Thursday, June 4, 2020

Cross-Post: AAS President Calls on All Members to Support Black Americans Now

By Megan Donahue

As AAS President, I wish to comment on the tragic and brutal murders of Black Americans Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. As scientists, researchers, educators, and human beings we have a responsibility to respond, to see and name these injustices, and to empathize and acknowledge our different human experiences and reactions to these events. We stand together with our Black members, their students, and their families. We stand with our Black AAS employees and volunteers from whom we have asked so much during these difficult and challenging times.


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Women Leading Pandemic Research Through Time

By Sethanne Howard

Medical schools routinely have 50% female students. Does that mean women are equal participants in the field? Let us consider the issue and start with the current pandemic. Women are leading research teams studying the novel COVID-19 virus. There is Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, MD at the National Institutes of Health who is leading a team developing a vaccine for the virus. Dr. Susan Weiss, PhD, along with Dr. Frederic Bushman, PhD, directs the Penn Center for Research on Coronavirus and Other Emerging Pathogens. The goals of the Center are to: expand the research, centralize information on the research, and compile sources for new funding for research on SARS CoV-2.

So we can see that today there are women leading research teams studying this class of virus. Were they active before then? Let’s look back at the wonderful women who came before!

Women in medicine go back a very long way. Much of what we call medicine and midwifery is and always has been the province of women. The first mention of a woman in medicine occurred in 2800 BCE. Midwifery was almost exclusively run by women until the 18th century when men usurped the lead away from this traditional women’s task.

As always, women kept their medical tradition alive even in the Dark Ages (that were not really so dark). The first Western-type university was founded in Salerno, Italy in 875 CE as a medical school. And from that time to this, for over a thousand years, women equally with men have been welcome at the doors of Italian universities. So it is not remarkable that there are so many talented Italian women in medicine.

In the United States by 1860 there were about 200 women with MDs. The census of 1880 showed that there were 2,400 women of medicine. By the end of the 19th century, the number of women with MDs increased to over 7000. Here are some women who made huge strides in the fields of pandemics and vaccines during the 20th century.

  • Josephine S. Baker (1873 – 1945 CE) went to the Women’s Medical College in New York City to earn her MD. She took a part-time job with the Department of Public health as a public school health inspector where she rose in the ranks to create and run the Bureau of Child Hygiene. In terms of epidemics, typhoid was ubiquitous. Dr. Baker helped track down “typhoid Mary” (Mary Mallon). She also perfected the application of silver nitrate eyedrops to infants, now a standard procedure to prevent eye infections in newborns. She was the first woman to be assistant surgeon general in the United States. She was also the first woman representative to the League of Nations – as Health Committee representative for the United States.
  • Sister Kenny (c. 1886 – 1952 CE) was a pioneer in the treatment of polio before the discovery of the Salk vaccine. Her autobiography (written in 1943) entitled And They Shall Walk was made into a movie. She trained as a nurse in the Australian medical corps and served during World War I. After the War she learned more about polio and developed her own ideas for treatment. She invented a special stretcher to transport patients in shock. Royalties from the patent gave her the money to start her own clinic for the treatment of polio. She advocated applying heat and physical therapy to polio victims in opposition to the medical establishment that advocated immobilization. She came to the United States to the University of Minnesota medical center. Although her methods were never formally endorsed by the medical profession she got good results. In the late 1950s, the Kenny Institute and the World Health Organization were the major supporters of continued polio research. The Kenny Institute survives as part of the Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
  • Anna Wessel Williams (1863 – 1954 CE) isolated a strain of diphtheria that was instrumental in the development of an antitoxin for the disease. She was a firm believer in the collaborative nature of laboratory science and helped build some of the more successful teams of bacteriologists, which included many women, working in the country at the time. In 1896 Williams traveled to the Pasteur Institute in Paris hoping to find a toxin for scarlet fever that could be used to develop an antitoxin, as she had done for diphtheria. She was unsuccessful, but while there, she developed a new interest in the rabies work that was going on in Paris. She returned to the United States with a culture of the virus to try to develop a better way to diagnose rabies. By 1898 the culture had been used to develop enough vaccine to allow for the large-scale production of rabies vaccine.
  • Rachel Fuller Brown (1898 – 1980 CE) was the first woman to receive the Pioneer Chemist Award from the American Institute of Chemists (1975). She discovered the vaccine for bacterial pneumonia that is still used today. In 1950 along with microbiologist Elizabeth Hazen she isolated the first antifungal antibiotic, Nystatin, effective against fungal diseases. Nystatin is a polyene antifungal drug to which many molds and yeast infections are sensitive. It was also the first antifungal antibiotic to be safe and effective in treating human diseases. Not only did it cure many serious fungal infections of the skin, mouth, throat, and intestinal tract, but it could also be combined with antibacterial drugs to balance their side effects.
  • Gertrude Elion (1918 – 1999 CE) studied chemistry at Hunter College in New York City graduating in 1937. She was initially unable to obtain a graduate research position because she was a woman. She did find a job as a lab assistant at the New York Hospital School of Nursing in 1937. She worked as a research chemist at other places finally settling at Burroughs Wellcome Laboratories. There she was first the assistant and then the colleague of George Hitchings, with whom she worked for the next four decades. So, although she never received the PhD, she contributed a great deal. In 1988 Elion, Hitchings, and Sir James W. Black received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their development of drugs used to treat several major diseases. Elion and Hitchings developed thioguanine and 6-mercaptopurine against leukemia and pyrimethamine against malaria. Azathioprine, a drug that prevents rejection of transplanted organs and allopurinol which is used in the treatment of gout were developed in 1957 and 1963, respectively. An important discovery was that the chemotherapeutic effects of pyrimethamine and trimethoprim were markedly enhanced by sulphonamides. In 1991 she also received the National Medal of Science and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
  • Although penicillin, the miracle drug, was first identified by Sir Alexander Fleming, he was not the one who pursued its further development. It was women who carried the flag forward: Gladys Hobby (1910 – 1993 CE), Elizabeth McCoy, Dorothy Fennel, Dorothy Hodgkin (1910 – 1994), and Margaret Hutchinson (1910 – 2000 CE). Dorothy Hodgkin bombarded penicillin with x-rays to deduce how it was put together. She received the 1964 Nobel Prize in medicine. Gladys Hobby brewed the first batch of penicillin tested on people. Margaret Hutchinson designed the first commercial plant that made penicillin on a massive scale. Elizabeth McCoy created the strand of penicillin used today.
  • Louise Pearce (1885 – 1959 CE) was one of the main figures in the development of the drug typarsamide. This drug wiped out whole epidemics of African sleeping sickness. She and her colleagues were awarded the Order of the Crown of Belgium.
  • Angela Ferguson (b. 1925) was a relentless researcher who received her MD from Howard University in 1949 and went on to study the disease of sickle-cell anemia. Her work, along with others, led to the efficient detection and control of this terrible disease.
  • In 1923, microbiologist Gladys Dick (1881 – 1963 CE) and physician George Dick isolated the cause of scarlet fever, and later developed a test for the disease.

By looking backward we highlighted several women in medicine. Clearly, women were and remain at the forefront of medical research.

Dr. Sethanne Howard is a research astronomer with over 40 years of experience in astronomy and education. Her research specialty is interacting galaxies but her hobby is the history of women in science. She has worked at many astronomical observatories and also for NASA, for the National Science Foundation and finally just retired as Chief of the Nautical Almanac Office at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.
She is the first woman to receive a degree in physics from the University of California, Davis. She went on to receive a Master’s Degree in nuclear physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a PhD in astrophysics from Georgia State University. Between her bachelor’s degree and PhD she worked for many years in various scientific fields and taught high school physics and university astronomy. All those years of working in science led to a series of scientific publications including determining the rotational periods of Neptune and Uranus, the rotational temperature of Jupiter, masses of Seyfert galaxies, the total neutron cross section of uranium, as well as developing the early image processing in astronomy [that eventually led to IRAF]. Only at age 42 did she return to graduate school to complete her PhD studying large-scale computer simulations of interacting galaxies [she grew tired, you see, of staying up all night at telescopes]. Her dissertation explained the now accepted idea behind for the appearance of the Whirlpool Galaxy, M51.
After her PhD work she spent time working with x-ray satellites at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Onward to NASA/Marshall Space Center where she worked with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (a NASA satellite). She became a national Shapley Lecturer for the American Astronomical Society. From Marshall she went to NASA Headquarters where she managed several operating NASA astrophysics satellites and mission programs. Before coming to the US Naval Observatory she spent three years at the National Science Foundation as the Program Manager for Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology and also Executive Secretary for the international Gemini Telescopes Project.
Her hobby is the history of women in science and technology. She maintains a web site dedicated to this effort hosted at the University of Alabama where you can learn about more women in STEM.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

CSWA Meet & Greet Panel

AAS 236: CSWA Virtual Meet and Greet
Tuesday, June 2, 6:40 pm ET

The Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) is hosting a panel during the AAS Virtual Meeting centered around discussions related to career challenges in our academic and research fields. Members of the diversity committees* will be present to address issues common to all of us, so please fill out the survey to indicate the topics of most interest to you.

Panelists include: Rolf Danner, SGMA; Nicole Cabrera Salazar, CSMA; Jackie Monkiewicz, WGAD; and Stella Kafka, CSWA (Moderator).

Date: Tuesday, June 2 
Time: 6:40 pm ET

* AAS diversity committees include the CSWA, CSMA (Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy), SGMA (Committee for Sexual-Orientation & Gender Minorities in Astronomy), and WGAD (Working Group on Accessibility and Disability).

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Cross-post: What are the impacts of performing a Decadal Survey during a global pandemic?

Image of solar system with orbits of planets shown.

The following post was written and contributed by the members of the Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee of the AAS’s DPS.

The Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey is a once-in-ten-years opportunity for the research community to provide critical input into the U.S. strategy for space research. The survey is in its early stages; nominations for panel membership were due on May 1st, and white papers (a major form of community input[1]) are due July 4th.

However, since the Statement of Task for this Decadal Survey was formulated, the coronavirus pandemic has caused major disruption throughout our society, including in the work of planetary scientists. Of greatest concern for the Decadal Survey, this burden falls unevenly. For example, the pandemic has disproportionately affected the scientific productivity of women researchers[2], and racial and ethnic minority communities overall[3].


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Words w/ Astronomers

By Pat Knezek and Nicolle Zellner, CSWA Co-Chairs

As we enter the second month of remote instruction for many of us, with just a few more weeks to go until the end of the semester, and as we continue to endure and exit from "safer at home" orders that limit physical interactions, we share with you positive, inspiring words and images that will remind us to take of ourselves and each other.

"In these difficult times as I am simultaneously juggling my role as professional, parent, and teacher of my kids, I am thankful every day for what I have: a wonderful job as Astronomer that inspires the world and a healthy family united under the same roof 24/7."

"My silver lining of being at home is the time and space to nurture a calming hobby."

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
                                                                                               -L.R. Knost

"Children first. They rely on us."

"Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can!"

"And the People Stayed Home", a poem by Kitty O'Mear

"Most of those deadlines can be extended, but it helps to ask or tell first."

“Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”  - Audre Lorde

"Take time to step away from work, news and reconnect with family and nature - it helps!"

Photo by Kim Weaver

"It helps to keep a schedule, even if you don't have all your regular meetings. To-do lists will also help with the mental fog!"

"There is more exercise available in gardening and DIY than seems possible."

"Hard times require furious dancing."  - Alice Walker

Contributions came from current and former members of the CSWA and AASWomen editorial staff, including Kim Venn (University of Victoria, BC), Kim Weaver (NASA), Alessandra Aloisi (Space Telescope Science Institute), and Ed Bertschinger (MIT).

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine Symposium on Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in STEMM

On March 19 the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a one day long, online Symposium on Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine). The purpose of the Symposium was to share the results and key findings of a recent study aimed at addressing the underrepresentation of women in STEMM. The study was jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and L’Oreal USA.

While many such studies and reports have recently been undertaken, this report differs in that it places a strong emphasis on understanding the issues of intersectionality – i.e. those issues that are particular to women of color or women holding some additional underrepresented identity.

The report is broken down into six chapters that address the following questions: What is the problem? (Chapters 1 and 2), What are possible solutions? (Chapters 3 and 4), Why don’t we see more progress? (Chapter 5), and What can be done to open doors for women in STEMM? (Chapter 6). The committee’s recommendations are “grouped into four broad categories, which are targeted at incentivizing and informing the broad adoption of evidence-based promising practices for improving the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in science, engineering, and medicine: 1) Driving transparency and accountability, 2) Adopting data-driven approaches to address underrepresentation of women in STEMM, 3) Rewarding, recognizing, and resourcing equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts, and 4) Filling knowledge gaps.”

The full report can be found at:, with an option for free PDF download.

The Symposium website, containing the agenda as well as speaker bios, can be found at:

The video recording of the symposium can be found at:

Friday, April 24, 2020

AASWomen Newsletter for April 24, 2020

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of April 24, 2020
eds: JoEllen McBride, Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, and Alessandra Aloisi

[We hope you all are taking care of yourselves and each other. --eds.]

This week's issues:

1. 3 Tips for Women Faculty to Get Through #WFH, #socialdistancing, and #stayingwell
2. Anticipated NASA Job Announcement: Astrophysics Program Scientist  
3. Why Do Women Make Such Good Leaders During COVID-19?
4. No Room of One's Own
5. Even More Ways to Help Librarians and Archivists From Home
6. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin
7. Betty Shannon, Unsung Mathematical Genius
8. Overlooked No More: Eunice Foote, Climate Scientist Lost to History
9. Job Opportunities
10. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
11. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
12. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

3 Tips for Women Faculty to Get Through #WFH, #socialdistancing, and #stayingwell

By Vicki L. Baker

Recently, my opinion piece titled, "How Colleges Can Better Help Faculty during the Pandemic", appeared in Inside HigherEd*. I felt called to write that article as both a faculty member who is looking for support and as someone who is deeply engaged in faculty development research and practice. We, as academics and everyday citizens, find ourselves in strange times that can be described as chaotic, yet oddly calming at the same time. I say that as we see the first signs of spring surface (at least in the Midwest) letting us know that the world around us continues to move on as we compel ourselves to do the same. Yet, we are finding ourselves in unchartered waters, seeking to survive and make sense of our new normal, professional and personal, while trying to guess what life may look like moving forward.

As a woman academic, with two school-aged children now at home, I am faced with (1) supporting my students at Albion College academically and emotionally at a distance (2) fulfilling my professional roles and responsibilities to the best of my abilities, (3) supporting my kids’ educational achievement (with school closed for the remainder of the year) (4) contributing to my scholarly endeavors (many with looming deadlines), and (5) managing the emotional labor that accompanies all of these responsibilities at work and home. Oh, and don’t forget the need to be active and maintain some semblance of health in the process. I am fortunate to have a spouse who can help manage some of this (though he is still physically going to work during this time with flexible hours). But I know many women academics who are doing this alone with no childcare assistance. To say it’s overwhelming is an understatement. To that end, I offer the below advice and recommendations that are helping me and my fellow academic women peers.

Establish your communities (or re-engage in them)

In times of social distancing, we are missing that much needed social interaction. We entered academe because of the connections and relationships we forge with students, peers, and colleagues. I thrive when I am with my students and colleagues, laughing with each other, and sharing in our inside jokes and regular banter. While I have feelings of “being over” Zoom meetings, I feel a sense of peace seeing that my students and peers are OK. But I work to engage with my communities with regularity as a way for me to feel engaged beyond the confines of my house.

For me, those communities include: Albion College, my professional network of friends and collaborators across the country (and globe for that matter), fellow women academics on Facebook, neighbors and local community members, and FLEXcity (my workout community-owned and managed by two fierce women keeping us healthy and active away from the studio). I make a point to reach out to community members to stay engaged in related happenings, to benefit from their lessons learned, and commiserate. That engagement also exposes me to resources to support my own scholarly activity, introduces me to new online pedagogies and related tools I can use in my courses, and also helps me identify activities to help homeschool my children (thank goodness for the K-12 teachers in my personal communities). Communities are important for all of us, but especially for our underrepresented women academic peers in the academy whose communities are potentially much smaller.

Enjoy the solitude

My recommendation to enjoy the solitude may appear to contradict my first about establishing or re-engaging in your communities. But our current situation also affords you time at home like never before. I have found that this situation has facilitated time for reflection and an accounting of the tasks and activities that appear on my TO DO list (hint – some have been removed entirely).

I was in the Netherlands as a Fulbright Specialist just as our current situation was characterized as a pandemic. Travel bans were instituted, and US citizens began to scramble booking flights home. There was a real concern about my ability to return to the States. Fortunately, I was able to return, and I remained in the confines of my home for the duration of my 14-day quarantine before the Governor of Michigan executed her Stay-at-Home orders. During that time, I engaged in a re-evaluation of my priorities, personal and professional – determining what was, and was not, important as well as what was, and was not, possible. I set new goals for myself and re-established expectations that were more commensurate with my current reality.

I asked myself – what do I need the next two to three months to look like to be of benefit to myself, my family, and my students? Are there activities or tasks that are no longer in service to the growth and health of those for whom I am most responsible, including myself? What do I want my contributions to be during this time, and does my current TO DO list and associated activities facilitate those contributions or serve as a roadblock? Then I realized this is how I should be managing my career and personal roles in non-pandemic times; refocusing on what is most important to me. For me, that is the health and safety of my family (and myself), and an appreciation for a job in which I can work from home that comes with a steady paycheck.

As a mother of two (7 and 5 years old), finding this time for solitude does not come easy, mind you, especially when my husband still leaves the house for work five days a week. I wake up early in the morning to get some time to myself; I have always done my best writing and thinking at that time of the day. My research assistant and I also joke about our brilliance that accompanies showering – some of my best ideas and “ah-ha” moments have surfaced while in the shower. I am also fortunate that my kids are good at occupying themselves for periods of time playing, reading, crafting, and watching TV (yes, they do get screen time which we still try to keep to a reasonable amount of time) so I take advantage of these moments throughout the date. Lastly, our family walk times provide me an opportunity to clear my head and prioritize.

I think settling into the solitude is an important recommendation for women academics – take time to think, reflect, and reassess the priorities of your work and personal lives to determine if your priorities are in service to your intended contributions. We now have time to tune out the noise of everyday life that seeps in despite our best efforts. I am grateful to have this time to think and re-evaluate what is most important to me and the career I hope to forge in the short and long term. While I hope some of our current realities fade in the not too distant future, I hope my current focus on priorities and taking time to re-evaluate those priorities with more regularity becomes core to my new normal moving forward.

Reestablish Boundaries

I don’t know about you, but for a long time, I felt that the boundaries between work and home became blurred due to technology and changing student expectations. It became so easy to check and respond to emails from my phone. I do share my cell phone number with students to use in an emergency which means responding to texts happens with some regularity as well given my definition of emergency differs from my students at times. Now in my 13th year as a tenure-track faculty member, I finally noted on my syllabi that I don’t check or respond to emails on Sundays given that is my family day. For the first time last summer, I created an auto-response email that ran from July 1 through August 15th noting now that summer grades had been posted, I was taking the remainder of the summer to enjoy with my family. I was finally getting a handle on setting boundaries between work and family and being more deliberate with how I scheduled my time and tasks.

Well, here we are, and those boundaries are nonexistent as I sit at my table responding to discussion forum posts from my students while I wait for the kids’ toaster waffles to pop up for breakfast. The first two weeks of our move to online I felt like I was working non-stop whether work-related or family-related. Now four weeks into our current situation, I have set some new boundaries.

  • I said no to a grant meeting scheduled for a Sunday late afternoon to get back to my “Sunday is family day” mantra. I might physically be with my family now more than ever, but it’s not quality time, and quality time is a priority of mine. Not to mention, there is no need to have work meetings on a Sunday afternoon.
  • I stopped responding to emails after 6:00p Monday through Thursday, and 3:00p on Fridays. I want to enjoy dinner with my family, go on a walk (weather permitting), play games, or watch a movie.
  • I give myself more time to attend to low priority items (work and home). If I receive an email request that does not require immediate attention, I confirm receipt of that email and provide a timeframe of when the sender can expect a more detailed response.

I know many are feeling overwhelmed and feelings of anxiousness are at an all-time high. But I have been able to manage by relying on my communities, re-establishing priorities, and setting boundaries. My engagement in these tasks is not only a benefit to me, but to the individuals with whom I love and care for the most.

*The original article can be found at

Vicki L. Baker, MBA, MS, PhD is a professor of economics and management at Albion College. She is the co-author of 70 articles and books exploring the faculty experience, career development, and liberal arts colleges. Her most recent book, Charting Your Path to Full: A Guide for Women Associate Professors, (Rutgers University Press) is in print this month.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Two Body-Problem Series: Navigating the Move

Credit: Tod Strohmayer (GSFC), CXC, NASA
Illustration: Dana Berry (CXC)
This entry in the two-body problem series is an account of one person’s experience navigating the academic track with their partner. For context, the people in the relationship are cisgender and heterosexual. If you would like to contribute your own story to this series, please contact us at wia-blog at When did you and your partner meet? What are your backgrounds (educational, social, cultural, etc., for context)?

We met in college, in the first few days after freshman orientation. We grew up in different regions of the same US west coast state. We're both white with college-educated parents. Our first interaction was when I asked if he had a car and could drive two friends and me to the store! He kindly agreed, but we wouldn't date for over a year after that. He was two years ahead of me, and majored in engineering; I majored in physics.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Cross-post: E. Margaret Burbidge, Astronomer Who Blazed Trails on Earth, Dies at 100

By Margaret Fox

E. Margaret Burbidge, an astrophysicist who made pathbreaking findings about the state of the cosmos, not the least of which was discovering precisely what it entailed to succeed as a woman in a male-dominated universe at midcentury, died on Sunday at her home in San Francisco. She was 100.

Her daughter, Sarah Burbidge, said the cause was complications from a fall.

A native of England who worked largely in the United States, Dr. Burbidge built a career that was stellar in both senses. She was considered one of the foremost astronomers in the world, long regarded as a trailblazer for women in the field.


Check out our post from her 100th birthday and feel free to share your memories of Dr. Burbidge in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Updated Activities and a Message From the Blogging Team

We have added more items to our previous blog post: A Message on COVID-19! Check them out at the link below.

The blogging team would like to thank all of you for continuing to read the Women in Astronomy Blog. As our team works to find a balance between working from home and taking care of loved ones there may be weeks where you do not hear from us. Please know we are still here working on content, but things may get delayed. Thank you for your understanding and keep an eye out for more posts! Be well!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Message on COVID-19: Activities and Ways You Can Help While Social Distancing

By JoEllen McBride and Katie Eckert

We realize this message comes late in the COVID-19 pandemic and there have already been many posts by those more qualified to write about viruses and pandemics. But we wanted to reach out to our community as the virus continues to spread. Like us, you may be worried about your health, the health of your family and friends (near and far), your jobs and research, figuring out working from home potentially on top of caring for children or parents, the general state of the country and the world. We encourage you to do what you need to stay safe.

In this era of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, we have put below some suggestions for staying connected, keeping engaged, and entertaining children. We welcome your suggestions (please comment below), which we will add to the list below. If you have other concerns, please reach out to wia-blog AT

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

CSWA Endorsement Policy Finalized

By Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy


The Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) is charged with recommending actions to the AAS Board of Trustees that can improve the status of women in astronomy. One way that we accomplish this is to support individuals or groups that are working on or developing projects that align with our mission. The Committee recently adopted a policy clarifying our recommendations on proposals for projects or activities that we can endorse or support.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Two-Body Problem Series: Priorities Change

By JoEllen McBride

Credit: Tod Strohmayer (GSFC), CXC, NASA
Illustration: Dana Berry (CXC)
This entry in the two-body problem series is an account of one person’s experience navigating the academic track with their partner. For context, the people in the relationship are cisgender and heterosexual. If you would like to contribute your own story to this series, please contact us at wia-blog at

A few months ago I spoke with Kim-Vy Tran, a professor of astrophysics at New South Wales University, about her experiences with the 2-body problem. She agreed to have our conversation posted on the blog. It has been edited for clarity and to remove our discussions on being a cat mom. We can share that in a later post (only kidding).

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Meet Your CSWA, Patricia Knezek

Patricia Knezek joined NSF in 2013 and served as the Deputy Division Director of Astronomical Sciences, and then as a Senior Advisor in Mathematical & Physical Sciences. She spent time in Advanced Cyberinfrastructure and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. She is now beginning her third year on assignment to NASA HQ in the Astrophysics Division. Prior to joining the NSF, she had been at NOAO as a staff scientist since 2001.

Pat has been active in issues of diversity and inclusion for her entire career. She previously served on CSWA, where some of her activities have included leading the development of “Equity Now! The Pasadena Recommendations for Gender Equality in Astronomy” and launching (with Rachel Ivie of the American Institute of Physics) the ad hoc group that developed the Longitudinal Study of Astronomy Graduate Students. Currently, she is co-chair of the CSWA and also a member of the AAS Ethics Task Force.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Rest in Power Katherine Johnson

Image credit NASA

It is always difficult when a hero passes on. But celebrating their accomplishments, and the path they paved for others, is a great way to empower future generations of scientists. Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician whose calculations help send astronauts into Earth orbit and eventually to the Moon, passed away earlier this week. Her legacy was brought to public attention in the book and film Hidden Figures. Her story shows us what humans could accomplish if we created environments that were inclusive and supportive. Imagine the strides we could take to discover new worlds, uncover what dark matter is, or travel the galaxy if all people had a seat at the computer and telescope. The AIP recently released the results from the National Task Force to Elevate African American representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy (TEAM-UP) which identifies five factors responsible for the success or failure of African American students in physics and astronomy. This is a starting point to understand and change the systemic barriers that people of color face in our fields. The CSWA is also compiling our Actions for a More Inclusive Astronomy which was presented as an iPoster at the 235th AAS Meeting in the hopes of creating such an environment.