Tuesday, February 23, 2021

that's who I am, that's who I be, but that's not everything

Dr. Renee Horton"When I walk into a room, most people see me as confident and ready to take on the world. As an engineer in the aerospace industry, that’s the persona I would like them to see. But in reality, I’m most likely experiencing a serious level of anxiety stimulated by my invisible disability."

Dr. Renee Horton, whose career has taken her all over the world, discussed her experiences as a black woman in science at the October 2020 meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences. Now a Quality Engineer in the NASA Residential Management Office at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Dr. Horton's inspirational messages remind us that overcoming imposter syndrome, finding some sort of balance in our lives, living with intersecting identities, and figuring out our life's passion(s) are constant challenges. 

Below Dr. Horton shares her wisdom with us; links to slides and a recording of her talk can be found at the end of this post.

Describe briefly your day-to-day activities in your job, including opportunities to be creative and to take initiative.

Currently my day-to-day consist of multiple meetings with occasional days in the factor or a trip to the test stand to complete paperwork. 

My morning routine before work consist of answering emails and checking my calendar and a workout twice to three times a week. 

Currently my work schedule is from 6:00 to 3:30.

What were the most important factors that led you to stay in science and engineering?

I want to make a difference for the next generation and I want to change the face of STEM.

What have been particularly valuable skills that you gained through completing your degree?

Resilience and perseverance 

Describe job hunting and networking strategies that lead you to your current position.

My position was a direct lead of me doing an intern with NASA.

What advice do you have for people who are contemplating a career in science, especially those who identify along multiple axes?

Use being multi-dimensional to your advantage. Don’t allow them to paint you into a box and you define yourself.

What advice do you have for leaders who are seeking ways to make professional environments more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible?

Be willing to accept the talent as it comes and don’t try to force them into an uncomfortable situation. Be willing to check yourself for inherent biases and be open to difference. 

Learn more:

"Don't Silence Our Voice at the Table", 2020 DPS Talk and Slides

"NASA engineer K. Renee Horton explains how the challenges of a hidden disability can be compounded by racial and gender bias", Physics Today

Dr. Horton's website

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The pursuit of gender equity in astronomy: how do we know what’s working?

By Isabelle Kingsley, Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador, Australia

Many organizations and individuals have been trying for years to address the gender imbalance in astronomy. Efforts include programs such as educational activities, work and industry experience, mentoring schemes, and many more. These programs seek to dismantle barriers to attract and keep more girls and women in astronomy. We’re spending time, energy, and millions of dollars on programs, but are they working?

The trouble is, we don’t know. That’s because most programs are not evaluated.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Crosspost: AAS Black History Month 2021 Profiles

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of Blacks in US history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976 every US president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history. Visit History.com (from which this introduction is adapted) to learn more.

A very special "thank you!" to Jarita Holbrook, Ashley L. Walker, and Kathryne Daniel who helped us recognize our Black members for #BlackHistoryMonth.

 — Crystal Tinch
AAS Communications & Engagement Coordinator

Access this year's profiles at 


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

AAS Code of Ethics and the Code of Ethics Committee

By Alison Coil, Meredith Hughes, Angela Speck

In 2016 the AAS created a Code of Ethics that covers a wide range of topics, including harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, research, publication, authorship, peer review, and more. As stated in the Code, it is presented as a set of guidelines and best practices for professional behavior. However, it holds no authority or meaning if the code is breached without consequence. Therefore there is a process to report and guide the resolution of suspected breaches of this Code. As members of the Code of Ethics Committee (CoEC), we want to ensure that AAS members know both about the Code itself and the reporting process. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Career Profile: Observatory Staff Astronomer

 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.

Below is our interview with Gwen Rudie. She studies the chemical and physical properties of very distant galaxies and their surrounding gas in order to further our understanding of the processes that are central to the formation and development of galaxies. Critical to this research is our ability to trace the raw materials of galaxy formation and its biproducts. These clues can be found in the gas that surrounds early galaxies. She is primarily an observational astronomer, working on the analysis and interpretation of high-resolution spectroscopy of distant quasars as well as near-infrared and optical spectroscopy of high-redshift galaxies. In addition to her scientific efforts, she is also the director of the undergraduate research program at the Carnegie Observatories. Dr. Rudie received her AB from Dartmouth College and her PhD from Caltech. She was the Carnegie Princeton Postdoctoral Fellow before becoming a Staff Astronomer.

To access our previous Career Profiles, please go to http://womeninastronomy.blogspot.com/search/label/career%20profiles

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Cross-post: We’re Past Due for a SEA Change

 By Alexis Knaub

While it’s no secret that we in physics and astronomy still have much progress to make, our field has begun the journey of addressing the disproportionate challenges faced by our colleagues from groups underrepresented in physics, including those who are Black, Latin American, Indigenous, Asian, female, LGBT+, and/or are disabled.

A major issue we must confront is that many of our learning and work environments aren’t set up for all of us to thrive as our whole, authentic selves. There are many reasons for this, ranging from systemic barriers to individual actions. There are people in physics who blatantly promote harmful beliefs or actions. There are also many people who mean well but subconsciously cause harm.

All of us have unconscious biases, beliefs, or preferences of which we are unaware and for which we lack supporting evidence. For example, the editor-in-chief of Physics World noted a time he assumed two astronomers in a story were middle-aged white men when, in fact, they were young women. As the author points out, his unconscious bias—assuming an astronomer is a middle-aged white man—can have other impacts, such as whom he selects for different jobs. Because they are not deliberate, unconscious biases are hard to unseat. Becoming aware of them and actively working on them are important first steps.

To provide the best possible environment for everyone in our departments, those who witness or learn of problematic situations have a responsibility to ensure harm doesn’t continue. We must dismantle barriers rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, ableism, and more. These barriers have nothing to do with learning or working in physics and are detrimental to the progress of the field. To do so, departments must work together internally and with support from the broader community.

Read more in the Sigma Pi Sigma Fall 2020 edition of Radiations magazine at

You can read more about the AAAS SEA Change Departmental Awards at

Please email any questions about the CSWA's involvement with SEA Change to our SEA Change representative Stella Kafka at cswa_at_lists.aas.org.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Apply for the Carnegie Astrophysics Summer Student Internship Program

By Gwen Rudie

CASSI interns on the catwalk 
of the 200 inch Hale Telescope 
at the Palomar Observatory.

The Carnegie Astrophysics Summer Student Internship Program (CASSI) is a 10 week, paid internship and educational program based at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA. CASSI welcomes a diverse cohort of 10-15 undergraduates annually, most of whom are students at colleges and universities in Southern California. CASSI Interns collaborate with Carnegie astronomers on original research projects from studying exoplanets to distant galaxies. Some CASSI interns also work with Carnegie scientists and engineers on the next generation of cameras and spectrographs for our telescopes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

CSWA @ the 237th AAS Meeting

by Nicolle Zellner and Jeremy Bailin

AAS meeting participants are invited to join members of the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) at their Splinter Session on January 12 (6:50 pm to 8:20 pm ET) to learn about CSWA activities. Based on input to the committee's 2019 community survey, the CSWA is beginning to develop and undertake projects to support the committee's Strategic Plan for the 2020s, which will guide the committee's efforts for the next decade. In this session, participants will learn about the committee's Strategic Plan, its focus areas, objectives, and potential projects. They will also learn about opportunities to become involved in the process of implementing the projects and assessing the outcomes.

Meet & Greet: A Strategic Plan for the Next 10 Years

Date: January 12, 2021
Time: 6:50 PM to 8:20 PM EST
Session ID # 169

We’d love to receive your questions ahead of time, so please fill out this survey. We’ll also take questions during the session itself.

Other meeting sessions that may be of interest to you include:

Be the Captain of your PhD, Jan. 7th, 12:00 pm–4:00pm ET
Grad School Fair, Jan. 10th, 11:00 am–3:00 pm ET (visit the CSWA's virtual booth!)
CSMA Panel: A Discussion on Anti-Blackness in Astronomy, Jan. 11th, 12:00–1:30 pm ET
Networking from Afar and Mastering the Informational Interview, Jan. 11th, 12:00–1:30 pm ET
Combat Impostor Syndrome, Jan. 11th, 4:10–5:40 pm ET
Enhancing Participation of Minority Serving Institutions, Jan. 11th, 6:50–8:20 pm ET
SGMA Meet & Greet for LGBTQIA Members and Students, Jan. 11th, 6:50–8:20 pm ET
NASA’s Opportunities for Scientists to Engage with Learners of all Ages, Jan. 12th, 4:10–5:40 pm ET
STARtorialist: Introduction to the Universe of Astro-Fashion, Jan. 13th, 12:00–12:30 pm ET
Evaluating a Job Offer, Jan. 14th, 2:40–3:10 pm ET

More career, networking, poster, exhibitor, and science sessions can be found on the AAS "at a glance" block schedule by clicking through the date tabs at the top.

We look forward to seeing you next week!