Monday, October 5, 2015

Woman Astronomer of the Month: Joan Schmelz

As a new series to the Women in Astronomy blog, each month we will highlight one female astronomer for her work in the field and outstanding service to the community.  This month we are featuring past Chair Joan Schmelz, whose excellent work as Chair of the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy has been a vital part of the success of both the CSWA and the Women in Astronomy blog.

figure 1: Joan Schmelz

Joan Schmelz currently serves as the deputy director of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. She is a solar physicist who received her Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Penn State University in 1987. She then joined the operations team for the Solar Maximum Mission Satellite at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. She is a professor at University of Memphis and a regular visitor to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Her research investigates coronal heating and coronal loops as well as the properties and dynamics of the solar atmosphere. She is a former program officer for the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences. Schmelz is also the former chair of the American Astronomical Society's Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. In addition to writing science papers for the Astrophysical Journal, she also writes regular posts for the Women in Astronomy blogspot on topics such as unconscious bias, stereotype threat, and the gender gap.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Diversity Matters: Calling In or Calling Out?

Melissa Harris-Perry is the host of a TV talk show and a professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University. Her book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, argues that persistent harmful stereotypes profoundly shape black women's politics, contribute to policies that treat them unfairly, and make it difficult for black women to assert their rights in the political arena. Harris-Perry is my go-to source of information on issues of intersectionality. I’m a dedicated viewer and a fan of her show.

Nicholas Kristof is a journalist, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, and a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes. Along with his wife, Sheryl Wudunn, he is the author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. They write that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century. Far from merely making moral appeals, the authors posit that it is impossible for countries to climb out of poverty if only a fraction of women participate in the labor force. I read Half the Sky from cover to cover, but I had to do it in small doses because it was quite depressing. I so admire Kristof and Wudunn for bringing these stories to light.

Harris-Perry often writes a letter of the week to a public figure on a matter of social injustice. They are often snarky, condescending . . . and well-deserved! Some examples are her letter to Nikki Haley about taking down the confederate flag in South Carolina; to Jeb Bush for choosing the same man who advised his brother on Iraq to be his foreign policy adviser; and to Sam Brownback on the effects of his tax policy on the poorest people in Kansas.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Midterm Exam for Faculty Members

Astronomy 501: Departmental Methods for Faculty (Fall Semester)

Mid-term Exam.

You have 50 minutes. Answer all questions. Show your work to maximize partial credit.

Question 1: You are a faculty member in top US astronomy department and serving on a search committee for an assistant professor. Which of the two candidates below gets your vote for the job?

Candidate A is a father who has 10 first author papers and has appeared frequently at international conferences to give invited reviews. He completed his PhD 2 years ago.

Candidate B is a mother who has 8 first author papers and currently travels only rarely to give talks. She completed her PhD 3 years ago.

Explain your decision using the standard metrics of academic success, and present a compelling case for your candidate.

Bonus: Imagine you are an untenured professor and a woman. Explain how your decision about which arguments you present to your senior colleagues on the committee is unaffected by your gender and junior status.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Astronomy in Color

A group of astronomers started a new blog last week: Astronomy in Color.  The blog consists of members of the astronomy community committed to increasing diversity by recognizing, confronting and removing the barriers to racial equity and inclusion. They are committed to an intersectional feminist approach combined with a framework of cultural materialism to understand the past and present repercussions of systemic oppression of marginalized groups on our ability to study the Universe.

Astronomy in Color kicked off the blog with two great posts.  One which is an introduction to the lingo of the social justice movement with definitions of commonly used social justice vocabulary words.  The second is a statement of support for Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas high schooler who was arrested for bringing a home-made clock to school.  

We at the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy, and the Women in Astronomy Blog are very excited at the formation of Astronomy in Color, and look forward at ways to collaborate and support each other in increasing inclusion and equity in the Astronomy community.

Friday, September 18, 2015

AASWOMEN Newsletter for September 18, 2015

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of September 18, 2015
eds: Daryl Haggard, Nicolle Zellner, Meredith Hughes, & Elysse Voyer

This week's issues:

1. Meet your CSWA committee: Christina Richey
2. Addressing Gender Bias in the SDSS Collaboration
3. Applications Now Open for 2016 Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics
4. College Lectures Seem to Discriminate  
5. I Regret Giving Up a Career in Science  
6. Valentina Tereshkova: USSR was 'worried' about women in space
7. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
8. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
9. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter