Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The First Lady Astronaut Trainees: Time for a Congressional Gold Medal

The Congressional Gold Medal, our nation's highest civilian honor, has been given over 200 times. Less than 10% of the medals have been received by women and less than that have been awarded for outstanding contributions in air and space exploration. The good news is that legislation to award Gold Medals to the “Hidden Figures” is moving forward and the better news is that momentum is building to also support a nomination for the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs), also known as the “Mercury 13”.

I first learned about these women when I read Martha Ackmann's book and had the privilege of meeting both Martha and Wally Funk, one of the FLATs, when they visited Albion College in 2008. As a result of this visit, I have started a campaign to nominate this group of 13 women aviators for the Congressional Gold Medal. 

The FLATs were tested for “the right stuff” by NASA doctor William Lovelace almost 60 years ago and proved themselves to be just as good as, if not better than, the Mercury 7 astronauts in withstanding extreme physical and psychological tests. Results of the tests eventually lead to the inclusion of women within NASA’s astronaut corps, with Sally Ride paving the way for American women in 1983 and Eileen Collins becoming the first female pilot to command a space shuttle in 1995.


Members of the FLATs, at the launch of shuttle pilot Eileen Collins in 1995 (NASA image).

In the current era of renewed interest in space exploration, and in the spirit of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, I believe it is imperative to recognize the 13 FLATs, six of whom are still alive, for their trailblazing accomplishments that demonstrated women are just as capable and qualified as men in the exploration of space. These women are:

Jerrie Cobb (Oklahoma)
Wally Funk (New Mexico)
Myrtle “K” Cagle (North Carolina)
Gene Nora Stumbough [Jessen] (Oklahoma)
Rhea Hurrle [Woltman] (Colorado)
Sarah Gorelick [Ratley] (Kansas)
Irene Leverton (Illinois, now deceased)
Jane B. Hart (Michigan, now deceased)
Jerri Sloan [Truhill] (Texas, now deceased)
Bernice “B” Trimble Steadman (Michigan, now deceased)
Jan Dietrich (California, now deceased)
Marion Dietrich (California, now deceased)
Jean Hixson (Illinois, now deceased)


To support the nomination of the FLATs for the Congressional Gold Medal, sign the petition and/or contact your local representative. Thank you!

Read more:

Friday, December 7, 2018

AASWomen Newsletter for December 7, 2018

AAS Committee on the Status of Women AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of December 07, 2018
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.

This week's issues:

1. A Planetary Scientist in Industry
2. Nancy Grace Roman Advances Space Astronomy with Hubble Space Telescope
3. L’Oréal USA For Women In Science Fellowship Program
4. Nobody Believed Neil deGrasse Tyson's First Accuser. Now There Are Three More.
5. Perth NASA InSight mission researcher breaks new ground for women in science
6. Celebrate IAU100 Women and Girls in Astronomy Day in Your Country
7. Girls in STEM: Top STEM toys for the holidays
8. America's Top 50 Women In Tech 2018
9. Senate passes bill to recognize ‘Hidden Figures’ women
10. Lawsuit Alleging Misconduct At Dartmouth Raises Concerns About Treatment Of Women In STEM
11. What science has gotten wrong by ignoring women
12. Turns Out We Still Have a Huge TV Scientist Stereotype Problem
13. How Hollywood brought women of STEM & arts together so they are no longer ‘Hidden Figures’
14. Women have been written out of science history – time to put them back
15. Job Opportunities
16. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
17. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
18. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Planetary Scientist in Industry

by Elizabeth Frank

Elizabeth admiring a sample of pallasite,
her favorite meteorite type.
I’ve come to dislike the cliché interview question “where do you see yourself in five years?” Five years ago, I was in my last year of grad school at the University of Colorado at Boulder studying planetary geochemistry. Had I been asked to predict my future, there’s no way I would have guessed it would include an asteroid mining company, unemployment, and a systems engineering start-up.

Since high school, I knew I would become a scientist. I had long had a desire to work on a NASA mission, and an internship at JPL during grad school confirmed that interest in spades. By the end of my Ph.D., however, I’d started to become disenchanted with academia. Early in grad school, I realized a professorship wasn’t for me, but the idea of relying on soft money (the most probable alternative) for my whole career left me preemptively stressed out.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

STARtorialist 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

By Emily Rice, Summer Ash, and Kelle Cruz

Hello from STARtorialist HQ! As we’ve ventured into the retail business via our conference pop-up shop, aka the BOOTHtique, we have learned first-hand how much of an impact your purchasing choices can have on small businesses and independent designers, especially during the holiday season. For this year’s gift guide, we are sharing some of our favorite startorial shops, the majority of which are small businesses, many of them women- and/or minority-owned (read more here). For full disclosure, some of the links below are affiliate links which might generate commissions for us and/or we have purchasing and promotional relationships with these companies. 

Clothing & Accessories

Left to right: Constellations glow-in-the-dark tee from Svaha, Amazing Women Pioneers canvas tote bag from Svaha, Space Lover socks bundle from Svaha, “Fleur-de-Lift-Off” Rockets infinity scarf from Princess Awesome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium - Summary of Discussions

By: Nancy Morrison, Nicolle Zellner, and Jessica Mink

The first Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium, in honor of the 200th anniversary of  Maria Mitchell's birth, was held October 5-6, 2018 at Babson College in Wellesley, MA. It was organized by the Maria Mitchell Association of Nantucket, MA, and sponsored by many organizations including the AAS. Nancy Morrison, Nicolle Zellner, and Jessica Mink, members of  the CSWA, attended and participated in the discussions. Speakers included Dr. Meg Urry (Yale), Dava Sobel (author), Dr. Jill Tarter (Emeritus, SETI), and Dr. Kate Kirby (APS). Panelists included astronomy profesor Dr. Colette Salyk (Vassar), Dr. Shirley Malcolm (AAAS), professors in environmental studies, biology, math, and other science fields, and other  science professionals. The panel discussions focused on three themes:
  • Recruitment: How to Bring Women and Girls into STEM
  • Retention: Strategies for Stemming the Leaky Pipeline and Ending Unconscious Bias
  • The Future: Where Are We Going and How Do We Get There? The Future of Women and Girls in STEM


Each panel was followed by "salons", discussion groups to which we were assigned, with a range of ages and experience, all of which made for quite interesting discussions. For example, Shirley Malcom (AAAS) noted that the problem is not recruitment of women into science, but keeping them on a path (not a pipeline!) toward a life in science. We all agreed that retention is just as much affected by varied paths as it is by a single leaky pipeline and that there still is a problem that women's paths all too often take them away from academia and/or STEM. And the path isn’t necessarily family: Meg Urry presented the fact that the number one predictor of success in STEM careers is gender - not family issues; there is no difference between women with and without children.

Summaries of the break-out discussions will eventually be posted by members of the Maria Mitchell Association who organized the symposium, so highlights noted by Jill Tarter in her meeting summary are listed here. Take-away advice includes:

for individuals:
  • Master your skill sets and use them when in new and/or unintended situations. 
  • Take advantage of opportunities when they arise and learn to sell yourself intelligently.
  • Strive for work-life alignment.
  • Celebrate science and never stop asking “Why?” 


for institutional leaders:
  • Publish and make transparent the rubrics that are used in evaluating candidates for entrance and advancement.
  • Avoid geographic and intellectual isolation. For example, hire and admit in cohorts.
  • Acknowledge and remedy stresses, including financial diversity and mental health, that women and underrepresented minority scientists (URMs) may be experiencing.
  • Confront bullying and harassment and create safe spaces for women and URMs.
  • Create multiple on/off/return ramps to academics and careers.


Maria Mitchell said, "We are women studying together". We look forward to our future and to the organizers’ intended future offerings of the Maria Mitchell Symposium! 





For a full list of speakers and panelists, and more information (including pdfs of the presentations), visit the Symposium's website. You can also see photos at the Maria Mitchell Association's Facebook page and search twitter for #MMWISS for tweets by several people.