Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Getting intimate with the Sun and the Moon

By Angela Speck

For those of you who don’t already know me, I’m the director of astronomy and professor of astrophysics at the University of Missouri. I’m originally British, but have lived in the US for nearly 20 years and have been a US citizen for nearly 6 years.

I have started writing this blog so many times and I keep giving up and starting over. So here I go again. This time I am taking a very personal approach. I’ll explain why later…

I hope that most readers got to witness at least some of the Solar Eclipse that happened on August 21st last year. This was my first time experiencing a total solar eclipse, and this eclipse consumed my life.

Let’s start at the beginning. I live on the path of totality, bang-slap in the middle, in the middle of Missouri. I came here as a faculty member at Mizzou in 2002. Even then, 15 years ahead of the big event, local amateur astronomers were bugging me, telling me I had to get ready. I didn’t really do much prep for the next 8 or 9 years (I was busy getting tenure, and getting promoted to full prof). Actually that’s not entirely true. While I was not consciously preparing for the eclipse, I was developing useful skills, especially in networking, public engagement and science communication. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

AASWomen Newsletter for March 16, 2018

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of March 16, 2018
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. Autism Isn't the Problem              
2. Science — without the mansplaining
3. Same Course, Different Ratings
4. Female researchers publish childcare recommendations for conference organizers
5. Watch: Female Astronauts Speak About Women in STEM
6. Senior female scientist dropout rate causing concern
7. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
8. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
9. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Autism Isn't the Problem

The below post was written by a contributor who wishes to use the pseudonym ExUngueLeam. The author is a junior astronomer whose friends and colleagues may be able to identify her from her writing, but who is unwilling disclose her Asperger’s publicly.

As a woman with Asperger’s, I have the dubious of honor of regularly fielding a particular set of questions about harassment and bullying in academia. These questions usually go something like: "If a colleague or student of mine is on the autism spectrum, and they are bullying or harassing someone, don't I need to accommodate for that? If I hold them accountable for their bad behavior, isn't that... ableist?"

The "Autism is to Blame" excuse is typically deployed in communities which are culturally perceived to be "geeky" or "nerdy", and this includes STEM. The popular television show Big Bang Theory dedicated an entire cringe-inducing episode to it.  It comes up so frequently at gaming and scifi conventions that there is an entire page dedicated to it at the Geek Feminism Wiki. But occasionally you run into it more mainstream fields: Australian television host Don Burke recently tried to invoke Asperger's to dismiss a rash of (rather horrifying, content warning applies) sexual harassment and assault accusations. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cross-post: The Star-Studded Life of Ms. Dorothy Bennett

Photo credit: Piotr Redlinski

In April 2016, author Amy Sohn wrote a piece in JSTOR Daily on Dorothy Bennett, a woman who was influential in the founding of the Hayden Planetarium as an assistant curator, delivering over 1000 lectures there.

Ms. Bennett had a remarkable career, which included  co-authoring an introduction to astronomy for young readers in 1935 called Handbook of the Heavens along with a then-member of the club and an astronomer at the museum.  It stayed in print for nearly sixty years.  

Ms. Bennett also organized an expedition to Cerro de Pasco, Peru, in June 1937, to view the longest solar eclipse until 2004.  To read the entire article, go to:


“Expedition team with Te-Ata Fisher arriving at Callao, Peru, 1937,” Charles H., Coles, Courtesy American Museum of Natural History.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cross-post: How to Find a Woman Scientist

Credit: NASA
An article in the Voices section of Scientific American by Katarzyna Nowak on February 12, 2018 discusses how a new database is fighting the poor visibility of women in STEM by offering female professionals as speakers, panelists, experts, course leaders and advocates for diversity and equity.  For the complete article go to:


Friday, February 16, 2018

AASWomen Newsletter for February 16, 2018

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
February 16, 2018
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. Talking About the Tesla          
2. NASA's First Chief Astronomer, the Mother of Hubble 
3. Who’s Important? A tale from Wikipedia   
4. OSA Foundation and The Optical Society celebrates women in our field by sharing special tributes from Members 
5. I want girls to learn math and science — and their own self-worth — despite stereotypes  
6. Job Opportunities   
7. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
8. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
9. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Talking About the Tesla

By Emily Lakdawalla
Emily Lakdawalla is a science writer, author of the forthcoming book The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Does Its Job.

When I first heard about Elon Musk’s plan to launch his own cherry-red Tesla roadster as a dummy mass aloft the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy, I was nonplussed. Something had to be in that rocket, and there’s no question that the car would be more fun than a block of concrete. But it struck me as a vulgar display of conspicuous consumption, like lighting a cigar with a flaming hundred-dollar bill. NASA - and all the other government-run space agencies - put so much thought and care into the symbols that launch on their spacecraft: the Pioneer plaque, the Voyager golden record, the Martian library on the Phoenix lander. This, by contrast, appeared as one man’s display of wealth and power: I’m rich enough to throw away this car on the rocket I built.

And then the Falcon Heavy launched, and the launch was picture-perfect, especially the stunning synchronized landings of the two side boosters. Seeing that happen, live, while I was flying in an airplane, brought home what a revolutionary moment this was. I was thrilled and inspired, and anticipating the momentous firing of the upper stage that would take it on a trans-Mars trajectory (though not actually to Mars). And, I have to admit, I loved seeing the Starman (named in honor of David Bowie) sitting nonchalantly in the red convertible, the GPS screen reading “DON’T PANIC” (an homage to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy), as the gorgeous globe of Earth passed behind the slowly rotating scene. My friend Judy Schmidt correctly identified (I think) why I found joy in the image -- it’s because of a lifetime immersed in American imagery of the car, the open road, and the freedom and wide-open possibility it makes me feel. Maybe this was art.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cross-post: Speak your science: How to give a better conference talk

Emily Lakdawalla posted a piece on the Planetary Society blog February 6th about the importance of communicating your science well.  As she notes, "Bad presentation often gets in the way of good science."  To see her advice about how to improve how you communicate, please see the full posting at:


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

APS Materials on Attracting and Retaining Women and Minorities

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Shutterstock.

It's that time of year - peak hiring season in astronomy.  As has been reported by numerous sources, there is an ongoing need to improve our ability to attract and retain women and minorities in our field.  Now is a good time for those involved in hiring and/or retention to review their practices and ensure that they are maximally effective.  One excellent resource is a website maintained by the American Physical Society (APS), where they cover hiring and retention from undergraduates to faculty, and also have a link to tips provided by the APS Committee on Minorities.  Please see: https://www.aps.org/programs/women/reports/cswppractices/index.cfm#.WmYORrRUO6k.mailto

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Gender Pay Disparity Persists

A Nature career brief reports that "US male PhD holders earn more than female counterparts across nearly every scientific field," based on a report from the U.S. National Science Foundation.  For the complete article, see:


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Updated: CSWA Activities at the January 2018 AAS meeting

The Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) is sponsoring two events at the American Astronomical Society's (AAS) winter meeting in January. Both are scheduled for Thursday, January 11.  In addition, CSWA member Christina Richey will be giving a talk during the "Status of the Astronomy Workforce" session Thursday morning.  Here are a few details:

Session 365. Status of the Astronomy Workforce
Potomac Ballroom C, 10:30 – 10:45 a.m.

CSWA Workplace Climate Survey: Gender and Racial Harassment in Planetary Science and Astronomy

Dr. Christina Richey

Session 335. The AAS Committee on the Status of Women: Then and Now and Where Do We Go from Here?
Potomac 1-2, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.

How We Got from Then (1971 ) to Now - The Annie Jump Cannon Award and the  First Working Group on the Status of Women in Astronomy
Dr. Roberta Humphreys 

Panel:  Where Are We Now and Where Do We Go From Here?
Moderator: Dr. Nancy Morrison

Panelists: Drs. Jarita Holbrook, Maria Patterson, Jane Rigby, Meg Urry

CSWA Meet & Greet
6:30 PM - 7:30 PM; National Harbor 13
Meet the CSWA members & each other – refreshments will be served!!

Finally, please stop by the AAS booth during the meeting.  As a part of launching our new governance model, all the diversity committees will be a part of the AAS space, so its another great opportunity to meet your colleagues who are committed to improving the diversity and inclusion of our community.  We have a slideshow playing continuously to introduce you to your CSWA members, and we will be advertising our activities at this meeting. We look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, January 5, 2018

AASWomen Newsletter for January 5, 2018

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
January 5, 2018
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. CSWA Activities at the January 2018 AAS meeting            
2. L'OrĂ©al USA For Women in Science Fellowships  
3. 2018 Space Astronomy Summer Program
4. American Girl's New NASA-Advised Doll is Aspiring Astronaut 
5. Space science work recognised in New Year Honours 
6. Job Opportunities   
7. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
8. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
9. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter