Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the Year Stats

Here's what visits and visitors to Women in Science looked like in 2008:

Most Visited Posts

1. Pardis Sabeti: Cool Super-Scientist
2. First Korean Astronaut Yi So-Yeon
3. Scientiae Carnival: Fools and Foolishness
4. Virologist Francoise Barre-Sinoussi
5. Invisible Computers
6. Jennifer Hooper McCarty on Colbert
7. 2008 L'Oreal UNESCO For Women in Science Awards
8. Interviews with Australian Scientists
9. Carla Schatz to Head Stanford Bio-X Program
10. New US Postage Stamp Honoring Scientist Gerty Cori

Top Search Terms

1. yi so-yeon/yi so yeon/so-yeon yi
(there were a lot of these searches when Women in Science was made a Blogger Blog of Note)
3. pardis sabeti
4. women in science
5. jennifer hooper mccarty
6. françoise barré-sinoussi/francoise barre-sinoussi
7. carla schatz
8. kiss my math
9. women in science blog
10. elizabeth sulzman

Top referring Sites
(excluding Google, Stumbleupon, BlogCatalog and the like)

1. Blogger Blogs of Note
2. Female Science Professor
3. ScienceWomen
4. Scientiae Carnival
5. Shakesville
6. Blog Around The Clock
7. Thus Spake Zuska
8. Am I a woman scientist?
9. Khandaniha
10. Rants of a Feminist Engineer

Thanks for the links!

Top 10 Countries
Visits from the US outnumbered visits from Canada and the UK by a factor of ten.

1. United States
2. Canada
3. United Kingdom
4. India
5. Australia
6. Germany
7. Philippines
8. France
9. Netherlands
10. Malaysia

Top 10 Cities
Some of the cities were listed twice by Google Analytics. I've combined their numbers.

1. London, UK
2. New York, NY
3. Chicago, IL
4. Washington, DC
7. Sydney, Australia
5. San Francisco, CA
10. Seattle, WA
6. Cambridge, MA
8. Vancouver, Canada
9. Houston, TX

Brooklyn (NY), Champaign (IL), and Philadelphia (PA) were close behind.

Browser and OS

46% Internet Explorer
43% Firefox
8% Safari

79% Windows
18% Mac
3% Linux

Thanks to everyone who stopped by in 2008!

Happy New Year!

I'm back home from a visit with my parents for Christmas. Other than the eightish hours of traveling each way*, it was very relaxing and enjoyable.

Over at Dr. Isis's place, people are sharing their shoes. My own footware leans towards the practical and boring - my go-to shoes for the winter are brown Mary Jane flats and black shoes with low chunky heels. Not worth blogging about, I don't think. But I will share with you my new slippers, which I have dubbed my Fifi-killers. They are both comfy and a bit odd, which is why I enjoy wearing them around the house. Thanks mom!

I'll be back to posting more regularly next week.

Have a fun and safe New Year's Eve!

* If you need the location of the slowest Burger King in Bakersfield, I'd be happy to share.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I'm spending this week visiting my parents, eating sugary goodies and enjoying the holidays.

I hope your week is just as nice.

Happy Christmas, Merry Holidays and a Joyous New Year to all of you!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Women in Science Link Roundup: December 21 Edition

Some of women in science-related blog posts and articles I've been reading the past few weeks, but never got around to blogging:

Life as a Woman Scientist

There have been a bunch of interesting posts at the Praxis "academic life" blog carnival. Both Praxis #4 at The Lay Scientist and Praxis #5 at Effortless Incitement include links discussing women in science.

Several recent posts at Inside Higher Ed's Mama, PhD blog have generated a lively blog discussion.

Ambivalent Academic brings up a usually taboo subject: the role of our hormonal cycles in the way we work and lead. There are a lot of personal stories and other discussion in the comments.

Bios and Awards

FGJ at the Feministing Community lists women in math and science she looks up to, and asks commenters to talk about their own favorite women scientists.

Ellen Kullman was named CEO of chemical giant DuPont. She is the first woman to lead a major public US chemical firm (via Jenn at Fairer Science).

The November HHMI Bulletin profiles biochemist Judith Kimble

The New York Times interviewed Renee Reijo Pera, professor of obstetrics and gynechology and director of Stanford's Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education


Draw-A-Scientist Test: from seventh graders visiting Fermilab to adults in New York City's Madison Square Park, scientists are white and male.

Vince LiCata: "When Britney Spears Comes to My Lab"

In case you missed last month's discussion about women scientists, femininity and the double standard, you should read these posts and their comments:
Sadie at Jezebel found a picture of a good old-fashioned "Lab Technician Set For Girls"

Gender Gap

ScienceWoman has a list of ways to recruit women and minorities in a faculty search, and opens the comments to suggestions.

DrugMonkey rounds up the posts on the latest lack-of-gender-diversity-in-science discussion to make the blog rounds. There are also comments on those post, lots and lots of comments.

New York Times: What has driven women out of computer science?

Jenn @ FairerScience: Women and the Video Game Industry

FemaleScienceProfessor: Scientifiques avec Quelques Frontiéres (conference literature translated from French that states scientists are men), More Diverse Award Issues,

Mind Hacks: Shaking the foundations of the hidden bias test

Ilyka at Off Our Pedestals: Gosh, you ladies sure are touchy about Larry Summers! Or: Still assy after all these years

Feministing: The under-representation of female cardiologists

Fictional Women in STEM

The LA Times looked at the appeal of the characters on NCIS, including Pauley Perrette as forensic specialist Abby Sciuto. Perrett was working on her master's degree in criminal science when she decided to become a full-time actor.

Jessica Alba is currently filming An Invisible Sign of My Own:The film is a coming-of-age drama based on Aimee Bender's quirky novel about a 20-year-old loner named Mona Gray (Alba) who as a child turned to math for salvation after her father became ill. As an adult, Gray now teaches the subject and must help her students through their own crises.

In Frank Miller's movie adaptation of The Spirit, the character of Silken Floss has been "demoted" from nuclear physicist/surgeon to secretary. The original version too threatening perhaps? Hopefully she won't spend the whole movie pining for her boss.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Jane Lubchenco to Head NOAA?

According to the Washington Post, the new head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be Oregon State University Distinguished Professor of Zoology Jane Lubchenco.

Lubchenco is a marine biologist who specializes in the study marine ecosystems and how humans affect them. She has been actively involved in environmental policy issues, and has testified both at the state level and before congress about the creation of marine sanctuaries and climate change. She is also one of the founders and principals of COMPASS (Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea), which works to solve marine environmental problems by communicating scientific knowledge to policymakers, the public and the media. For those efforts she received the AAAS Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award.

Also of interest is a 1993 article she wrote about being one half of two-scientist couple for BioScience. The solution that she and her husband came to was to split a position: each of them held a half-time, tenure-track faculty position, which allowed both of them to teach, do research, and spend time with their young children. In the article she argued for creating more such positions to increase the number of women who pursue science careers:

The most difficult time in a faculty member's life is usually the time during which one is an assistant professor, struggling to teach courses that come up ton one's ideals, to challenge and educate students, to establish one's own research program, to obtain funding, to publish, and generally to prove oneself. If this period coincides with having young children (which for biological reasons is often the case for women), the time can be even more difficult. Even if highly ambitious, driven women and men mange ot juggle all of these demands, the messages they send to graduate students and undergraduates appear to frighten away many outstanding potential scientists. Moreover, if individuals wish to spend more time with their children than full-time positions allow, academia offers virgually no viable options.
She does acknowledge that not everyone would be interested in such a position, but that many women (and men) would, and that it should be made an option. Obviously it worked for her. She talks more about the difficulty she and her husband had in balancing their academic careers in a 2004 interview at the National Academy of Sciences.

I think it's exciting that the new head of the NOAA is a working scientist, a strong advocate for the environment, and someone who has been heavily involved in public policy issues, which I assume means she understands how the system "works". Definitely good news!

Related information:
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

International Year of Astronomy 2009: "She is An Astronomer"

"She is An Astronomer" is a global project created as part of the UNESCO/IAU International Year of Astronomy 2009. Here is the project's mission:

Promoting gender equality and empowering women is one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. She Is An Astronomer will promote gender equality in astronomy (and science in general), tackling bias issues by providing a web platform where information and links about gender balance and related resources are collected.

The aim of the project is to provide neutral, informative and accessible information to female professional and amateur astronomers, students, and those who are interested in the gender equality problem in science. We believe that providing this information will help increase the interest of young females to study and pursue a career in astronomy.

An objective of the project is to build and maintain an internet based, easy-to-handle forum and database, where people regardless of geographical location can read about the subject, ask questions and find answers. There will also be the option to discuss astronomy sector specific problems, such as observing times and family duties.

To that end, there is already an She is an Astronomer Facebook Group. I'm not sure if this is going to be the only forum or one of several, but it already has a bit of discussion about gender equality and astronomy going.

There aren't many details as yet, but apparently there will also be lectures and workshops all over the world in conjunction with the project. I only found a couple of related events by Googling:
Presumably there will be more listings as the year progresses. Here are some event listing pages for different countries participating in the International Year of Astronomy:
There is also a Women in Astronomy resource guide (pdf)

(tip of the hat to the Bad Astronomer for the link to the SIAA Facebook Group)
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Top Women Scientists of 2008

It's the end of the year and all the magazines are publishing their "best of" lists - including the top scientists. Here's a round-up of women scientists who have been profiled:

Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey, co-founders of biotech startup 23andMe were among Popular Mechanics' "The Internet's Top 10 Most Controversial Figures of 2008"

Discover named Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science as one of the "10 most influential people in science". No, she's not a scientist herself, but she regularly fights for federal science funding.

Discover named University of Alaska ecologist Katey Walter, Harvard stem cell biology Amy Wagers, UC Berkeley molecular biologist Nicole King, and MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager among the "20 best brains under 40"

Discover named Anastasia Roda, 19, and Isha Jain, 17, both of Pennsylvania, among their "Teen Genius: 5 Promising Scientists under 20"

Seed profiles physicist and systems biologist Aleksandra M. Walczak, virologist Ilaria Capua , geneticist Heejung Kim, user of "astronomical medicine" Michelle Borkin, and materials scientist Neri Oxman, in their feature on 2008's Revolutionary Minds

Popular Science profiled materials scientist Kristi Anseth, neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe, and chemist Melanie Sanford, in their Brilliant 10 Class of 2008


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

50% off Nobel Prize Women in Science

There's currently a holiday sale at The National Academies Press, with select books discounted 50%. Included in the sale is Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne. The description:

Since 1901 there have been over three hundred recipients of the Nobel Prize in the sciences. Only ten of them - about 3 percent - have been women. Why?

In this updated version of Nobel Prize Women in Science , Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores the reasons for this astonishing disparity by examining the lives and achievements of fifteen women scientists who either won a Nobel Prize or played a crucial role in a Nobel Prize - winning project. The book reveals the relentless discrimination these women faced both as students and as researchers. Their success was due to the fact that they were passionately in love with science.

The book begins with Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics. Readers are then introduced to Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, Emmy Noether, Lise Meitner, Barbara McClintock, Chien-Shiung Wu, and Rosalind Franklin. These and other remarkable women portrayed here struggled against gender discrimination, raised families, and became political and religious leaders. They were mountain climbers, musicians, seamstresses, and gourmet cooks. Above all, they were strong, joyful women in love with discovery.

Nobel Prize Women in Science is a startling and revealing look into the history of science and the critical and inspiring role that women have played in the drama of scientific progress.
Maybe I'm too cynical, but I find the part of the description that suggests that every one of those women was "joyful" offputting. Women scientists are human, and so certainly have the ability to be both brilliant and unhappy. And "joyful" itself seems to me to be a gendered term - I would find it odd to hear it applied to Albert Einstein or James Watson.

But maybe the book really does give well-rounded profiles of these exceptional women scientists. And perhaps they really all did have happy lives. That would be nice to believe.

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Geophysicists in Antarctica

The International Polar Year is a scientific program focused on the Arctic and Antarctic that runs through March of 2009. One of the projects is studying the Antarctic's remote Gamburtsev Mountains which are buried under several miles of ice. The American team's leader is Columbia University marine geophysicist Robin Bell.

The project has daunting-seeming logistical issues, from extreme cold to complete isolation. As Bell wrote for Scientific American:

To study these hidden mountains, we will work from two camps. The southern camp is almost 800 miles (1,285 kilometers) from McMurdo, the main U.S. station, more than the distance between New York City and Chicago—only there are no highways, rest areas or gas stations along the way, just miles and miles of ice. Our northern camp is 470 miles (755 kilometers) inland and is closer to the Australian and Chinese bases on the northern edge of the ice sheet. Where we're working, there will be no penguins and no tourists, just ice, scientists, engineers, pilots, medics, cooks and mountaineers.

For several years, we have been puzzling over the logistics. How can a multinational team (of more than 25 scientists and engineers with three aircraft) cram an expedition into the very short time that the weather is warm enough for us to work? "Warm enough" means the temperature is warmer than –58 degrees F (–50 degrees C).
Not only is it very very cold, but the elevation is high enough to cause physical problems. Adrienne Block, a graduate student working on the project blogged about it a few days ago:
Part of my jitteriness the last few days is undoubtedly rooted in the fact I’ll be going to the South Pole on Monday. According to our medical briefing, that means I’ll be perpetually short of breath, having trouble sleeping and going to the bathroom about every 20 minutes for 2 days…. The anticipation is almost too much to hold in! I have been to 10,000ft elevation before but that was after living at 6,500ft above sea level for 5 weeks… and that was in Utah. The transition from sea level here in McMurdo to 10,000ft is such a surprise to the system that everyone is prescribed a medication to help our bodies adjust to the lower oxygen levels. On top of that, we all have to fight off the adrenaline brought on by the fact we’re in Antarctica, at The South Pole, at 10,000ft—no offense to Utah, but it doesn’t compare! Just in case we don’t adjust to the elevation, everyone has been learning tasks outside their specialty. Hopefully, if someone gets sick, we’ll be able to keep the science moving forward, even if at a slower pace.
But the scientists aren't completely isolated from the rest of humanity. You can follow Robin Bell on Twitter or join the XTREME South Facebook group for the latest information about the team's progress.

You can also read the blogs of other women scientists currently working in the Antarctic:
  • Andrea Balbas, undergraduate in geology at CUNY, who is collecting data about seafloor sediments
  • Adrienne Block, a PhD student at Columbia University who is working on Bell's team
  • Beth Burton, geophysicist with the US Geologica Survey
  • Zoe Courville, a PhD in materials science who works as a research mechanical engineer at Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lap in New Hampshire
  • Saffia Hossainzadeh, undergraduate in physics at the University of Chicaco, who is studying the motion of ice streams
  • Jean Pennycook, high school science teacher and penguin researcher
More information
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Women in Science Holiday Gift Guide

While I'm sure most of you are super organized and have all your Christmas/Hanukkah/Winter Solstice or other December holiday gift shopping finished, some of us are still trying to find the perfect gifts for our family and friends. I thought I'd suggest a few possible gifts for women scientist and women who love science.

"This is what a scientist looks like" T-shirts carries a great selection of science-themed T-shirts, including the "this is what a scientist looks like" women's Tee, pictured at left. It also comes in a Junior cap-sleeve style. The design is fully customizable, so you can replace "scientist" with "physicist" or "chemist" or "engineer". ScienceWoman modeled one of the shirts on her blog, so you can see what it looks like on a human.

Part of my Scienceblogs swag was a limited-edition Sciencewomen T-shirt, which I believe also came from Yellow Ibis. The quality is good and it seems to run true to size.

Their Last Minute Sale runs through tomorrow, December 15th, so if you order promptly you can get $5 off orders of $13+.

Science-themed jewelry

My favorite science-related jewelry is by Made With Molecules (and I've alerted Santa of that fact). There's something to suit every chemical taste: you could chose the fairly simple dopamine and caffeine necklaces and earrings, the elegant "red wine" resveratrol and garnet necklace, or have your name or other message spelled out in amino acids. It's like fate that one of the examples of peptide jewelry spells out "PEGGY" (at right).

I also like NB Design's silver jewelry, such as the Erlenmeyer flask pendant shown at left.

And for more colorful items I like Surly-Ramics "Smart Jewelry", such as the "science is sexy" pendant (at right).

Science Art

If jewelry isn't your (or your giftee's) cup of tea, you might consider science-themed art.

Tiffany Ard's colorful "art for nerds and nurseries" would indeed be perfect for a nursery or kid's room. But I like their whimsical look too. Shown at left: detail from "I love love LOVE my microscope". Right: detail from "Newton's Laws of Motion".

Our galaxy is colorful too, and I think photos of nebulae, planets and stars are also works of art. Shown at left: The Orion Nebula from Fletcher Photos.

Books, books and more books

Despite all the nice T-shirts, art and jewelry out there, my usual go-to gifts are books (and they make up the bulk of my own wish list too)!

I've put together an store, so it's easy to find books about women in science. I've split them into four categories:


So obviously these are suggestions based on my own taste. Do you have other suggestions or an Etsy store? Leave a comment!

(Please only leave links to sciency items, or items scientists might especially like. There are plenty of other web sites that discuss gifts in general. I'll be using my judgment to delete comments I think are spam.)

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Lucy Shapiro: Mentor

The December issue of The Scientist profiled Stanford developmental biologist Lucy Shapiro as an outstanding example of a scientist-mentor.

"The most fundamental thing a mentor can do for a lab is to help to maximize a lab's productivity," Shapiro says. "That's based on creating an environment of collaboration and respect."
She set the tone by allowing people in her lab to work to their strengths, provides projects for students that should show rapid success, provides fast feedback, and carefully follows the progress of everyone in her lab. And in what I suspect is a crucial ingredient to her success, she also carefully screens people who are interested in joining her lab, taking into account the opinions of her students and postdocs.

Read the full article for more details.

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2009 L'Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Awards

On November 10th, five outstanding women scientists in the physical sciences were named as winners of the L'Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science award.

Diverse in origin, determined in nature, and extraordinary in intellect, the 2009 Laureates reflect the programme’s mission: to change the face of science and support the advancement of women in the scientific field. The Awards Ceremony will take place on 5 March 2009, at UNESCO. Each Laureate will receive $100,000 in recognition of her contribution to science.
The winner for Africa & the Arab States is Tebello Nyokong, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Nanotechnology in the Department of Chemistry at Rhodes University in South Africa. Nyokong received her PhD from the University of Western Ontario, Canada and was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Notre Dame. Her research focuses on the poryphyrins, which can be used as photosensitive drugs for cancer treatment, photosensitizers for photochemical destruction of pollutants in water, and in the development of sensors for biologically and medically important molecules.

Related information:
The winner for the Asia-Pacific region is Akiko Kobayashi, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry at Nihon University in Japan. Kobayashi earned her PhD in Chemistry from the Graduate School of Science at the University of Tokyo in 1972. She received the award for her "contribution to the development of molecular conductors and the design and synthesis of a single-component molecular metal "

Related Information:

The winner for North America was Eugenia Kumacheva, Canada Research Chair in Advanced Polymer Materials in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto, and the first Canadian to win the award. Kumacheva received her PhD at the Institute of Physical Chemistry (Russian Academy of Sciences). Her research group works on the development of "novel nanostructured polymer-based materials" and studies "equilibrium and dynamic forces in thin layers of polymer films." The polymers have many applications, including high density optical data storage and drug delivery.

Related information:
The winner for Europe is Athene M. Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory in the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge. Donald received her PhD from Cambridge University in 1977. She received the award "for her work in unravelling the mysteries of the physics of messy materials, ranging from cement to starch."

Related Information:
Finally, the winner for Latin America is Beatriz Barbuy, Professor at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She is recognized for "her work on the life of stars from the birth of the universe to the present time."

Related information:
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Women That Stay: What are your suggestions

The Scientist is asking for comments from its readers about programs that help women stay in science:

We want to hear from readers about the programs that have made a difference in women's careers in science. From mentors to creative day care solutions to government grants that made going back to lab easier, we want to know about the things that have had the biggest impact in women's lives. We'll use your suggestions in a Careers article for women in science.
There aren't many comments as yet, so go add your thoughts.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You Didn't Think You Could Win, Did You?

There was a press release today about a new study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly that points out the difficulty women have in effectively presenting themselves during a job interview - in the case of this study, for a position as a computer lab manager.

  • women who presented themselves as confident and ambitious were viewed as highly competent, but lacking social skills
  • women who present themselves as modest and cooperative, were well liked but perceived as having low competence
  • confident and ambitious men were perceived as both competent and likable and were more likely to be hired
I haven't read the actual study, so I can't comment on the methodology the study used or the statistical significance of the numbers their conclusions are based on. However, their results certainly ring true*. This election season certainly seemed to play out along those lines. On the one hand Hillary Clinton has often been characterized as a ball-busting bitch for her aggressive politicking - until she choked up a bit before the New Hampshire primary and that was obviously a sign she was too weak and emotional to be president.**

The effect is that I feel that, as a woman, I have to dance the line between being confidently assertive and self-effacingly modest. And it doesn't help that the line moves, requiring a shift from the self-deprecation that's expected in many social situations to the confident self-promotion required when asking for recognition or a raise - or applying for a grant. It makes me wonder what role this might play in the "leak" of women from the academic pipeline.

In the December 5 issue of Science, Ley and Hamilton look at the differences between NIH grant application and success rates between men and women. They found a striking drop in applications by women for basic research grants for independent facutly positions as compared to grant application for postdocs. They concluded that this is likely due to women leaving the academic pipeline :
Although some female career attrition could be due to cohort effects (i.e., smaller numbers of female graduate students in the past, leading to smaller numbers at advanced career stages at this time) the effects that we describe here occur in a very narrow time frame and are far too large to be totally explained by this phenomenon. Instead, the data strongly suggest that a large fraction of women are choosing to leave the NIH-funded career pipeline at the transition to independence (i.e., in the late postdoctoral and early faculty years). Female physician-scientists make this decision earlier and more often, perhaps because more attractive and/or flexible career options (e.g., clinical practice) are available to them. Men and women have near-equal NIH funding success at all stages of their careers, which makes it very unlikely that female attrition is due to negative selection from NIH grant-funding decisions.
It's worth noting that the "near-equal" funding success the mention is actually a small but statistically significant difference in favor of male applicants. The long-term result is that women principal investigators are significantly less likely to have funded NIH Research Project Grants than their male colleagues.

There's an interesting discussion of the article going on over at Blue Lab Coats. One of the commenters there points out that the statistics show the average NIH award size is less for women than men (pdf. See Table 3.4 p.28). That likely has to do with women asking for less money than male applicants, and I believe part of the reason why is that there are negative social consequences for women who are perceived as overly aggressive in asking for what they want.

Of course that is only one of many possible reasons for the gender gap in academic science. There is the issue of women being expected to take the bulk of responsibilities for child care and housework. And, of course, everyday sexism. See the discussion going on at DrugMonkey's blog and Dr. Isis's response for more.

Ley TJ and Hamilton BH. "The Gender Gap in NIH Grant Applications" Science 5 December 2008: Vol. 322 no. 5907 pp.1472-1474. DOI: 10.1126/science.1165878

Hosek SD et al. "Technical Report: Gender Differences in Major Federal External Grant Programs." (2005)

* which I know isn't a good way to judge a study, but it's all I've got since I don't have access to the actual data.

** And I'm not forgetting the more stereotypically feminine Sarah Palin, who was given the sexy-but-dumb treatment. There were many reasons to criticize Palin as a VP candidate, but I think the sexist commentary was uncalled for.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Montreal Massacre

Saturday December 6th was the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. On that day in 1989 fourteen young women were massacred at the l'École Polytechnique in Montréal. The murderer, Marc Lépine, entered a classroom where a mechanical engineering class was in progress and separated the male and female students at gunpoint. After ordering the men to leave, he reported told the women "I am fighting feminism."

One of the students, Nathalie Provost, said, "Look, we are just women studying engineering, not necessarily feminists ready to march on the streets to shout we are against men, just students intent on leading a normal life." Lépine responded that "You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists."
Lepine opened fire, killing six women and wounding three others. He then continued shooting as he walked through the building, leaving 14 dead and 14 wounded.

The victims:
  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student.
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student.
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student.
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student.
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student.
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student.
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department.
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student.
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student.
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student.
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student.
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student.
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student.
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student.
If they had lived, they would have been about my age. Perhaps today they would be successful engineers. Perhaps they would have been married once or even twice. Perhaps they would have had children. Perhaps none of those things. Their lives were cut short long before they could finish living them.

More at Sciencewomen.

Image: Plaque commemorating the victims of the massacre at École Polytechnique.
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Open Laboratory 2008 Submissions

Bora at A Blog Around the Clock has links to all the submissions for the Open Laboratory 2008 science blogging anthology. The post entries will be judged and the top 50 will make it into the published anthology.

There are a number of women science bloggers who have entries, including:

Not only are there are lot of bloggers on the list, many bloggers submitted more than one post, so there are a huge number of entries. The judges have a tough job ahead of them.

Some of the entries relevant to women in STEM:
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Monday, December 08, 2008

December Scientiae Carnival: Totally Hot!

Howdy readers. I'm back from my trip to New York and ready to blog again. Actually I have been blogging on my (usually infrequently-updated) personal blog, so if you'd like to see some photos from my trip you can check them out over there.

Dr. Isis has posted the December Scientiae carnival, and there are lots of totally hot posts. Go check them out!

The January Scientiae Carnival will be hosted by AcmeGirl at Thesis-With Children.

December is the time that we prepare to close out one calendar year (or semester) and begin another. We stand on the threshold between the new and the old. As a way of honoring the transitional nature of this time of year, I’d like to challenge you to think about all the doors that you have opened and closed this year.

As one door closes, another one opens. Likewise, as one door opens, another one closes.
Feel free to write about a specific episode, or use this as an opportunity to look back on the entire year. Or write about something else entirely.
Entries should be submitted by December 28 at midnight.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Off to the Big Apple

In just a few hours I'll be off to New York, for what looks to be exciting mix of big city sights, good food, museums, lectures and science bloggers. I'm bringing along my laptop to at least theoretically do a bit of online business, but realistically I may not be back to regularly blogging until Monday.

Should Doctor Who Be a Woman?

If you follow SF entertainment news, you've probably read a lot of speculation as to who will take over for David Tennant as the regenerating Time Lord Doctor Who. The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC) has launched a campaign to to encourage the selection of a woman for the role.

"There is a distinct lack of role models of female scientists in the media and recent research shows that this contributes to the under-representation of women in the field.

"The UKRC believes that making a high profile sci-fi character with a following like Doctor Who female would help to raise the profile of women in science and bring the issue of the important contribution women can and should make to science in the public domain."

I think it would be fun to have a woman Doctor - maybe played by Alex Kingston, who appeared as archaeologist Dr. River Song in two episodes of Doctor Who earlier this year. I'm not sure it would necessarily do much for the perception of women in science though, since the Doctor isn't exactly a scientist - more like an adventurer who knows lots of science (he has picked up a wide range of knowledge over the centuries), but actually can fix most problems by zapping with his trusty sonic screwdriver.

If you agree that the next Doctor should be a woman, you can join the UKRC Facebook group "Make the next Dr. Who a Woman!" I did!

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Natalie Batalha: The Thrill of Discovery is a Gateway Drug to Becoming a Scientist

This month's issue of California Monthly profiles Natalie Batalha, an associate professor of physics at San Jose State University and co-investigator on NASA's Kepler mission, which is attempting to detect habitable Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.

Batalha isn't one of those scientists who had childhood dreams of becoming an astronomer or chemist. She actually started out her undergraduate career as a business major. She did have an interest in NASA and space science though, and considered becoming a mediator between business and science.

. . . Batalha enrolled in a physics class and was "terrible" at it, she says. But as her professor explained the mathematics behind the formation of rainbows in oil puddles, she was "blown away," she recalls. "It was like a religious experience for me—that the universe is so ordered. That's profound, right?"

Batalha became slowly immersed in the practice of science, first completing a research internship at Wyoming Infrared Observatory and then working in the lab of Gibor Basri, an astronomer at Berkeley. She recalls one day, while they were sitting at a computer looking at observations of young stars, or "baby Suns," from a new instrument at Lick Observatory, when Basri turned to her and said, "Natalie, no one else in the world has data like this." The thrill of discovery, she says, clinched her decision to be a scientist. "It must be, on a much smaller scale, like the feeling Galileo had when he saw Jupiter's moons," she says. "That's the gateway drug."
Batalha received her bachelor's degree in physics and astronomy in 1989, her MS from the Observatorio Nacional, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Santa Cruz in 1997. She's been affiliated with NASA Ames Research Center since 2000.

I've often read the argument that the lack of women in scientific fields such as physics and computer science is due to women simply choosing alternative career paths. While I think that's certainly the case - I doubt many women have been forcibly ejected from physics courses - it doesn't explain why women are choosing other fields. Our career choices are influenced by many factors, including our aptitudes and our family's (and society's) expectations of "appropriate" career choices. I think it also depends on our exposure to the field. In Batalha's case, she didn't realize how much she loved physics until she was in college - and I think it's very unusual for non-science majors to even attempt to take a college-level science class. That's why I think programs meant to provide girls with hands-on science experience are worthwhile. Who knows how many potential astrophysicists there are out there who have never taken a physics class?

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