Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Finding space after Orlando

By MacKenzie Warren

MacKenzie Warren is just starting a postdoc at Michigan State University after completinghis PhD in Physics at University of Notre Dame. MacKenzie's research is in computational modeling of core-collapse supernovae, particularly the role of nuclear and neutrino processes in the explosion mechanism. The killings in Orlando affected all of us in the LGBTQ community; here is one astronomer's opinion.

A few weeks ago, I was at an astrophysics conference. I spent the week in a room with roughly 50 people brought together by common interests and shared identity. Just as a few weeks before that I had spent an evening at a gay bar with others who also sought refuge from the tense hum of nerves that comes from always being aware of who’s watching. Just as so many people had been drawn to Pulse in Orlando, looking for a place of affirmation.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12th, 49 LGBTQ and allied people were killed, and many more were injured, in a shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It was Latin night at the club and the vast majority of the victims were Latinx. The headline performers were trans women of color. The media widely declared this an attack against “all of us,” while failing to mention who the victims really were.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Mentoring Minoritized* Students

A fundamental part of our role in academia, formally or informally, is mentorship. Although rarely trained in what that means (either as a mentee or a mentor) it is a crucial piece of how we move through academia. With increasing recognition about the role of mentorship in our careers I’d like to share some starting points for improving your mentoring of minoritized students. For those of us who find themselves minoritized in some ways but not others - these are still incredibly important.  

There is an ongoing conversation about how we can do better in roles as mentors. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein has written very clearly on the consequences of the failings of appropriate leadership and mentorship. In particular, I’d love for you to take this on as your mentor-theme: “Advising is about helping people get to their dream life”. What an incredible task, no? I asked on Twitter for people to share with me some of their experiences where things had gone wrong (and right too). 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Meet Guest Blogger Heidi Jensen

Heidi B. Jensen is currently looking for opportunities that will lead her to a career in communicating and publicizing science. Heidi would like to use the skills she learned from her M.S. thesis research at SUNY Stony Brook University, specializing in aqueous geochemistry applied to the martian surface, to help the science community make a greater impact on the general public. Heidi is currently employed outside of science while she waits for her first scientific position after graduate school. 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the Hudson River Valley, about 75 miles north of New York City. I was curiously fascinated with and appreciative of the natural world around me and science provided me with explanations for the natural phenomena that had seems so mysterious and amazing. I was one of the few people in my high school graduating class that knew exactly what I wanted to concentrate my studies in for my undergraduate years at SUNY University at Albany; environmental science. From my experiences outside of academia, I became aware that a lack of interest in preserving the natural world and preventing continued damage to it was caused by two things: a lack of understanding of the observations and science findings that indicated environmental degradation and financial and more basic struggles that kept their attention. Due to this and my experiences as an instructor and researcher in graduate school at Stony Brook University, I have grown to love teaching and communicating science and have made it the main requirement for my next step in my career.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wake the F-ck Up

 Wake the F*ck Up
by Debra L. Winegarten, June 13, 2016
No copyright, share

Death of young innocent queer people
Killed because of love
Because of dancing
Because of being different.

Silly distractions
Talk of bathroom privileges
Talk of bullying
Talk of Wild West nonsense.

Legal sale of assault weapons
To civilians
In the name of Liberty.

Numbing with drugs and alcohol
To avoid and deny the horror
Of rampant shootings.

Congressional paralysis
Gun lobby pay-offs
Corporate greed.

Remember Stonewall!
Remember Orlando!
It's a bad idea to piss off
Queer people.

Because we are more creative
Because we are more vocal
Because we are more loving
Because we are better dancers.
Because we are better writers
And the pen is mightier than the machine gun.

And you cannot silence us
And you cannot kill us all.
And your hate will not prevail.
And your hate will not prevail.
And your hate will not prevail.

Debra L. Winegarten works in the Astronomy Department at the University  of Texas in Austin,Texas. With a master's degree in sociology from The Ohio  State University, specializing in qualitative research, Debra uses her research skills to write biographies of Texas women for middle-school students. She is also on the faculty of South University, where she teaches undergraduate sociology courses.

Debra notes, "The views in my poem don't represent the AAS; I'm writing in my 'other' life as an award-winning author."

Debra is a past president of the Texas Jewish Historical Society and has written two Jewish-themed poetry books, "There's Jews in Texas?" and "Where Jewish Grandmothers Come From". For more about her and her writing, check out her web site.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sexual Harassment: Reports of Serial Groping

Today's guest bloggers are Anonymous A and Anonymous B. A and B are both astronomy postdocs, who realize that they had something quite disturbing in common. They had both been groped by the same senior male astronomer in a public place with multiple witnesses. No one came to their aid. 

Our accounts may sound depressingly familiar to many. The recent, highly publicized sexual harassment cases have initiated some frank discussions about the pervasiveness of this problem in our community — something that far too many women already knew firsthand. We’re adding our voices to this conversation partly to share our individual stories, breaking the silence in solidarity with others who have come forward. But because we happen to have been harassed by the same person, our accounts also illustrate how harassment in our community is ultimately not a problem of individual incidents. 


Anonymous A.

I was a young graduate student attending one of my first conferences. At the conference dinner, I ended up sitting next to a senior professor who I hadn’t met before the conference. His wife and child sat at the next table over, but his young daughter repeatedly came over to our table to talk to her father, and she chatted with me too since I was sitting right next to him. Talking to the small child standing between us required leaning down slightly, but I began to notice that he was leaning unnecessarily close to me when he did this. I tried not to worry about it, thinking I was probably mistaken, but at some point after his daughter went back to her table, he put his hand on my thigh under the table. I froze, unsure of what to do, so at first I didn't react at all. But then he started inching his hand further up my thigh. Finally I got up, excused myself from the table, and left in the middle of dinner.

My immediate reaction was visceral; I felt an intense mixture of shame and anger. This was compounded by the knowledge that I had celebrated my successful talk with a few drinks at the cocktail reception before dinner. I found out the next day that some people thought I had left the dinner because I’d gotten sick from the alcohol -- a story with which I felt compelled to play along, despite adding to my embarrassment.

I did confide in a few friends, who were largely very supportive. One who had been at our table said she’d noticed his creepy behavior, including trying to brush against my breast when I wasn’t looking. However, another person I confided in responded by directly questioning my account (“Are you sure?”), and a friend who wasn’t at the conference suggested that I had put myself in the situation by drinking.


Anonymous B.

I was also a young graduate student when I met this professor, at a party at a fellow astronomer’s house. The professor had been invited as he was visiting our institute. The party was crowded with lots of people dancing. I was standing with my back to the middle of the room, chatting with friends and began to notice that someone kept brushing past me with a lot of physical contact. I kept moving aside, thinking they were trying to get past me and I was in their way. This happened repeatedly until I felt a hand squeeze my backside. I realized that this professor was actually groping me and rubbing against me. I was surprised and embarrassed. Others had seen him do it and everyone just laughed. I turned my back to the wall for the rest of the evening and made sure to avoid him.

I would never have thought to report this type of behavior. This wasn’t a professional setting. But when I heard Anonymous A’s story, I realized that it wasn’t an isolated event. He likely has female students who depend upon him.


We were both very surprised when, while talking one evening at a conference, we discovered that we had both been groped by the same senior astronomer. We realized that these incidents were likely part of a pattern of behavior, and it made us worry for other junior women who may not be able to get away from him as easily as we did. 

This is why it’s imperative for everyone, especially senior members of our community, to be proactive in supporting targets of harassment and speaking out against harassers. The burden of responsibility to speak out cannot fall solely on those who are most vulnerable, whose well-being and livelihoods may be at stake. This applies to everything from the most egregious serial harassment cases to more common micro-aggressions, all of which contribute to a culture of tacit approval. In both of our cases, there were witnesses (including more senior colleagues) who had opportunities to confront our harasser and to be supportive to us. We’ve found that having someone offer even a few words of support, or call out an insensitive comment, can be very meaningful to targets of harassment. Just as the harm of micro-aggressions adds up over time, so too can the positive impact of ‘micro-support’: gestures from those who have more power and can confront inappropriate behavior.   

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Career Profiles: Astronomer to Data Scientist at a Non-Profit

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Erin Grand, an astronomer turned data scientist at a non-profit organization.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit New Career Profiles are posted approximately every month.

Friday, June 3, 2016

AASWomen Newsletter for June 3, 2016

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of June 3, 2016
eds: Daryl Haggard, Nicolle Zellner, Elysse Voyer, & Heather Flewelling

This week's issues:

1. Astronomer Privilege
2. Meet your CSWA committee: Daryl Haggard      
3. No Status for June 2016 
4. Gender Bias Calculator
5. We need to do more for women in science
6. How to Get Tenure (If You’re a Woman)
7. Female scientists ‘have more glamour than the likes of BeyoncĂ©’ 
8. Job Opportunities        
9. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
11. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

1. Astronomer Privilege
From: Jessica Mink   via

As a person who has voluntarily given up one of the two most widely recognized privileges in order to be more honest with the world, I have given a lot of thought to the nature of privilege. I would define "privilege" as having advantages in life based on a single characteristic which is deemed more of value to others than not having that characteristic. It is usually totally unearned, but even if "earned", it may offer advantages in social situations that are out of scale with its relevance. A significant part of privilege is not being aware that you have it. All too often, that includes denying that you have it or that it even exists.


2. Meet your CSWA committee: Daryl Haggard 
From:   Daryl Haggard via

[In this installment of our "new" series on the Women in Astronomy blog (the first one is here), we continue to introduce our readers to the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. Our next committee member to be introduced, Daryl Haggard, is the current lead editor for the AASWOMEN Newsletter (though passing the baton soon!), and has been a member of the committee for 2 years.]

Dr. Daryl Haggard is an Assistant Professor of Physics at McGill University in the McGill Space Institute. She studies active galactic nuclei and their host galaxies, the Galactic center and Sgr A*, and accretion-driven outflows using multi-wavelength and time domain surveys. (She co-authored, with Geoff Bower, a recent review of happenings in the Galactic Center in the February 2015 issue of Sky & Telescope.)

Read more at  

3.  No Status for June 2016
From:  Nancy Morrison []

It is my sad task to inform our readers that the CSWA's semi-annual magazine, Status, will not appear in June 2016 because of a lack of material. However, we have good things planned for the January, 2017 issue.

As always, AASWomen readers and others are invited to volunteer articles for Status on topics related to women and other underrepresented groups in science and society. Please check in advance with me or another member of the editorial group (listed in the masthead of any issue) to make sure your topic is suitable and not redundant with another article planned for the same issue. Submission deadlines are nominally November 15 for the January issue and April 15 for the June issue, but later deadlines can be negotiated. 

For more information, please see

4. Gender Bias Calculator
From:  Meg Urry []

Inspired by a blog piece on gender biases in recommendation letters posted by the Association for Women in Science, this page allows the user to parse letters of recommendation for “female” vs. “male” words.

Find it at

5. We need to do more for women in science
From: Nicolle Zellner []

In a recent article in Science, H. Ahmed reflects on an event related to a Women in Science group: an informal coffee hour with female speakers, “intended to give participants a chance to ask questions about science and gender”. After the Q&A session, she counts up the questions: two from the three men in the room and both unrelated to the purpose of these coffee hours. She’s livid.


6. How to Get Tenure (If You’re a Woman)
From: Nicolle Zellner []

Six female professors comment on a recent article by Stephen Walt, in which he offers suggestions in a number of areas for how to achieve tenure. However, according to these women, “his article overlooks a critical issue for about half of the junior faculty out there — the fact that they are women.”

Read more of the review at

Read Stephen Walt’s original article at

7. Female scientists ‘have more glamour than the likes of BeyoncĂ©’ 
From: Nicolle Zellner []

According to Liz Cameron, a new executive committee member for an organization overseeing children and lifelong learning in Glasgow, Scottland, finding “stories and emotion” in science will help draw girls to this field.


8. Job Opportunities

For those interested in increasing excellence and diversity in their organizations, a list of resources and advice is here: 

- Research Fellow/Senior Research Fellow, Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy, Perth

- Lecturer/Instructor, Department of Astronomy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

- Research Engineer in Millimeter and Submillimeter Wavelength Electronics, NRAO

9. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN newsletter

To submit an item to the AASWOMEN newsletter, including replies to topics, send email to 

All material will be posted unless you tell us otherwise, including your email address. 

When submitting a job posting for inclusion in the newsletter, please include a one-line description and a link to the full job posting. 

Please remember to replace "_at_" in the e-mail address above.

10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter

Join AAS Women List by email: 

Send email to from the address you want to have subscribed. You can leave the subject and message blank if you like. 

Be sure to follow the instructions in the confirmation email. (Just reply back to the email list) 

To unsubscribe by email: 

Send email to from the address you want to have UNsubscribed. You can leave the subject and message blank if you like. 

To join or leave AASWomen via web, or change your membership settings: 

You will have to create a Google Account if you do not already have one, using  

Google Groups Subscribe Help: 

11. Access to Past Issues

Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Astronomer Privilege

  by Jessica Mink, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

As a person who has voluntarily given up one of the two most widely recognized privileges in order to be more honest with the world, I have given a lot of thought to the nature of privilege. I would define "privilege" as having advantages in life based on a single characteristic which is deemed more of value to others than not having that characteristic. It is usually totally unearned, but even if "earned", it may offer advantages in social situations that are out of scale with its relevance. A significant part of privilege is not being aware that you have it. All too often, that includes denying that you have it or that it even exists.

In the US, having "white" skin and being of the male gender are generally acknowledged, especially by those who don't possess those traits, as conferring privilege on those who have them. But there are other traits which confer privilege, recognized more by those who don't have them than by those who do. I would never equate the various types of privilege, but have learned that having other privileges can alleviate the effects of lacking major ones (and not having them can make things worse).

Cis-gender privilege for those who continue to live as the gender they were assigned at birth is not necessarily obvious, but when you don't have it, it is both much harder to deal with the world and for the world to deal with you. I have found that unearned privilege accorded me through other traits has helped to balance my life.

Performing as Sophia Ripley, cofounder of the
Transcendentalist Brook Farm Community, with
other "Women of Brook Farm" in October 2015
For example, there is privilege of height, which I have seen tall people assume and short people struggle against. Having lived my life as a medium tall person, but having short friends for much of my adult life, I didn't take seriously their lack of privilege for a very long time. Over the last few years, I became aware of how ignorant (and sometimes downright nasty in my heightedness) I once was. When I first mentioned this in my post last December, most of the sources I could find on the Internet were putdowns of the very concept by taller people, but this past January, there was a more enlightened discussion on Quora, where privileges were compared in a mostly reasonable way. While I face a few problems being a tall woman that I didn't before, such as finding clothes that are long enough and sticking out in a group, there are advantages in social situations, such as being able to look men in the eye (or maybe higher).  Tall people are hard to ignore, and it has turned out (Surprise!) that being obvious is more productive than being overlooked.

Does being astronomers give us privilege in our interactions with the rest of the world? The denial of such a privilege by colleagues led me to think more deeply about it. In my own experience, being an astronomer has led to better acceptance of me as a trans person in the world at large.  There may be other things about me which have helped, but the curiosity of the general public about our science seems boundless, and it seems that people meet fewer astronomers than they do trans people.  As I become the target of their questions about the sky, my identity as an astronomer overrides my less-understandable and less-accepted identity as transgender. This has happened to me frequently enough that I suspect that those who don't notice it either don't get out or are less introspective than me.  Astronomy seems to be easier for lay people to relate to than other sciences, so in my life anyway, I have designated it "astronomer privilege". Have you noticed this? I know that sometimes people will ask if you can do their horoscope by conflating astronomers and astrologers (and as a positional astronomer, I'm closer to being in that tradition than most), and that sometimes the idea that we actually study things unbelievably far away can be intimidating, but in general, astronomy is accessible. Do you have any stories to share, or do you think this doesn't really happen?