Tuesday, September 10, 2019

AAS Board Reflections: James Lowenthal

In order to familiarize the astronomy community with the AAS Board and encourage participation, the CSWA created a Reflection Survey for outgoing AAS Board members to complete after their terms ended in June. Over the coming weeks, we will feature the responses we've received on the Women in Astronomy blog. Enjoy!

James Lowenthal is Mary Elizabeth Moses Professor and Chair of Astronomy at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. He received his BS in Physics and Astronomy from Yale in 1986 and his PhD in Astronomy from the University of Arizona in 1991. He did postdoctoral work at the Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and as a Hubble Fellow at the University of California Santa Cruz. He studies the formation and evolution of galaxies, especially actively star-forming galaxies at high redshift, seen as they were when the Universe was less than 10% its current age. He uses Hubble Space Telescope, the Keck telescopes in Hawaii, and the Gemini telescopes in Chile and Hawaii. Through the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is a member of the graduate faculty, he also uses the 50-meter Large Millimeter Telescope in Mexico. He supervises Smith College undergraduate students in an ongoing exoplanet transit observing program using Smith’s own roof-top 16-inch telescope. He served as Vice President of the American Astronomical Society from 2016-2019 and serves on the AAS Sustainability Committee and the AAS Committee on Light Pollution, Radio Interference, and Space Debris. Lowenthal is active locally, nationally, and internationally in the movement to fight light pollution and protect the naturally dark night sky. He also works to promote education and action to stop climate change. He began his career as an amateur astronomer in New York City and rural Connecticut, grinding the mirror for his Newtonian 6-inch f/8 reflecting telescope at the Hayden Planetarium in the 1970’s. 40 years later, he still uses that telescope in his backyard in Northampton.


Name: James Lowenthal
Current Position: Mary Elizabeth Moses Professor and Chair, Department of Astronomy, Smith College
Degree, Year, Institution: PhD in Astronomy, 1991, University of Arizona
AAS Board office, term: Vice President, 2016-2019

Why did you choose to serve on the AAS Board?

Serving on the AAS Board is very interesting and rewarding. It’s not like lots of other academic committees, where members are serving because they have to; instead, everyone on the AAS Board truly wants to be there and to help the astronomical community. It’s a very committed, passionate, and competent bunch, and even though there are frequent disagreements over this policy or that, there is lots of mutual respect.

What was one (or more!) Board accomplishment(s) that you are proud of/excited about from your time in office?

  • I’m proud that we VPs, who organize the scientific content of the AAS meetings, continued to diversify those meetings, to the point where the plenary speakers at the Seattle meeting in January 2019 were more than 1/2 women, and of those, 3 were people of color. I also initiated a process to solicit nominations for plenary speakers from the AAS membership, to expand and diversify the pool further.
  • I did my best to keep two issues in front of the Board: climate change, and light pollution. Astronomers are in an important position to address both, and both affect all of us. I’m glad that the Board passed a statement calling for increased efforts to fight light pollution, and that the chair of the Sustainability Committee, which I founded as a Councilor in 2010, is now a member of the Strategic Assembly.
  • I worked hard to improve communication among the three VPs and to rationalize the process of planning the meetings, which is quite complicated. There was large turnover in the AAS meetings staff over the last few years, and good communication is always a challenge as well as a key component of success. Fortunately, the other VPs and the AAS staff were always fantastic: very professional, hard-working, good attitudes.

What was one (or more!) important thing(s) you saw come from the diversity committees during your term?

The revised Code of Ethics. This is an important document and set of policies, and the discussion at the Board level was always very serious and detailed and passionate.

Is there an initiative (or initiatives!) you hope that the AAS pursues or continues to pursue in the future?

Quickly assess the impact on astronomy of large constellations of low-earth satellites. If the impact is as large as now appears likely, the AAS should play a key role in raising public awareness and pushing for national and international dialog and regulation. But soon!

What advice do you have for continuing and incoming AAS Board members?

Sign up for the committees you care about most. Don’t rush to judgment, especially on emotionally-charged topics. Do speak up when you feel strongly about something.

What suggestions do you have for people who are considering serving on the AAS Board in the future?

Do it! It’s time very well spent both personally and professionally. You will be joining an illustrious list of past Council and Board members including most of the famous astronomers you know.

Friday, September 6, 2019

AASWomen Newsletter for September 06, 2019

AAS Committee on the Status of Women AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of September 06, 2019
eds: JoEllen McBride, Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, and Alessandra Aloisi

[We have a *new email address* for receiving submissions to the newsletter: aaswomen_at_lists.aas.org. An editor will reply with a confirmation of receipt. Please update us in your contacts, and thank you for your submissions. --eds.]

Mary Ward, from item 6
This week's issues:

1. AAS Board Reflections: Stuart Vogel

2. Astrophysicist releases kids book Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime to inspire a passion for STEM

3. Women Scientists Form a Policy Advocacy Network in the Mid-Atlantic

4. Fifteen tips to make scientific conferences more welcoming for everyone

5. Survival Tips For Women In Tech: Who else is the only woman on their dev team?

6. Mary Ward: Feminist famous as the first person to be killed in a car accident

7. New data analysis proves science is sexist

8. All-female robotics team wins major awards while slashing stereotypes of women, Latinos in STEM

9. Girls Would do Better in Maths and Science Tests if Exams Were Made Longer, Study Finds

10. A better future for graduate-student mental health

11. Make science PhDs more than just a training path for academia

12. Job Opportunities

13. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

14. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

15. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

AAS Board Reflections: Stuart Vogel

In order to familiarize the astronomy community with the AAS Board and encourage participation, the CSWA created a Reflection Survey for outgoing AAS Board members to complete after their terms ended in June. Over the coming weeks, we will feature the responses we've received on the Women in Astronomy blog. Enjoy!

Stuart Vogel, PhD is a radio astronomer studying star formation and the interstellar medium in nearby galaxies. He was the director of Maryland’s radio astronomy group for more than ten years when they merged the BIMA and OVRO millimeter-wave arrays and built CARMA. Following that, he was astronomy department chair at Maryland for ten years.

Name: Stuart Vogel
Current Position: Professor, Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland
Degree, Year, Institution: PhD, 1983, UC Berkeley
AAS Board office, term: Councilor, then Trustee. 2017 - 2019




Why did you choose to serve on the AAS Board?

Serving on CSWA and presenting to the AAS Council/Board as original chair of the AAS new climate site visit committee, I came to appreciate the role of the Board in setting policy for AAS and the importance of advocacy on the Board. And I realized I did not know much about the AAS despite having been a member for over 30 years and figured serving on the Board would be a good way to learn (it was!).

What was one (or more!) Board accomplishment(s) that you are proud of/excited about from your time in office?

I’m quite happy about a number of actions taken by the Board during my time in office: Establishing the AAS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education and approving the fantastic report developed by the task force; I think this has the potential to transform graduate education in astronomy and serve as a model for other fields. Developing the intersectional climate site visit program recommended by the 2015 Inclusive Astronomy conference, which I expect will launch in the Fall. Continuing to implement the Code of Ethics, for example by requiring disclosure for AAS prize winners and candidates for AAS volunteer leadership positions. In all these areas, I think astronomy (along with AGU) is helping to lead the STEM disciplines forward.

What was one (or more!) important thing(s) you saw come from the diversity committees during your term?

Most important was ongoing pressure on the Board to promote equity and inclusion. All the things mentioned above originated in the diversity committees.

Is there an initiative (or initiatives!) you hope that the AAS pursues or continues to pursue in the future?

We started to emphasize the importance of bystander intervention. I see bystander-intervention training workshops as helpful for providing the tools to actively stop harassment, indicating that everyone (especially those in senior positions) should step in to help, and modeling appropriate and inappropriate behavior. President Megan Donahue presented a great video on this in her opening remarks at the St Louis AAS meeting; I hope that there will be regular workshops offered and something to encourage participation, such as certification.

AAS needs a staff member such as a Chief Equity Officer charged with helping coordinate and implementing the many good things coming out of the diversity committees. For example, the Task Force on Diversity and Astronomy Graduate Education has many great recommendations, but many of these (such as the website where departments can share their practices and accomplishments in promoting equity) will require a dedicated AAS staff member to follow through.

I hope the recent acquisition of Sky & Telescope by AAS can be used to communicate the astronomical community vision for the future (e.g. the AAS 2020 decadal report) and encourage broader participation by underrepresented minorities in the astronomical profession.

What advice do you have for continuing and incoming AAS Board members?

Communicate with other Board members including between meetings to help build consensus.

What suggestions do you have for people who are considering serving on the AAS Board in the future?

It’s a great opportunity to make a difference, and more so as the AAS volunteer leadership transitions from a Council of nearly 20 members to a Board of just 11 members. Previously, there was an Executive Committee consisting of just the six officers of the AAS which conducted most of the business since the Council met only two times per year. Now there is no Executive Committee and instead the Board “meets” much more frequently, with four face to face meetings per year and monthly telecons. With a much smaller Board and no Executive Committee, Board members can have much more influence and impact than Councilors did.

Friday, August 30, 2019

AASWomen Newsletter for August 30, 2019

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Barbie introduced two new dolls to their Inspiring Women series on Monday: Sally Ride and Rosa Parks. (Credit: Huffpost)
AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of August 30, 2019
eds: JoEllen McBride, Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, and Alessandra Aloisi

This week's issues:

1. AAS Board Reflections: Christine Jones

2. Dr. Martha P. Haynes, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, to receive the 2019 Bruce Gold Medal

3. In Support of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory

4. Did this Woman Really Discover What ‘the Universe is Made of’?

5. Rosa Parks And Sally Ride Are Getting Their Very Own Barbies

6. 'Mission Mangal' Tells the True Story of the Women Behind India's First Mission to Mars

7. A 24-year-old entrepreneur was bored in science class – so she started this company

8. Fall research symposium at New York University

9. Younger scientists need better support

10. The Publications Arms Race

11. Female-free speaker list causes PHP show to collapse when diversity-oriented devs jump ship

12. Biased Evaluation Committees Promote Fewer Women

13. More Birthdays Needed for the AAS Wall Calendar

14. Job Opportunities

15. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN newsletter

16. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter

17. Access to Past Issues of the AASWOMEN newsletter