Friday, December 21, 2018

AASWomen Newsletter for December 21, 2018

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
December 21, 2018
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, and JoEllen McBride

[Happy Holidays to all! --eds.]

This week's issues:

1. Transitioning From Astronomy to the Space Industry 
2. Conference attendance boosts authorship opportunities
3. COSPAR SYMPOSIUM CALL FOR PAPERS: “Small Satellites for Sustainable Science and Development”
4. Women Scientists Who Made Nuclear Astrophysics
5. NASA Appoints Its First Female Chief Flight Director 
6. How One Organization Is Keeping Women In STEM Careers   
7. How Implicit Bias and Lack of Diversity Undermine Science  
8. What Happens When You Double Blind Astronomers?
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, December 18, 2018

Transitioning From Astronomy to the Space Industry

By Therese Jones

I am often sent students who want to transition into the space industry, having converted from an astronomy Ph.D. program (Berkeley), to a policy Ph.D. program with a focus on space (RAND, a non-partisan think tank), then becoming Senior Director of Policy at the Satellite Industry Association.  As a crash course in how to get started, I compiled this “Guide to the Space Life” to get students/young professionals up to speed on what it took me five years to figure out on my own!  This post summarizes a few of the highlights of the document, but please see the full guide for more information.

Making the decision to transition out of astronomy was very hard, especially because I loved the people in the field.  It turns out that people in the space industry are incredibly friendly and willing to go out of their way to support young professionals; many of the organizations and conferences listed provide great inroads into the industry.  No experience in the space world?  Not a problem—the Space Generation Advisory Council is an international organization of young professionals under 35 that hosts events in the US and abroad, sends out regular opportunities, and has working groups that you can join to work on different space issues.  The Students for the Exploration and Development Space has chapters at colleges and even high schools, and supports a number of activities including rocket teams, satellite design projects, has an annual student-run conference, and is very well-connected to companies in the industry.  No chapter at your school?  You can also become an individual member or start your own chapter; they are great at supporting new chapters that are trying to get started!

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. Fewer than 10% of the medals have been received by women and just five (5!) 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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Does Astronomy Education Research have a glass ceiling?

Saeed Salimpour
By Saeed Salimpour1,a and Michael Fitzgerald2

1Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
2Edith Cowan Institute for Education Research, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia, Australia

The challenges associated with gender equity and equality have been the topic of much research over many decades. In the context of science, the issue of gender is even more pronounced, this is marked by efforts to engage more women in science, or more specifically STEM. However, the research has mostly centred around scientists and science research. This brief article highlights findings from a study which explored the issue of gender in the context of Astronomy Education Research (AER) – a rapidly growing field of research drawing in, not just astronomers, but also researchers from different fields, e.g., education, psychology, evaluation.

Michael Fitzgerald
The study used the iSTAR database (International STudies of Astronomy education Research) (, link to summary paper). Over the years, iSTAR has grown to contain, or link to where appropriate, more than 1800 publications. These have drawn from major literature searches throughout the mainstream astronomy, astronomy education and science education journals, major conference proceedings and thesis collections. We presented the current status of iSTAR, at the recent RTSRE & iNATS conference in Hilo, Hawai’i, a recording of the talk is available here, and to see a fully referenced expanded version of this article, a pre-print of the article is available here.

Friday, November 9, 2018

AASWomen Newsletter for November 9, 2018

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
November 9, 2018
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, and JoEllen McBride

This week's issues:

1. Rubrics and Resources for a Diverse Faculty and Graduate Student Body
2. Unforgotten sisters: The woman who bested Kepler 
3. This women-led space program is crowdfunding Kyrgyzstan’s first satellite launch
4. STEM: What’s holding females back?  
5. 10 Career Tips From The First Woman To Lead The Smithsonian Air And Space Museum
6. Women in tech call on global summit for greater roles as #MeToo hits
7. To address sexual harassment in science, the past can inform the way forward   
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

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Rubrics and Resources for a Diverse Faculty and Graduate Student Body

The editors of the AASWomen Newsletter are receiving many ads for tenure-track faculty positions and fellowship opportunities. Thank you for sending them! 

As we enter the "hiring season", please think about using rubrics in decisions related to hiring and, in the case of graduate school, admission*. Please also consider making them transparent by publishing them so that applicants are aware of the evaluation criteria. All of us are born with biases and they play out in our lives every day, especially when considering who to add to our department, field, and/or community. Rubrics allow us to compartmentalize those factors that are most important to us and allow a standardization of the factors to be considered, among all members of the decision committee.

I've listed some resources here that may be useful to you and/or your department. Feel free to share widely!

Faculty Search Toolkit (Michigan State University)

Faculty Hiring Evaluation Rubrics (University of Michigan, via the University of Washington)
Checklist for Hiring (Michigan Tech)

Multiple resources, incl. a variety of rubrics and a list of best practices (University of North Carolina at Charlotte)

More resources (University of Michigan)

While the above resources are focused on practices to hire a diverse faculty, the guidelines can certainly be applied to accepting graduate students and the rubrics can be revised accordingly. As far as I can tell, no one has developed any rubrics for graduate school admission, but the need is real! So, if you design one, it will be a great resource and the CSWA can help you disseminate it widely! 

A quick Google search on "rubric evaluating grad student applications" provided some promising links:

Holistic Review in Graduate Admissions (Council of Graduate Schools)

Finally, rubrics to evaluate PhD Qualifying Exams also exist. You can find one here (pdf) and here (doc).

Do you know of other resources? Let us know! and check out the CSWA's page for additional information.

* I thank my salon group at the Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium for the stimulating discussions that lead to this post.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Intersection of Science and Politics -- Women Running for Office (#Witches in STEM)

By Angela Speck

All elections are important, but the impending mid-terms are especially so. All over the world there have been rightward swings in governments. And these new governments potentially impact so many groups that are not in the majority: not majority ethnicity/race, not male, not heterosexual, not cisgender, and so on. The intersection of “conservative” social policies with a tendency toward rejecting science means that we (Women Scientists) are feeling beleaguered (along with many other groups).

Many people, especially those in marginalized groups, were more than a little disappointed by the results of the 2016 US general election. Immediately after the presidential inauguration there were marches across the US in support of women’s rights. A few months later another series of demonstrations took place, this time in support of science.  While women are not the only group to feel embattled by the actions of the present administration, this blog is about women. Women and science in fact. And women in science have stepped up like never before to try and take control and be a part of how this country runs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

How Professional Societies are Dealing with Harassment

In a September Science editorial, Margaret Hamburg, Susan Hockfield and Steven Chu, who all hold leadership roles in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), wrote that it's time for change: "The scientific community must act with urgency to create an inclusive organizational culture and professional standards of behavior that will allow all of its members to reach their full potential."

Indeed, professional societies and organizations around the United States are taking a stand to address harassment in effective ways. Here are just a few examples of what organizations are doing:

Friday, October 19, 2018

AASWomen Newsletter for October 19, 2018

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
October 19, 2018
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, JoEllen McBride, and Ale Aloisi (guest ed.)

This week's issues:

1. A personal recommendation for the AAS to collect data to determine participation of underrepresented groups
2. Australia gets Women in STEM Ambassador in astrophysicist professor
3. Sarah Stewart Receives MacArthur "Genius Grant"
4. Breakthrough Prize Honors Early Career Astronomers
5. 2019 ASU Exploration Postdoctoral Fellowship
6. Astronomy is losing women three times faster than men
7. Job Opportunities  
8. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
9. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
10. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter


Thursday, October 18, 2018

A personal recommendation for the AAS to collect data to determine participation of underrepresented groups

By members of the DPS Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee

In order to determine how new policies affect the equitable participation of astronomers from all backgrounds, we propose that the AAS collect detailed demographic information on its members and use these data to understand the barriers for members of underrepresented groups. While the AAS workforce surveys do ask demographic information (Workforce Survey of 2016 US AAS Members Summary Results), they can not easily be compared to award or author information in the way a member database could. As shown below, collection of demographic data by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has enabled studies addressing gender disparities in geosciences. Furthermore, the AGU has enacted policy changes based on these findings. Collection of demographic data by AAS would enable determination of areas that are lacking in gender representation, in addition to areas that are lacking in representation with respect to persons with disabilities, underrepresented minorities, etc. This would enable AAS to implement policy changes to enable equitable participation of astronomers from all backgrounds and to test if the new policies are effective.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Our Current Political Climate and the Confirmation Process: the Community Reacts

By Sarah Tuttle

The last few weeks have been difficult for many folks as a highly politicized confirmation process played out on Capitol Hill. Issues around gender and race swirled barely below the surface as we watched echoes of the past, with Anita Hill reminding us about how we were in some ways reenacting recent history (and in other ways dancing around it). For many of us, this pushed a lot of buttons and renewed memories of trauma even outside of the explicit scope of Dr. Blasey Ford’s Senate testimony – from alcoholic family members, to abusive partners, to harassment or assault at school and work.

It is a lot to carry.

I’ve collected a small number of responses from women throughout our field to give us some space to reflect, to be together in community even when we are many miles apart, and to acknowledge that sometimes the hardest part of our work isn’t the intellectual challenges of our research but existing in a world that resists making room for us to exist.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Donna Strickland and Frances Arnold win Nobel Prizes

The winners of the Nobel Prizes were announced this week and two women, Donna Strickland and Frances Arnold, have been honored for their extraordinary contributions to the sciences.

On Tuesday, Donna Strickland became the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. She's the first woman to win the prize in 55 years.

Here are a select number of articles about Dr. Strickland's win:

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Career Profile: Executive Director

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

Dr. Stella Kafka is the Executive Director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). She enjoys enabling scientific research and in addition to her academic positions has worked as the CTIO REU/PIA site director and in the American Institute of Physics publishing group.

What field do you currently work in?

Observational astronomy – variable stars (especially semi-detached binaries – CVs)

What is the job title for your current position?

Executive Director – Chief Executive Officer and Chief Science Officer at the AAVSO

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Announcement of DPS Workshop on Proposal Writing: Friday October 26th

The success of scientists depends upon their ability to obtain funding. Using Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) from NASA as a primary example, this workshop will focus on teaching the audience key points to writing a successful proposal.

Topics to be covered include:
8:00-8:15- General introduction and welcome
8:15-9:15- Proposal lifecycle, guidance on writing for specific audiences, compliance checklist
9:15-9:30- Break
9:30-10:30- Evaluation criteria, the review process, programmatic balance, debriefs and appeals, and making changes to address review concerns
10:30-11:00- General wrap up and group Q&A
11:00-11:30- One-on-One Q&A as needed.

Proposal Writing Workshops help early career scientists, as well as those looking to improve their previous proposal performance. As a result of this session, participants will be able to understand the proposal writing, reviewing, and selection process for federally funded proposals, as well as help those who have previously submitted proposals improve their performance. The workshop will be done in a format that allows for a great deal of audience participation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Balancing Your Act

By Michelle Zellner

Michelle has been a trainer, coach, and facilitator for over 20 years.  Her business, Better Beings, encompasses individual clients, weekend workshops, and a week-long wellness retreat.  She is also an event key-note speaker and is highly sought  to deliver corporate trainings.  Thus far, she has conducted over 2000 trainings, both live and via webinar.  Along with her knowledge, the connection she makes with the audience often results in requests for repeat visits.

Michelle’s background has enabled her to deliver on a wide variety of training topics, including: exercise, nutrition, weight loss, stress management, sleep, preventing and managing chronic disease, work-life balance—and many more. 

Learn more about Michelle at: and on fb and Instagram @betterbeingsus

This blog entry is an modified excerpt from her upcoming book.

Stress is part of everyone’s life, but if you don’t learn to find some balance, serious health consequences could be waiting!  We often waste resources (time, money and energy) or are simply not distributing them effectively, and this leads to feeling overwhelmed, undervalued and unappreciated. Burnout---physical, mental, emotional or professional---could be near, but is totally preventable. Follow along and fill out the evaluation tools to help you identify how balanced YOUR act is.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Katherine Johnson Celebrates Her 100th Birthday

President Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to
Katherine Johnson on November 24, 2015. (Reuters)
Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician who played a crucial role in calculating trajectories for America's early space missions, turned 100 on Sunday August 26th. Johnson and other groundbreaking women mathematicians of color at NASA were highlighted in the book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and in the movie with the same name.

Numerous articles were written about Johnson this weekend celebrating her many achievements.

Among her many honors, this weekend West Virginia State University honored her with a statue and scholarship dedication. Johnson graduated from the university in 1937. Read more at:

See a message from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine about Johnson's birthday:

For additional coverage on Johnson, see: