Browsing Tag

astronomy

News

Efforts made to steer women, minorities to science careers

Echekki likens the problem to a pipeline “with many leaks diverting people of color – and under-represented groups in STEM, in general – from science and technologies fields.” Plugging those leaks will require “access to opportunities and resources for K-12, overcoming stereotypes of what STEM fields involve (and) misconceptions about the kinds of people who work in these fields,” providing incentives for students “to stay in STEM tracks in college and building resiliency in people who may find themselves isolated or labeled.”

[ via News and Observer ]

News

Lucy Rogers, STEM communicator

The key to changing minds and holding interest is to be goal-oriented, Rogers believes. This means describing career choices in terms of what people want to do rather than just as a vague ‘engineering’ catch-all.

[ via The Engineer ]

News

Women at NASA manage novel hurricane mission

The increasing presence of women in management of science missions at NASA is exemplified by Marilyn Vasques and Bernadette Luna, both members of the Earth Science Project Office at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and key participants in recent and on-going NASA airborne missions to study hurricanes.

[ via Phys.org ]

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Jarita C. Holbrook, Researcher

Jarita C. Holbrook

Researcher

Women and Gender Studies at UCLA



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My career is really two stages if not three. I hold degrees in physics, astronomy, and astrophysics through my doctorate. At that point in time, I wanted to be an astrophysicist but by the time I finished my PhD, I had changed my mind. The next stage of my career has been as a social scientist focused on the links between humans and the night sky: Cultural Astronomy. To make the transition from physical science to social science was not easy! I had to learn a new language and way of approaching and analyzing data.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The third stage of my career is that I am a filmmaker! When I am making documentary films I focus on minority astronomers and astrophysicists. Being a cultural astronomer takes me to amazing places and I talk about the sky and gather information about the sky from everyone I meet; when I am making a film I follow astronomers to cool places and focus on them and their research.

Role models/heroes:
I have many great mentors but role models is more difficult: Anthony Aveni added respectability to Cultural Astronomy and his work is amazing. I love the work of filmmaker Julie Dash, but I have never met her. Angela Davis is my role model for how to always be gracious no matter how famous. Anthropologist Brackette Williams taught me how to undermine my opponents because they are predictable. Finally, former dean of the UA business college Ken Smith taught me some tricks to being an effective academic leader. All of them I consider to be my role models.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I like being able to develop a hypothesis, design a research project to test it, and then to look at my results to see if my original hypothesis was correct. This step 1, step 2, step 3 that you can always fall back on. What I absolutely love is when I am looking for one thing and I discover another thing!

Advice for future STEMinists?
Being an interdisciplinary scientist is difficult because the academy is rigid so everyone wants to fit you into somebody else’s box. However, I think that the most exciting work is occurring in the spaces between disciplines. Career-wise, I have had to compromise and occupy places where I do not fit intellectually, however I have always learned things important to my research from my colleagues in every situation. I have occupied history of science, applied anthropology, Africana studies, and now women and gender studies not to forget physics and astronomy, too.

Favorite website/app:
I have always been a movie person so nothing beats IMDB and their app.

Twitter: @astroholbrook

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Emily Rice, Assistant Professor, Engineering Science & Physics

Emily Rice

Emily Rice

Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island
(Engineering Science & Physics Department)

Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History
(Department of Astrophysics)



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I enjoyed math from at least the sixth grade, took advanced classes throughout high school, and when I started college I was planning on majoring in math. In the fall semester of my freshman year I also signed up for an introductory astronomy class, and I was hooked. I signed up for physics the following semester so I could major in physics & astronomy and take the rest of the astronomy courses. But I didn’t do much research as an undergraduate and wasn’t certain I would pursue a career in STEM until I started working at a planetarium after graduating from college. I learned so much more about astronomy and public outreach while I was there that I decided I wanted to pursue research and a Ph.D. in astronomy.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I am thrilled with how my fledgling research career has expanded since my Ph.D. to include low mass stars and extra-solar planets. I started out studying brown dwarfs, which are objects with masses in between the masses of stars and planets. My collaborators and I are trying to understand all of these objects in concert because they are surprisingly similar despite the striking differences between, for example, the Sun and Jupiter in our own Solar System.

Role models/heroes:
Even though he didn’t teach science, I still look up to my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Eugene Tiesler, because he taught in a way that made me feel capable and comfortable – I hope I can do the same for my own students. I also admire fellow scientists who have achieved success in their careers while mentoring students and having a family and interesting hobbies – luckily there are too many to name!

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love the variety and flexibility – I have a lot of different day-to-day responsibilities and there are always opportunities for new projects, in teaching, writing, presenting, research, travel, and more. I meet a lot of people who are interested in what I do, and it is always satisfying to help them learn more or change the way they think about science or scientists, even slightly. I think if everyone understood science just a little bit more, the world would be a better place for it.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Two pieces of advice:

1. Find what you enjoy, even if it’s not what others expect of you. When you enjoy what you’re doing, it won’t be a chore to devote yourself to it and excel.

2. Just because you have achieved a degree of success doesn’t been it is available to everyone. Take an honest look at your path and your community and figure out what you can do or change to make science open to and supportive for others who might be interested. We will all benefit from developing an equitable and diverse STEM community!

Favorite website or app:  Astronomy Picture Of the Day: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/

Twitter: @emilulu
Website: http://about.me/emilyrice

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Sarah Scoles, Public Education Specialist, The National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Sarah Scoles

Public Education Specialist
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always loved astronomy, from the time that I knew the word “astronomy. ” I decided in elementary school that I wanted to study science and, eventually, do science myself. I was just fascinated that there was a whole universe outside our atmosphere, and that by looking at the light from objects billions of light-years away, we could learn things about them.

I was inspired that although we will never be able to touch, say, a black hole, or to change or affect or test it in any way, we have nonetheless developed a way to investigate it. I wanted to be a part of that investigation. Now, my job is to communicate the results of other people’s investigations and to help students learn what an investigation is, and that “science” isn’t memorizing the textbook glossary.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest projects I have worked on are ones that allow students really to do science, sometimes for the first time. At the observatory, students often come for a couple of days and learn to use our 40-foot radio telescope. They take their own observations of hydrogen in the galaxy, and at the end of just 24-48 hours, they can describe how hydrogen and the Doppler effect show the galaxy’s spiral structure, which way it’s rotating, and approximately where we are. It’s inspiring to see how quickly students can become “experts” in a field when given the opportunity.

We also have a similar program called the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, in which students analyze never-before-seen survey data and analyze it to find never-before-seen pulsars. It’s gratifying to see them become so invested in the data and the discoveries. And it is definitely a process, in both cases. They start out nervous and tentative, and then as they begin to see themselves doing science and acting like scientists, they begin to believe those parts of their identity. In our evaluations, there’s been an especially impressive change in girls’ ability and willingness to identify with scientists, and to identify themselves as scientists.

Role models and heroes:
I’m a big fan of my dog, who is a girl, and definitely a feminist, and who would probably be a particle physicist if I would let her drive the car to work. She is as excited to learn about and explore the world around her as Jeanne Baret, and that inspires me to want to do the same. Or something.

Advice for future STEMinists?
I think the most important thing to remember if you want to go into a STEM is that it’s not just important to learn how to answer questions, but to come up with questions. You need to look at the world and think, “Huh, I wonder why X works that way,” or, “What if I did Y to Z?” And then you can use your STEMinist skills to figure out how to find the answer to that question, to replace the wondering (but not the wonder) with critical thought and data and observations.

Favorite website or app:
I love the app/website Evernote. I use it to clip and organize sites and articles I want to remember, and I use it to collaborate with other STEM professionals and with students, and I use it to jot down all my “deep thoughts” that might otherwise be lost to the either. It’s one of those great cloud tools that makes the information part of the “information age” something you can eat a bit at a time, and something that helps you remember what you wanted to take a bite of in the first place.

Site: Smaller Questions is the blog I co-write with my microbiologist friend. We write about journal articles that aren’t making much of a popular news splash, trying to make more cutting-edge science available to everybody.

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Nicole Gugliucci, Astronomy Doctoral Student

Nicole Gugliucci

Nicole Gugliucci

Graduate student working towards a Ph.D. in Astronomy (defense in three months!)



Organization: University of Virginia

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I always loved science, especially space. I had very encouraging high school science teachers that encouraged me to pursue a career in astronomy. At the time, I was really into the Mars Pathfinder lander. Also, I watched the movie “Contact” when it was in theatres and though, “wow, maybe I can be an astronomer, too!” Now I actually do radio astronomy!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I’m currently working on a project where we are building a radio telescope array in South Africa. Traveling to a desert region for research was an excellent experience, and I enjoy seeing an instrument come together. In a way, I think it brings you closer to your data when you’ve helped put the telescope together.

Role models and heroes:
My mom always encouraged me to pursue my interests. She supported my voracious reading habit all through my childhood, and she helped me research the answers to all my “whys” in the days before Google.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Find good mentors and a support group throughout your career. Your mentors will help you discover the parts of being a scientist that cannot be taught in classes. Your support group will let you cry when your computer crashes.

Favorite website or app:
Lately, I’ve been really enjoying Google+. The video hangouts have allowed a new level of interaction with other scientists and enthusiasts. (Plug! Check out the Weekly Space Hangout 1pm ET every Thursday)

Twitter: @noisyastronomer
Site: noisyastronomer.com links to all my blogs, social media profiles, and other silliness scattered across the internet!

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Lara Eakins, Astronomy Outreach and Instructional Technology

Lara Eakins

Lara Eakins

Astronomy Outreach and Instructional Technology

The University of Texas, Department of Astronomy



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
It’s hard to nail it down exactly since I was interested in science from a very early age. My mother was interested in science, particularly space, and science fiction and I know some of that rubbed off on me. I was lucky to be growing up in a great age of the exploration of the solar system when we had spacecraft fly-by photos of several of the planets and the Viking landers on Mars. And then when I was 8 years old, Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” aired. It was sometime in high school that I finally decided that I wanted to study astronomy in college and have been either studying or working in astronomy ever since!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
There are a few dating back to my research days as an undergrad that I am particularly fond of. I was working with the astrometry team measuring positions of asteroids, comets, and the moons of the outer planets as part of several projects including getting accurate positions of two asteroids that the Galileo spacecraft was going to fly past on its way to Jupiter and gathering data that was eventually used by the Shoemaker mission. We also did some of the early measurements of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which eventually impacted Jupiter in July 1994. We measured newly-discovered asteroids to calculate their orbits to see if they were Earth impact hazards and could say that we were doing our part to potentially help save the planet!

Role models and heroes:
I have to mention Carl Sagan, not just because of the inspiration of “Cosmos” but also because he was the first scientist that I can remember who did a lot of public outreach and speaking – something I do now. I would also say Carolyn Porco who is now the leader of the Cassini Imaging Team that brings us all of those amazing images of Saturn and its moons and rings, but I first remember her from her early career work on the Voyager missions. She was the first woman I remember seeing doing the type of stuff that *I* wanted to do.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t be afraid to express your interest in and love of STEM fields, even if you are discouraged. I don’t think the older “girls don’t do that” attitude is explicitly stated now (at least I hope not!), but there can be more subtle signs and attitudes that might discourage you. But if you truly love STEM topics and want to make a career in one of those fields – do it!

Favorite website or app:
For work the one that I use the most is http://www.spaceweather.com – It’s a great site with great information about the sun and how it interacts with the Earth, which is something I talk about frequently with kids on field trips to visit our solar telescope.

Twitter: @LaraEakins
Site: http://about.me/larae

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Sadie Jones, Outreach Leader in Astronomy

Sadie Jones

Sadie Jones

Outreach Leader in Astronomy
University of Southampton



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always been interested in space, astronauts, pretty pictures from Hubble etc. Really like the big questions such as ‘Why are there supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies?’ ‘Where is the edge of the Universe’ etc, still excited by these questions now. Also very much enjoyed Maths and had excellent Physics teachers at GCSE and A-Level which made me believe anything was possible, and that dreaming of being an astronaut was perfectly fine.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Probably the Faulkes Telescope Project, I was lucky enough to use this telescope for my undergraduate studies in both my 3rd and 4th year projects at Cardiff University. It is a robotic telescope which is controlled over the internet, and can be used by school children for FREE. I used it to learn about radiation from Black Holes and look at Stars in clusters.

Role models and heroes:
My Parents, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Prof Brian Cox

Advice for future STEMinists?
Never stop asking the big questions. This is especially helpful if you end up working in research where it is very easy to forget why you started to do the research in the first place. Doing outreach in schools and getting amazing questions from students during my PhD really helped me remember why my research on black holes was so cool.

Favorite website or app:
I have to say my own website 🙂 www.astrodome.soton.ac.uk

Twitter: @SotonAstrodome

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Ann Martin, Postdoctoral Fellow, NASA Langley Research Center

Ann Martin

Ann Martin

Postdoctoral Fellow & Program Evaluator on the NASA Innovations in Climate Education



Organization: NASA Langley Research Center

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
When I was a little kid, I loved everything about space that I could get my hands on. My parents were both really interested in the history of the manned spaceflight program, so I grew up watching shuttle launches on TV, taking family trips to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and memorizing the names of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts. I even went to SpaceCamp . . . twice. I loved science and math, but I also loved my English classes where written and oral communication was important.

Ultimately, I majored in both English and physics when I was in college. Now I have a PhD in astronomy from Cornell, but a career in science research isn’t for me. Instead, I’m interested in working on science education and public outreach/communication, and especially in increasing the diversity in astronomy and other STEM fields. That brings both of my skill sets, thinking like both a scientist and a communicator, to the table.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
During my dissertation work, I was part of a large research collaboration, called ALFALFA, led by my advisors at Cornell and involving over 30 other institutions. We used the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico to take a census of nearby galaxies, studying their reservoirs of hydrogen gas, which is the basic ingredient that galaxies use to cook up new generations of stars.

As part of this work, I ran the world’s largest telescope for many nights, trained other students and faculty members to use it, traveled to the telescope in Puerto Rico and to others in California, discovered and published information about unknown galaxies, and wrote my dissertation on the properties of our sample of over 10,000 galaxies – it was an amazing experience!

Now that I have worked in astronomical research for so long, it’s can be too easy to forget that thrill of discovery. But sometimes on a clear night, the night sky (especially a good naked-eye view of the Andromeda galaxy) will take my breath away. In those moments, it hits me that I’ve been so lucky to be able to call myself an astronomer. I still can’t believe I’ve been a discoverer of galaxies!

Role models and heroes:
In grad school, I shared an office with another grad student working on ALFALFA, Sabrina Stierwalt. Sabrina has taught me so much about science, but even more about being true to myself while working on a career in science. For us, that means finding a satisfactory balance between our work and our personal lives, working to improve our communities, and not being shy about the “feminist” part of being a STEMinist!

Sabrina helped me get involved with a lot of the astronomy education projects, like the Ask an Astronomer service at Cornell, that ultimately pointed me toward the career I’m now pursuing. It is really helpful to have such a good friend, colleague, and role model who reflects my aspirations and pushes me to think about my place in the world.

Starting many months ago, Sabrina and some of our other STEMinist friends began to notice that the “Doodles” appearing on the Google homepage from time to time had a disturbing pattern – we were seeing far, far too few women represented! With Sabrina’s advice and encouragement, I started a blog called Speaking Up For Us and posted an open letter to the Google Doodles team. We all know that role models are very important for women in STEM, and the Google Doodles could be such a great platform for sharing the contributions of women with everyone who doesn’t have a Sabrina in her or his life.

Advice for future STEMinists?
A support network is such a critical thing, whether that means your friends, your family, your advisors at school, all of the above, or some other (formal or informal) mentor. Seek out this support wherever you can find it, and learn about ideas like impostor syndrome so that they can’t slow you down. If you’re a student, MentorNet.org is a great place to start. Research and personal experience has shown that this support helps young women — and members of other groups underrepresented in STEM — stick with it and pursue their dreams.

Another, more personal piece of advice: There are so many interesting, twisting and turning paths to fulfilling careers in STEM. It took me a long time to find my own path, and in the end I realized that I couldn’t push parts of my personality aside to try to force myself to stay on a path that wasn’t working for me. Incidentally, it also turns out that those other skills and priorities have a lot of value in the STEM world. We all have something to bring to the table, and it’s OK if your path turns out to be a little twisty like mine was.

Favorite website or app:
I couldn’t do my work without Google Reader, an RSS feed aggregator that lets me do one-stop shopping for updates on my favorite blogs. It helps me keep up with everything from scholarly journals to the latest STEM education news to my friends’ blogs.

Twitter: @Annie314159
Site: Speaking Up for Us