Issue of January 18, 2013
eds. Caroline Simpson, Michele Montgomery, Daryl Haggard, and Nick Murphy
This week's issues:
1. Follow-up: Are STEM Programs Working?
[Here are some responses to last week's item about the Women in Astronomy blog post asking whether STEM programs to increase the number of women STEM majors are working -- Eds.]
From: Sethanne Howard [firstname.lastname@example.org] In response to the post 'are stem programs working', I would like to say I have participated in programs that work well and those that do not. The ones that work tend to have the parents involved with the students. The students are middle school age, and the program is an immersion program, not just a lecture or two; and the ones that work well tend to have real scientists involved with the teachers.
Also programs that target K-8 teachers are more successful. Most teachers are still teaching outmoded ideas about science. When real scientists go into school systems and talk to teachers it is a good thing. Also, of course, some kind of vetting program that chooses scientists who are good communicators is necessary. Los Alamos, for example, does that for its outreach. The AAS Shapley program used to vet its lecturers.
From: Caroline Simpson [simpsonc_fiu.edu] In general, a single visit to a classroom doesn't have much impact (as Sethanne points out). I asked a colleague of mine (Dr. Eric Brewe) who works in physics education research here at FIU for some resources, and he pointed me to this paper with some recommendations about roles for scientists in education: http://istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/istp/BMRoles.pdf He also mentioned that we know more about what doesn't work than what does. He then contacted Dr. Jacob Clark Blickenstaff, who is the Teacher Education Programs Manager for the American Physical Society. He had this to say: "It certainly is a challenge to find research that establishes efficacy at recruiting women into STEM, as the study would have to be longitudinal, and there are many confounding variables. We know that the Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) are popular and become more popular every year, but we don't have compelling evidence that they are changing students' plans for the future. Nearly 1000 undergraduate women physics majors will attend the 6 CUWiP sites this year, and that is a substantial fraction of all the women majoring in physics nationally. (More information is available at: http://www.aps.org/programs/women/workshops/cuwip.cfm )
There is research supporting pedagogy that supports women to do well in introductory STEM classes, but, again, I don't know that doing well in the class necessarily translates into more STEM majors. That might only move students from one STEM field to another, which isn't really solving the problem.
Dale Baker and Rosemary Leary's work in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching (Letting girls speak out about science, 1995) provides some insight into why middle school girls become disinterested in STEM, so that is another angle to look at."Back to top.
2. Women in Astronomy Blog: Recent posts
From: Caroline Simpson [simpsonc_at_fiu.edu]
Recent posts on the Women in Astronomy blog (womeninastronomy.blogspot.com) include:
-- First the Facts: by Guest Blogger Annika Peter I am a dark-matter and gravitational-dynamics junkie, currently finishing up a postdoctoral position at UC Irvine, and moving to a faculty position in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy at The Ohio State University. My husband is also an astrophysicist, currently a professor of astrophysics at Caltech. He is taking a professorship at OSU, too, so we have successfully found an excellent solution to our two-body problem! My two favorite aspects of my job are thinking deeply about and trying to solve some of the major mysteries of the universe, and working with undergraduate and graduate students. I am also a practical problem solver, which means I spend some time scheming about how to improve the scientific enterprise and university education. [...]
-- Where are the women professors? Unconscious gender biases: Guest Post by John Johnson, professor of Astronomy in the Caltech Department of Astrophysics. His research is on the detection and characterization of exoplanets. This post is a re-post from his blog: I started out this series with a simple axiom: men and women are equally capable of succeeding as professional astronomers. I then made the observation that women are underrepresented in faculty positions compared to the percentage of women graduating with PhDs. What could cause such a deficit? One possibility is unconscious bias in the minds of those hiring professors. Let's check out the evidence. [...]
-- The Canary Islands, Observing Runs, and Children, by David Charbonneau Greetings from La Palma in the Canary Islands, where I am observing at the Italian Telescopio Nazionale Galileo with the new HARPS-N spectrograph, hunting for exoplanets.
Ahhh, how my view of observing runs has changed in the past 8 years!
My reaction to the news that a proposal for telescope time has been accepted has changed dramatically since my wife and I had children. My first thought used to be "What is my observing plan?" Now, it is "What is my childcare plan?" [...]
[for more, see http://www.womeninastronomy.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-canary-islands-observing-runs-and.html Note that he cites a longitudinal study that shows that "the decision to form a family accounts for the largest leaks in the pipeline between the receipt of the PhD and the acquisition of tenure for women in the sciences."]Back to top.
3. So Many Exoplanets... So Few Women Scientists
From: Caroline Simpson [simpsonc_at_fiu.edu
Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science and Physics at MIT, writes about the impact of issues like travel on research progress. (Also see Dave Charbonneau's post on the womeninastronomy blog, above).Back to top.
4. Presentations from CSWA Special Session on Parental Leave Policies Available
From: Nancy Morrison and Dave Charbonneau [NMorris@utnet.utoledo.edu,
At the 221st AAS meeting at Long Beach, CA, CSWA sponsored a special session entitled, "Family Leave Policies and Childcare for Graduate Students and Postdocs." The principal organizers were CSWA members Dave Charbonneau and Laura Trouille.
Slides from the presentations by Dave Charbonneau, Natalie Gosnell, Bob Mathieu, Edward Ajhar, and Charles Beichman are now posted in PDF: http://www.aas.org/cswa/jan13.html
Charbonneau's presentation included the first report of preliminary results from the CSWA's national survey of department chairs on this topic. Gosnell and Mathieu reported on implementation of a forward-looking policy at UW-Madison. Ajhar reported on the NSF's work-life balance initiative, and Beichman described NASA's fellowship programs and their parental leave policies. Laura Trouille briefly presented preliminary results from the postdoc family leave survey. These results are also posted at the website listed above.
If you couldn't attend the session, take a look at the slides for a snapshot of the current state of this issue, which is critical for twenty-first-century careers in astronomy.Back to top.
5. Top Picks for Riveting Reads on Women and Science
From: Under the Microscope Blog [http://www.underthemicroscope.com]
Their top picks for riveting reads on women and science, and upcoming events.
On the docket: encouraging girls to not play it safe, inspiring the next generation of female technologists, Yale “bias detective” selected for Nature’s top ten in 2012, and more. [...]
[see http://www.underthemicroscope.com/blog/the-lens-weeks-of-january-10-2013 for the full post]Back to top.
6. Dartbeat: Another Response to the "Science: It's a Girl Thing" video
From: Caroline Simpson [simpsonc_at_fiu.edu]
Dartmouth doctoral students made a video response to a controversial European Commission campaign created to excite girls and young women about careers in the so-called “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.Back to top.
7. APS Speakers List Featuring Women and Minorities
From: WIPHYS, Jan. 16, 2013
Planning a colloquium series and want to include a minority or female speaker? Check out the APS Speakers List! The list contain names, contact information, and talk titles of physicists who are willing to give talks on a variety of subjects. Check it out at http://www.aps.org/programs/women/speakers/index.cfm And don’t forget that travel grants are available for institutions inviting women and minority speakers. Find more information about the grants at http://www.aps.org/programs/women/speakers/travel-grants.cfmBack to top.
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