Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Science and Women-in-Science Colloquia

I have recently given “twofer” colloquia* -- one talk on a science topic and another on a women-in-science topic -- at CfA, Caltech, JPL, and Indiana. During these twofer visits, I have also met with students, postdocs, managers, professors, and scientists, both individually and in groups. We have talked about both science and CSWA-related issues. The visits were so successful and so rewarding that I would like to encourage all of you to consider doing these twofer colloquia (get invited to give a science talk and offer to give a women-in-science talk as well).

I would also like to advertise the possibility of these twofer colloquia to universities and organizations other than those where I happen to have friends and colleagues. I would be more than willing to give my twofer colloquia at other places, including yours!

The women-in-science talk is:

Unconscious Bias in Hiring, Promotions, and Tenure
Abstract: We all have biases, and we are (for the most part) unaware of them. In general, men and women BOTH unconsciously devalue the contributions of women. This can have a detrimental effect on grant proposals, job applications, and performance reviews. Sociology is way ahead of astronomy in these studies. When evaluating identical application packages, for example, male and female University psychology professors preferred 2:1 to hire “Brian” over “Karen” as an assistant professor. When evaluating a more experienced record, at the point of promotion to tenure, reservations were expressed four times more often about Karen than about Brian. This unconscious bias has a repeated negative effect on Karen’s career (Steinpreis, Anders & Ritzke 1999, Sex Roles, 41, 509). The process of eliminating unconscious bias begins with awareness, then moves to policy and practice, and ends with accountability. In this talk, I will introduce the concept of unconscious bias and also give recommendations on how to address it using an example for a faculty search committee.

Here are some comments from colleagues who attended the “Unconscious Bias” colloquium:

“A fantastic talk on a critical topic, well delivered and backed by hard facts . . . tremendously important for human development and for society.”
-Anthony Readhead, Chair, Astronomy, Caltech

“An enlightening presentation . . . it made me more hopeful about the future for women in science and engineering and for my two young daughters (1½ and 4 years old).”
-James A. Smith, Supervisor, Earth, Astronomy & Physics Missions, Granada Hills, CA

The science talk is:

Some Like it Hot: What Observations Can Tell Us About Solar Coronal Heating
Abstract: The actual source of coronal heating is one of the longest standing unsolved mysteries in all of astrophysics. The million degree corona requires a permanent heating mechanism, or the gas would cool down in about an hour. Solar physicists agree that this mechanism involves the Sun’s magnetic field, but few agree on the details of how magnetic energy in translated into thermal energy. Coronal loops, their structure and sub-structure, their temperature and density details, and their evolution with time, hold the key to understanding this coronal heating mystery. A loop had always been thought of as a simple magnetic flux tube, where each position along the loop is characterized by a single temperature and density. Recent results, however, found that this simple picture could not explain the observations and a multi-thermal analysis was required. If we picture the loop as a tangle of magnetic strands instead of single flux tube, then the multi-thermal result is expected and even predicted by some classes of coronal heating models.

Here are some comments from colleagues who attended the “Some Like it Hot” colloquium:

“Who knew that solar astronomy could be so interesting?!”
- John Salzer, Chair, Astronomy Department, Indiana University

“This was the first solar physics talk I ever understood!”
-Caty Pilachowski, Kirkwood Chair in Astronomy, Indiana University Bloomington

My previous twofer colloquia were organized by a colleague, a postdoc, a manager, and a department chair. If you are interested, you can do it too. Just e-mail me or leave a comment to get started.

*The original idea for the “twofer” colloquia came from Kathryn Johnston (Columbia), who did a similar set of seminars at CfA while I was there on sabbatical.