Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Crosspost: Symposium in Honor of the Legacy of Vera Rubin

Credit: Carnegie Institution

Dr. Vera Rubin, who passed away in Dec. 2016, was one of the most important astrophysicists of the 20th and 21st centuries. She received her Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 1954, and pioneered the study of galaxy rotation rates that provided definitive evidence for the existence of Dark Matter. Dr. Rubin was also a fierce and effective advocate for women in science. This symposium to honor and celebrate her legacy brings together astrophysicists whose research was made possible by Dr. Rubin’s discoveries to present the latest developments in the field and discuss the connections with Dr. Rubin’s discoveries.

Other activities include a keynote lecture for the general public, a poster session for contributed posters, a workshop to address current issues facing women in science, including secondary school science teachers, and a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress.

The Symposium will take place on the campus of Georgetown University and is jointly sponsored with Stockholm University, via the Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmoparticle Physics, with additional support from the National Science Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and The Clare Booth Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation.

Read more about the Symposium and register at

https://sites.google.com/georgetown.edu/verarubinsymposium/home

Friday, June 14, 2019

AASWomen Newsletter for June 14, 2019

Todd Mason, Mason Productions Inc. / LSST Corporation
AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of June 14, 2019
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, JoEllen McBride, and Ale Aloisi

[AAS has migrated their email system to Microsoft Exchange, so please check your spam folder if you did not receive the newsletter this week. It is no longer possible to subscribe or unsubscribe to the AASWomen newsletter by means of Google Groups. We have updated our subscribe and unsubscribe instructions below. Please follow us on social media for updates and thank you for bearing with us as we work out all the kinks.
Twitter @AAS_Women
Facebook https://bit.ly/2PkU9of

This week's issues:

1. Interview with Dr. Ramirez-Ruiz, Vera Rubin Presidential Chair for Diversity in Astronomy at UC Santa Cruz

2. Chairwoman Johnson and Rep. González-Colón Introduce the Vera Rubin Survey Telescope Designation Act

3. Vera Rubin: The Astronomer Who Brought Dark Matter to Light

4. NASA Honors 'Hidden Figures' in Street Renaming Ceremony Outside NASA Headquarters

5. All-woman team commands rock-zapping laser on Mars

6. Chairwoman Johnson’s Opening Statement for Hearing on Combating Sexual Harassment in Science

7. Time to End the Manel Tradition

8. When English is not your mother tongue

9. Eight Ways to Support Women in Science

10. 5 Ways Society Sabotages Girls' Interest In Science And Math

11. Job Opportunities

12. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

13. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

14. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Interview with Dr. Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, Vera Rubin Presidential Chair for Diversity in Astronomy at UC Santa Cruz

Dr. Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, was inducted as the inaugural Vera Rubin Presidential Chair for Diversity in Astronomy last month. Vera Rubin was on the steering committee of the Working Group on the Status of Women in Astronomy whose report led to the creation of the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. She was also a champion of inclusive science—mentoring students from various backgrounds. I spoke to Dr. Ramirez-Ruiz about what this chair means and about his intentional work to increase the diversity of voices contributing to the field of astronomy.

Why is it important to have an endowed professor in diversity?
Our department at UC Santa Cruz has made intense investments, both intellectually and emotionally speaking, to make sure our graduate program is diverse. These conversations started when Dr. Sandy Faber was chair and we spoke many times about the broken [student to faculty] pipeline. We wanted to figure out how to enhance our ability to attract professors that are women and/or under-represented minorities. When we had a search for a theoretical astrophysicist, we got 220 applications and only 20 were women. This prompted us to start thinking differently about how to increase diversity. If we were to hire our professors from our own graduate program, then there would be no leaky pipeline problem. If every single dept took it upon themselves to do that then they would generate their own pipeline for their professors. We then discussed how universities are very happy to be diverse provided that whoever they hire as diverse individuals sort of blends with the status quo. We wanted to have a program where we celebrate diversity and our differences by not having people have to give up their identity to be included. We realized that in order to create that environment you need a lot of funding for structures and support.

I’m very proud of this chair in the sense that it's the first time, I think, in the history of astronomy that an institution says this [diversity] is important to us and we’re going to invest in it. This is not a chair for me. It is a chair for the ages.

This chair exists to support not only the individual but also the cause of diversity. It’s not this idea that since you are a person of color you have to all of a sudden be altruistic. There’s also the component that I can benefit my own science by supporting my [research] group because my group is intrinsically diverse. The whole idea of role models is that people that are similar to you, especially if you are not the status quo, gravitate around you. If you are supporting those students then you are making good use of the funds.

Why is promoting and retaining women and people from under-represented groups important to the field?
My driving motivation is really to identify what we can do to have as many transformative scientists as we possibly can. The only way to achieve that is to be able to have a wide range of diverse voices. This has been shown by Dr. Katherine Phillips in many fields and I have reproduced her results in my own courses.

I divide the students into groups that are either homogeneous or diverse and I give them an order of magnitude question to solve. I also put together a team to think about the many ways the students could answer these types of questions based on the knowledge they have. So we have a clear measure of what it is to arrive at an innovative answer. The team assesses the students’ answers and the standard result is that people from homogeneous groups tend to not find the most creative solutions while diverse groups do. When you ask the homogeneous groups: ‘Did you find the best solution? Are you satisfied with the degree of creativity of your solution?’ They usually say yes. When you interview them about [their interactions within the group], they have very cordial and seamless interactions. But when you asked the diverse groups, they have strong hesitations about the value of their solutions. When you ask about their interactions, there was significantly more discussions and more contention. In that premise, having leadership and realizing that you have to support that creative environment and make sure that people feel empowered by the answers that they’re giving you. Letting them know that it is ok to play with ideas, to sometimes say things that are not completely correct, and that they have a safe environment to do it is very important. In order to get the best scientific outcomes, we have to support diversity. So I feel our field needs all those voices if we want to keep up with accelerating development, creation of new ideas, and moving the field forward.

What things have you implemented or supported in your academic position that you think are crucial to promoting and retaining under-represented groups?
Besides the important admissions components that need to be addressed—such as eradicating the GRE—I have been heavily involved with the Lamat program which I started using an NSF CAREER grant. Lamat means star in Mayan. I started this program with Hartnell College as a program for transfer students from community college. The idea is that before they transfer to UC Santa Cruz they come and do research, usually for three summers. The rate of them publishing a first author paper is very high—almost 50%. Every single one of them has gone to graduate school. Half of the Latinos that have an NSF graduate fellowship came from this program. They are getting accepted to the top grad programs and as a result, our numbers in physics went from 7% to something like 23% Hispanics. And as we build the program that is significantly more diverse, the graduate students are acting as mentors for these students. So it's also enhancing their own ability to do cutting edge science bc they get to work with these amazing individuals. I mean we usually get like 120-200 applications for 10 positions. So there is certainly the need for these programs. So we recently expanded and doubled the number of students we accept.

I am also involved in creating networks for theoretical astrophysicists that are women and minorities. I organized a meeting in Copenhagen Denmark with Sarah Markoff that only had women and minorities in attendance in order to openly discuss barriers. The goal is to increase inclusion in computational astronomy and the computational sciences in general. This came about because we realized in our department was certainly increasing in diversity but the fraction of students going into computational sciences and theory was still small.

I think we have to support students that are not conforming to the status quo. For example, at the conference I organized in Copenhagen, we provided childcare. We have these workshops for 6 weeks and we pay for childcare. Some of them have significant challenges in many areas and funding can help a lot in providing support.

What do you plan to do with the endowed professorship?
There is a responsibility of being one of the few people in the field that has an endowed chair to support diversity. So I do feel I have to carry the diversity message to other universities and try to encourage these movements to be for the entire field. And this is something I haven’t been doing as effectively. I would like to support a national change in the conversation around diversity and equity. Particularly highlighting the great successes we’ve had in our dept. Our students are not only diverse but they are extremely successful at getting fellowships. We have the largest cohort of NSF graduate fellowships in the country. So being intentional about diversity has drastically benefited our program. And eventually, it will benefit the field. An area that we have to work extremely intentionally to try to enact changes where possible is in the promotion of women of color in our field.

I also want to support programs that our own students put forward. This stems from our success with the Osterbrock Leadership Program. It provides opportunities for graduate students to learn about and apply leadership skills to a project of their own design. Sandy Faber and Bob Williams, former director of Space Telescope, have partnered to bring the Osterbrock fellowships program to the national level. So I am interested in helping them achieve that.

Dr. Sandy Faber and Dr. Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz
Dr. Ramirez-Ruiz is a theoretical astrophysicist whose research explores the violent and capricious nature of the universe. He uses computer simulations to study transient phenomena such as collisions, mergers, and disruptions of stars, and his work is essential to interpreting the results of gravitational wave detections. Since joining the UC Santa Cruz faculty in 2007, he has earned numerous awards and honors, including a Packard Fellowship, a Niels Bohr Professorship, and most recently the 2019 HEAD Mid-Career Prize from the American Astronomical Society.

The Rubin Chair endowment fund received major contributions from several donors, including Sandra and Andrew Faber, John and Barbara Crary, and the Heising-Simons Foundation, as well as matching funds from the UC Office of the President.

Friday, June 7, 2019

AASWomen Newsletter for June 7, 2019

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of June 6, 2019
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, and JoEllen McBride

[AAS has migrated their email system to Microsoft Exchange, so please check your spam folder if you did not receive the newsletter this week. It is no longer possible to subscribe or unsubscribe to the AASWomen newsletter by means of Google Groups, and we continue to work on developing new instructions. Please follow us on social media for updates and bear with us as we work out all the kinks. 
Twitter @AAS_Women Facebook https://bit.ly/2PkU9of]

This week's issues:

1. AAS 234 Summer Meeting Sessions You Shouldn't Miss 
2. NAS Members Approve a Bylaw Amendment to Permit Rescinding Membership
3. Make reports of research misconduct public
4. 75 years after D-Day: Salinas woman, 98, served as military geologist during World War II
5. Astronomy Magazine: Women in the Apollo Program 
6. Tracking Down JoAnn Morgan, a Semi-Hidden Figure of U.S. Space History  
Astrophysicist Federica Bianco spends at
least an hour training in a boxing gym
everyday. (image by Alan Yu/WHYY)
7. Astrophysicist explains how boxing makes her a better scientist
8. Group devoted to combating sexual harassment in science is in turmoil as leaders exit 
9. Ph.D. programs drop standardized exam 
10. Use peer-to-peer research collaboration in graduate school
11. How I explained a gap in my CV when applying to graduate school
12. Racial and gender biases plague postdoc hiring
13. The Data Science Diversity Gap: Where Are the Women?
14. In Space, This Diverse Company Naturally Attracts Women: COO
15. These 12 Women Are Killing It in STEM Fields — and They Want You to Join Them
16. Job Opportunities
17. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
18. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
19. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Thursday, June 6, 2019

AAS 234 Summer Meeting Sessions You Shouldn't Miss

The summer meeting of the American Astronomical Society will take place Sunday, June 9 through Thursday, June 13 in St. Louis, MO. The CSWA has identified sessions that feature the various AAS diversity committees and may be of interest to readers of the blog.
  • Sunday, June 9, Student Orientation Reception & Grad School Fair, 5:30 pm-7:00 pm, Midway 6
  • Tuesday, June 11, SGMA Meet & Greet for LGBTQIA Members and Students, 6:30 pm–7:30 pm, Gothic Corridor
  • Wednesday, June 12, Career Panel: Diverse Careers in Astrophysics, 1:40 pm–2:40 pm, New York Room
  • Wednesday, June 12, CSWA Meet & Greet, 6:30 pm–7:30 pm, Midway 7&8
    The CSWA is excited to meet you and present preliminary results from our survey, discuss possible Decadal Survey white papers, and offer refreshments to those who join us!
  • Thursday, June 13, 400 Plenary Session: From Native Skywatchers to ASTR 101…New Designs for Interdisciplinary, Multidisciplinary, and Transdisciplinary Engaged Learning Now, Annette S. Lee (St. Cloud State University) and Cahokia Mounds: America’s First City, Bill Iseminger (Cahokia Mounds Historic Site), 8:30 am–9:20 am, Grand Ballroom DEF
We hope to see you there!

Friday, May 31, 2019

AASWomen Newsletter for May 31, 2019

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of May 31, 2019
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, JoEllen McBride, and Alessandra Aloisi (guest ed.)

Today's guest editor is Alessandra Aloisi. Alessandra studies stars and gas in nearby star-forming galaxies with UV/optical/NIR imaging and UV/optical spectroscopy to infer their chemical and evolutionary state. She received her PhD from Bologna University (Italy) in 1999. She then landed in the US and launched her career as postdoc at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), and as associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins University. Alessandra joined the research staff at STScI in 2003, working first for the European Space Agency (ESA) and transferring to a position with the Association of the Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) in 2009. At STScI, Alessandra started as instrument scientist for the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope, and became the lead for the team responsible for the calibration, operations, and user support of these spectrographs just before the Hubble Servicing Mission 4. She then moved to be the Deputy Division Head of the Operations & Engineering Division, and is now the Head of the Science Mission Office where she oversees the science career and infrastructure of STScI as well as HST and JWST science policies.

[AAS has migrated their email system to Microsoft Exchange, so please check your spam folder if you did not receive the newsletter this week. It is no longer possible to subscribe or unsubscribe to the AASWomen newsletter by means of Google Groups, and we continue to work on developing new instructions. Please follow us on social media for updates and bear with us as we work out all the kinks.
Twitter @AAS_Women Facebook https://bit.ly/2PkU9of
]

This week's issues:

1. Maunakea Gender Equity and Inclusion Survey

2. The Hidden Heroines of Chaos

3. Commentary: Celebrating and supporting African American women in physics

4. 8 Tips For Generating Creative Ideas From The Mind Of A 'Genius' Woman Scientist

5. Astronomer Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz appointed to endowed chair for diversity in astronomy

6. Mary Sherman Morgan, The World’s First Woman Rocket Scientist

7. Eastern European universities score highly in university gender ranking

8. Commentary: Diversity in physics: Are you part of the problem?

9. I Am Fed Up With All-Male Panels. Here’s How We Change Them.

10. An astronomer’s poetic soul meets Dante’s scientific mind

11. 'Alien' turns 40: How the classic changed the game for women in action films

12. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

13. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

14. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Maunakea Gender Equity and Inclusion Survey

By Jessica Dempsey

Maunakea has the largest collective of astronomers in a single location - and the largest number of female scientists and engineers. After network and career building initiatives such as the women of Maunakea annual events - a survey was initiated to poll the demographics, experiences, and attitudes of the Observatories and astronomical institutes on the Hawaii islands to the challenges of equity and inclusion in our community.

The purpose was to create a baseline, a place to start. To understand just how much work we need to do to achieve equity and inclusion, and exactly what shape this work should take. Surveys such as these are only as useful if there is a commitment from leadership to initiate changes based on the results.

Since the survey, at East Asian Observatory we have set in motion a series of policy changes and initiatives based on the report and recommendations. We have reached gender equity in our science and operations groups and aim for full equity across our entire organization by 2022. We actively encourage our community of Observatories to set themselves similar goals. Across the astronomical community, Observatories and institutes alike, we achieve impossible technical and scientific feats on a near-daily basis. I'm pretty sure we can achieve this one too.

For more information about the survey results, please see the presentation I gave at the Gemini North Hilo Base Facility earlier this month. You can also access the full Maunakea Gender Equity and Diversity Survey Report.

Dr. Jessica Dempsey is Deputy Director of the East Asian Observatory and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. She was the first Australian female scientist to work at South Pole Station, Antartica, where she spent several summers building instruments of all kinds before wintering for a full year there with the ACBAR CMB experiment in 2005. She then moved to Hawaii, where she has worked for ten years, as they promised there would be no snow (they lied).