as classically beautiful - light skin, long hair, wearing skirts. [...]
Be sure to check out the discussion in the comments.

ETA: For a comparison, see this 1949 article about "Jackie Bates, Girl Chemist". It has the same kind of reassurances that she's "attractive" and has "male admirers".

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Friday, June 13, 2008

The Compass Project @ UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley physics graduate student Joel Corbo has a guest post at Cosmic Variance, where he talks about the attitude within his department that discourages grad students from pursuing an interest in teaching. Not surprisingly, this ends up negatively affecting the undergraduates who want to pursue a physics major. Corbo believes the atmosphere can end up diminishing their "passion for physics" in several ways:

  1. Because they don’t have the skills necessary to problem-solve, model-build, and generally think like physicists, these students actually don’t know how to effectively learn physics as it is typically presented in a large lecture-based class. This doesn’t mean that these students are stupid, or somehow not worth teaching. It simply means that there are things they need to be taught other than “the material” in order to help them become better learners. Unfortunately, many of them come away feeling like they don’t have what it takes to be physicists (as though there is some intrinsic “physicsness” that they are lacking) and so they leave the field.
  2. The typical introductory physics sequence, at least at Berkeley, is very isolating for potential physics majors. The vast majority of people in those classes are engineering students who are there because their departments require that they take physics; they have largely no interest in physics for its own sake. This makes it very difficult for potential physics majors to identify each other — they are like needles in an apathetic haystack. [. . . ] However, an important part of the excitement of physics is the collaboration with peers, the shared goal of building knowledge through interaction and discussion and asking “What if”. Without that, it’s incredibly difficult to paint physics as an interesting field, to really sell the idea of being physicists to these students beyond the level that NOVA can, and so they leave the field.
  3. The problems of interaction and perceived lack of “physicsness” are magnified for a certain set of students: women and underrepresented minorities. [. . .] For this discussion, the important point to note is that in addition to the issues that their well-represented peers also face, they have to face majoring in a field where they don’t see people like themselves. They arrive at the seemingly logical but erroneous conclusion that success in physics is unattainable unless you are a white male, and so they leave the field.
Realizing those problems, he and three other grad students and created a program called The Compass Project. The Compass Project "supports diversity [especially women and minorities] in the physical sciences by bringing together undergraduate and graduate students through exceptional teaching and learning experiences." They run a two-week intensive summer program for incoming freshmen which both introduces them to the campus, and allows them to work closely with graduate students and professors to "learn what 'doing science' really means." Year-round the Compass Project offers mentoring, office hours and lectures aimed at undergraduates.

So, how can you help support this fantastic program? As I alluded to earlier, Compass was founded quite recently (our second summer program is happening this August!), and is entirely run by physics grad students. Right now, the main problem that Compass is facing at Berkeley is a lack of financial support (apparently times are tough in Sacramento as well as in DC), so we are trying to get the word out about our existence and the good work we are trying to do. So, if you think our program is worth supporting, spread the word! Tell your friends in important places about us, let us know if you are interested in hearing more or helping out, and, if you are able, donate some money to Compass. Every bit of help we can get is vital to keep this program going.

And if you happen to be a grad student at some school, and you happen to feel frustrated about these issues too, don’t despair. Consider starting a program similar to Compass at your school (and by all means, tell us about it). You’d be surprised how many good things your frustration can create.

(read the whole post)

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yoky Matsuoka: Neurobotics

Yoky Matsuoka is an associate professor of Computer Science and Engineering and director of the Neurorobotics laboratory at the University of Washington. In 2007 the 36-year-old scientist was named a MacArthur Fellow for her cutting-edge research:

Working at the intersection of computer science, biophysics, material science, biomechanics, and psychophysics, Matsuoka creates sophisticated prosthetic devices and designs complementary rehabilitation strategies.
Matsuoka has juggled her scientific career with being a mother of three young children. In a booklet on "Juggling Work and Family" published by the AAAS (pdf), Matsuoka noted that traveling to meetings is a "challenge that especially affects scientist-moms":
With two-year-old twins plus a third child, she says it's only recently that there has been much acceptance about how difficult it is for women with children to go to conferences without extra assistance. Yoky has obtained special permission from her department to spend unrestricted grant funds to enable travel to meetings.
Are there actually any conferences that have a day care option? I would think that would be quite helpful.

More about Matsuoka's research:
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The House Celebrates Women in Science and Engineering

The news:

House Celebrates Women Scientists, Technologists, Engineers, and Mathematicians
On June 4, the House approved, by voice vote, a resolution (H. Res. 1180) recognizing the efforts of outstanding women scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians in the United States and around the world.

Sponsored by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), the resolution contains a number of findings, including:

* women have been vitally important to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and have transformed the world and enhanced and improved the quality of life around the globe;
* the contributions of women and mothers are central to progress and to the development of knowledge in many areas, including chemistry, physics, biology, geology, engineering, mathematics, and astronomy, and these contributions boost economic growth, create new jobs, and improve our knowledge and standard of living;
* in order to ensure our nation's global competitiveness, our schools must continue to cultivate female scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians from every background and neighborhood in our society to create the innovations of tomorrow that will keep our nation strong;
* and a disproportionately low number of female students are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and it is crucial that we focus attention on increasing the participation of women.
The sponsor Representative Dave Reichert said:

"Women have made great strides in the workplace, yet disparities remain in certain fields,” said Reichert. “According to the Department of Education, approximately 20 percent of those entering the engineering field are women. Congress must continue to educate the public about the important role of women in society and recognize the key accomplishments of women in scientific fields. And in our schools and communities, we must encourage more young women to pursue careers in science and technology fields by adequately funding STEM education in our schools. I was proud to offer this resolution to recognize the significant contributions of women to these fields.”

Notice that the resolution doesn't actually propose any solutions for increasing the participation of women in STEM fields. Hopefully Congress will put its money where its mouth is.

Read the full text of House Resolution 1180.

ETA: one of the commenters at Sciencewomen points out that Reichert has made comments that are grossly sexist, so maybe he's trying to rehabilitate his image with this resolution.

(via Alice at Sciencewomen)
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Geek Speak Women

If you are looking for women to speak at your technical conference or geek meetup, you should check out Their motto: "connecting tech women speakers with event organisers". Women available to talk about IT-related topics (see their topic chart) create profiles, making it easy for organizers looking for speakers to find one who meets their needs. It's an international site, with speakers listed in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, India, and many other countries.

If you are interested in listing yourself as a speaker, you can sign up for an account.

(via LinuxChix)
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