Why few women major in STEM fields, and what the UO is doing to change that

One look at data compiled by the UO’s Office of Institutional Research from fall 2013, says it all: 34.2 percent of undergraduates majoring in mathematics are female, while 42.8 percent of chemistry majors are. Females make up 20.9 percent of physics majors, while computer science undergraduates have the lowest percentage with an unsettling 14.1 percent.

[ via Daily Emerald ]

Revamped computer science classes attracting more girls

Berkeley, Stanford and a handful of other universities have experienced a marked uptick in the numbers of female computer science students. Those increases have also coincided with a reimagining of computer science classes, especially introductory ones. In some cases, that meant doing away with aspects of classes that seemed to specifically discourage young women.

[ via San Francisco Chronicle ]

UNC women to share a love of physics through Women in Physics club

The group holds weekly meetings on Thursdayswhere female physics students discuss their homework questions, listen to guest speaker lectures and eat dinner together. Sheila Kannappan, a female professor in the department of physics and astronomy, said the group provides a supportive environment for women to successfully finish their degree requirements and go further in the field.

[ via The Daily Tar Heel ]

Wanted: Women who want a college degree in a STEM field

At Columbia University, the Women in Computer Science (WiCS) organization hosts campus speakers who talk about what it’s like being a women in a top tech position. They also run a graduate-undergraduate mentorship program to aid underclassmen women in anything from study methods to applying for jobs.

[ via USA Today ]

STEMinist Profile: Julie Kientz, Assistant Professor – Univ. of Washington


Julie Kientz

Assistant Professor

University of Washington

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I had wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember, but while I was in high school and doing a job shadowing project, I fainted while watching a dog undergoing surgery! I realized I probably needed to find a new career path after that. I had been spending a lot of time online and chatting with people on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and was amazed by how useful the Internet was in connecting me to places and people beyond the small town where I grew up. One of my online friends encouraged me to try out programming, and so I did. It was really fun and I was hooked! After that, I decided to pursue computer science.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I am definitely really proud of the Baby Steps project I’ve been working on since about 2007. The idea is to help parents of young children track developmental progress in their children from birth through age 5 to help detect things like autism or other developmental delays sooner. The idea is that the information will be stored in a centralized database, so we have been working on ideas to use technology to reach parents no matter how they use technology or what their access to it might be. We’ve been using a software application, a website, Twitter, text messaging, and more to try to reach as many parents as we can! It’s been really rewarding to work on a project that can have the potential to help many different families. Also, now that I have my own daughter, I am finding it fun and really useful to use to track her development.

Role models and heroes:
Growing up, I remember really loving to read about Sally Ride, the first female astronaut. It really made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to, and that there was no job that was beyond reach because of my gender. I’m also a big fan of female computer scientists Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper and of Harvey Mudd’s current president, Maria Klawe.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love the feeling that I can create anything in the digital world and use those abilities to help others. Computer science is not just a bunch of math like a lot of people think, but it’s actually a creative process that requires a lot of different types of thinking. Also, the work I do in human-computer interaction involves both working with people to find out what they need and then developing prototypes of that technology and making those ideas come to life. This makes it both challenging and exciting.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Computers touch almost every aspect of our lives these days, and thus there are a number of opportunities to apply computer science to almost any thing that interests you, whether it’s healthcare, art, science, music, games, movies, or more. By combining your work with the things that interest you most, you can definitely enjoy it a lot more and feel good about it. Also, stick to it, even if it gets hard. There are a number of fun things you can do once you get really good at computing.

Favorite website or app:I really love my Fitbit, which I’ve been using for almost 3 years now. When you spend a lot of time with computers, it’s really easy to spend a lot of time not moving. My Fitbit keeps me accountable for making sure I get enough activity, and it also is fun to go back and look at the data and compete with friends for the highest number of steps.

Twitter: @juliekientz

Site: faculty.washington.edu/jkientz

Why First-Year STEM Girls Attend Women’s Colleges

Smith College is unique because it is an all-women’s liberal arts school that also has an engineering major… I had several reasons for choosing Smith College. One was the STRIDE program Smith has, which allows freshmen and sophomores to work on a research project with a professor as part of a work-study program. I know that will be an amazing opportunity for me.

[ via The Huffington Post ]

Liverpool’s new Life Sciences University Technical College proves magnet for female students

…after it was confirmed around three-quarters of applicants are female, delighted campaigners said it was an important victory in the fight for more women to break into the traditionally male-dominated science sector.

[ via Liverpool Echo News ]

Virginia Tech Undergraduate Women Help Steer Engineering Research Program

This year, this support was targeted to encourage undergraduate women to engage in tire engineering research at the university’s Center for Tire Research.

[ via The Roanoke Star ]

STEMinist Profile: Orit Shaer, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Orit Shaer

Orit Shaer

Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science, co-director of Media Arts and Sciences

Wellesley College

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My first real exposure to computer science was during a chance encounter with an introductory programming course in my undergraduate studies. The challenge of solving difficult problems, the satisfaction of designing an elegant solution, and the thrill of building something with my own two hands, fascinated me. As the software programs I wrote became more advanced, I was energized by the potential of computing to impact the way we work, play, and learn.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My current research in Computer Science is in the field of Human-Computer Interaction, an area that is at the border between humans and computers, between the digital world and the physical world. This field is also uniquely positioned at the border between disciplines: computer science, psychology and arts, which makes it all the more exciting.

In my research group, the Wellesley College Human-Computer Interaction Lab, our goal is to invent and study easier, more effective and more enjoyable ways for people to interact with vast amounts of digital information.

One of our coolest projects, which we are currently working on, is to help biologists to analyze and manipulate large amounts of information so that they can develop scientific insights and make discoveries. We utilize advances in human-computer interaction such as multi-touch, tabletop and tangible interfaces to design and build new user interfaces that allow scientists to better organize, relate, and share information. It is exciting to see our interfaces used by scientists and students to study diseases such as Tuberculosis.

Role models/heroes:
I was fortunate to meet some incredible men and women throughout my career. My advisors at Tufts University, Rob Jacob and Diane Souvaine inspired me in their leadership of their professional community and their commitment to educating and mentoring a next generation of scientists.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Computer science in general, and human-computer interaction in particular, are inherently interdisciplinary fields. My research draws upon multiple area of expertise and perspectives, so I often work with a diverse range of collaborators. Each new project presents a new range of problems that require learning new topics and skills, applying creativity, and facing new challenges. I love the intellectual stimulation and the life-long learning.

Also, being engaged in human-computer science research allows me to get insight into the future and to participate in shaping it. In my field of study, science and innovation are tightly coupled and many of the current investigations in human-computer interaction will inform the tools, gadgets, and devices that we will use in the future.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Attend talks and conferences in your field to find out what are the current trends in research, make connections, and inspire your creativity.

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) is a fantastic 3-day conference that brings together women in computing from various backgrounds, from undergraduate students to top industry and academia leaders. It is a great opportunity to network, attend workshops on academic and professional development, learn about and share your own experiences with other women.

Favorite website/app:
Springpad: a smart notebook that provides a great way to organize and share documents.

Website: http://cs.wellesley.edu/~oshaer
Twitter: @oshaer

STEMinist Profile: Amy Del Medico, Assistant Professor Mathematics

Amy Del Medico

Amy Del Medico

Assistant Professor Mathematics

Waubonsee Community College


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Math skills came easily, so I accumulated many math credits as an undergrad and ended up with a BS in Math. Eventually decided I wanted to teach college level students, so went to grad school to continue studying math to earn a Master’s degree. I love teaching and STEM, so this was the quickest way to get into a college classroom.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Currently a Co-PI on a NSF S-STEM grant that provides scholarships to needy students who are pursuing STEM degrees. Very rewarding to help these students.

Role models/heroes:
This is probably going to sound bad…but here it goes. As an undergrad at Benedictine University (Illinois Benedictine College at the time), my first math course was with Dr. Townsley. She is a tall, attractive, intelligent woman and often wears a flower in her hair (I came to find out later this was from her Hawaiian heritage). Dr. Townsley was the first female STEM educator who was not the stereotypical “earthy, birkenstock wearing, dowdy” professor. She had high expectations, was friendly and fair. I try to emulate those qualities in my teaching.

Why do you love working in STEM?
The discovery aspect – the “ah-ha” moments, both for myself and when my students have them.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Be yourself and be proud of your accomplishments.

Favorite website/app:
Used to be Threadsy, now it’s iAnnotate.

Twitter: @amymathprof