Friday, October 27, 2023

AASWomen Newsletter for October 27, 2023

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of October 27, 2023
eds: Jeremy Bailin, Nicolle Zellner, Sethanne Howard, and Hannah Jang-Condell
[We hope you all are taking care of yourselves and each other. --eds.]

Catalina Morales-Gutiérrez
From Item #1
This week's issues:
1. Meet Central American-Caribbean Astronomy Bridge Program Fellows - Part 4 
2. Margaret Burbidge Visiting Professorship
3. Women faculty feel ‘pushed’ from academia by poor workplace climate
4. Job Opportunities
5. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
6. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
7. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

An online version of this newsletter will be available at at 3:00 PM ET every Friday.

1. Meet Central American-Caribbean Astronomy Bridge Program Fellows - Part 4
From: Catalina Morales-Gutiérrez via

I am from San Jose, Costa Rica and I am very passionate about science and outreach. My journey began as a student at the University of Costa Rica, pursuing a major in Food Engineering. It took just 1.5 years for me to discover that my true passion and purpose lay in the field of Physics. Although, my actual journey began as a kid, inspired by scientists and their ability to both conduct research and effectively communicate their findings. But also, while playing with my favorite toys a microscope and my dad's old binoculars – using them to explore the wonders of the world, from the tiny details in everyday objects to trying to identify constellations.


2. Margaret Burbidge Visiting Professorship
From: Shelley Wright []

We wanted to bring to your attention that UC San Diego currently has its nomination process open for the Margaret Burbidge Visiting Professorship. This position offers support to women faculty members that wish to visit UC San Diego Astronomy & Astrophysics that includes a weekly stipend and potential support for child-care expenses if needed. 

For more information please see

3. Women faculty feel ‘pushed’ from academia by poor workplace climate
From: Jeremy Bailin []

By Christie Wilcox

Within the first 20 years of a faculty member’s career post-Ph.D., attrition rates range from approximately 2% to 5%—and at all stages that number is higher for women. That’s according to an analysis of employment records for nearly 250,000 U.S. faculty, published today in Science Advances. A follow-up survey of 10,000 of these researchers revealed that most left—or would leave—because they felt “pushed” out of academia rather than “pulled” toward a better opportunity, and this is especially true for women. The gender gap also increased with seniority: Women full professors are 19% more likely than men at the same career stage to leave academia, as compared with 6% for women assistant professors and 10% for associates. Women’s attrition rates were also higher at less prestigious schools and in non-STEM fields.

Read more at  


Read the peer-reviewed article at  

4. Job Opportunities

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

- Clinical Assistant Professor, Liberal Studies at New York University

5. 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.

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6. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter

Join AAS Women List through the online portal:

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To unsubscribe from AAS Women by email:

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7. Access to Past Issues

Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Meet Central American-Caribbean Astronomy Bridge Program Fellows - Part 4

The Central American - Caribbean Bridge in Astrophysics (Cenca Bridge) is a nonprofit organization established in the state of Tennessee in the United States with the mission to create and develop astronomy research opportunities in Central America and the Caribbean. Opportunities to pursue astrophysics in the region are few with only a handful of programs offering master’s in physics with a concentration in astronomy.  Cenca Bridge connects undergraduates from Central America and the Caribbean to mentors and advisors overseas in hope that they have the choice to pursue astrophysics as a profession. Every year, Cenca Bridge holds the remote internship program, where undergraduate students from the region apply to be selected for a 3-month long paid research internship. As the only organization to provide a paid research remote internship, it is important to highlight the contributions that many women in astrophysics from Central America and the Caribbean have already contributed to our field.

In this series, we will highlight selected fellows. If you'd like to learn more about the program and ways you can get involved please visit

My name is Catalina Morales-Gutiérrez, and I am from San Jose, Costa Rica and I am very passionate about science and outreach. My journey began as a student at the University of Costa Rica, pursuing a major in Food Engineering. It took just 1.5 years for me to discover that my true passion and purpose lay in the field of Physics. Although, my actual journey began as a kid, inspired by scientists and their ability to both conduct research and effectively communicate their findings. But also, while playing with my favorite toys a microscope and my dad's old binoculars – using them to explore the wonders of the world, from the tiny details in everyday objects to trying to identify constellations. 

How did you first become interested in astronomy or planetary science?

I have a vivid childhood memory of being astonished by the pictures of the 1991 solar eclipse, which was visible in Costa Rica. As I grew older, my fascination for this subject deepened and I became more aware of it. This happened during my teenage years that I stumbled upon the Zooniverse website; a platform dedicated to people-powered research. I enthusiastically engaged with their astrophysics projects during my free time. 

What are your aspirations?

I aspire to be a researcher in the area of physics, specifically I aspire to increase my knowledge on experimental optics, quantum sciences and nanoscience, and their applications to other areas of physics such as astrophysics. Also, I aspire to create opportunities for students and to create safe spaces within science.

What are you currently working on?

I currently have several projects. My main research has focused on theoretical and computational cosmology, mainly studying the Epoch of Reionization via the post-reionization epoch (using the Lyman-alpha Forest or HI line intensity mapping). My work has consisted of modeling, testing, and analyzing, using semi-numerical simulations (21cmFAST), the inhomogeneous nature of the reionization process for warm dark matter models (WDM) as well for different reionization histories. A recent publication, "Impact of inhomogeneous reionization on post-reionization 21-cm intensity mapping measurement of cosmological parameters", can be found here.

I have interest in other areas of physics as well, such as optical sciences, instrumentation, and atmospheric science. In optical sciences, I have been working on the measurement and analysis of reflectance spectra of cuticles of scarab metallic beetles of Costa Rica using a microspectrophotometer setup. For instrumentation and atmospheric science, I am part of the launch team for the NASA Ticosonde Project, in which I am responsible of the calibration procedures of electrochemical concentration cell (ECC) ozone sondes and I also work on the development of computational tools to facilitate data collection and analysis.

What else is important to you and how do you make time for it?

Physical activity is important for me, walking, swimming, or going to jiu jitsu classes. I am part of the Japanese jiu jitsu recreational team at my university which has established classes and that helps me make time for it. 

Spending time with friends and family is also important for me and I usually spend time with them over the weekends, by playing board games, going to the movies, and going out to eat. 

What community issues are important to you and why?

Based on my personal experiences, I am particularly passionate about the issues of education equity and opportunities for women. During my time in university, I became acutely aware of the disparities that existed among my classmates, such as varying levels of English proficiency and differing levels of preparation in science subjects, particularly math. It became apparent to me that some individuals who had attended public schools faced more obstacles in comparison to those who had received a private education. This situation seemed inherently unfair to me, as our educational system should be designed to provide equal opportunities for success based on the required level of knowledge.

Furthermore, I am particularly concerned about the limited opportunities available to women in the field of physics. This started when being witness of the disproportionately small number of women pursuing this career path. Moreover, I encountered discouraging comments suggesting that physics is primarily a field meant for men. I firmly believe that every individual, regardless of their gender, should have equal access to opportunities and be able to pursue their interests and passions without being limited by societal stereotypes.

What are your near-future plans?

My near-future plans are to finish my undergraduate degree next December, and I am currently working on my applications for physics graduate programs to start on fall 2024. While also, being active on my outreach programs. 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Rethinking Tenure

By Nicolle Zellner

In the past few weeks, several media outlets have published articles about tenure and its expectations. Topics range from re-envisioning how metrics (e.g., citation rates, h-index, prizes, invited talks) should be used (if at all) to eliminating tenure altogether. 

Credit: Jim Darling/2023 DU Provost Conference/Denver University

Amber Dance reported in Nature that the North American tenure system has sometimes struggled to keep up with the goals of modern academia. Some universities and schools, however, are altering their tenure criteria; others are seeking to help faculty members to meet the criteria already in place. “There are campuses that are making those incremental shifts that are really impactful,” says Chavella Pittman, a sociologist at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, and a consultant on faculty development. My own institution, a liberal arts college, has recently polled the faculty to ask about alternate forms of scholarship (e.g., community-focused scholarship) and peer review that could be used to evaluate colleagues' scholarly development in the context of interim and tenure reviews, as well as promotion, merit, and bonus increase recommendations.

In fact, there is a global movement to reform how research is assessed, and it includes recognizing a wider range of research contributions. In July 2022, the European University Association and Science Europe laid out guiding principles for reform and established the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA). Commitments to guide the reform of research assessment include:

  • recognizing diversity in the contributions to, and careers in, research;
  • basing research assessment primarily on qualitative evaluation;
  • abandoning the inappropriate uses in research assessment of journal- and publication-based metrics;
  • avoiding the use of rankings of research organizations in research assessment; and
  • agreeing to allocate resources, raise awareness, and share results from reform experiments.

These kinds of catalysts - not panaceas - may help when an academic ladder is longer, especially for folks from historically marginalized communities. In the October issue of Physics Today, Rachel Ivie and Susan White, who have long collected, interpreted, and published data on graduation rates and employment factors in the community of physics broadly, report that race and ethnicity can affect how quickly a faculty member receives tenure. Interestingly, they found that it does not take longer for women to receive/earn tenure compared to men, nor was there a statistically significant difference in time to tenure between faculty members who identify as white and faculty members who identify as Hispanic/Latino. However, barriers in the tenure process have been found in qualitative research and statistical analyses of the small numbers of people in the intersectional groups that were studied led to a large standard error in the analysis.

Time and startup packages reflect a huge investment in an academic career, on both sides (faculty member, institution). So, when tenure doesn't work out - despite receiving federal grants, being recognized with professional society prizes and awards, and having success in the classroom - the news is devastating. As reported in the Physics Today article, tenure denials are uncommon, and statistics about them are scarce, but almost everyone knows about someone who was denied tenure. In many cases, though, reasons are vague or not provided. Others leave before going up for tenure at all.

At most top universities, tenure is evaluated in multiple areas: number of publications (and perhaps, quality/rank of journal), number of citations, quality of teaching evaluations, letters of recommendation, recognition in the community via receipt of prizes and invited talks, and success in being awarded grant money. An unwritten requirement is that a candidate be a "good fit" and service to the institution or community usually doesn't count for much. Studies have shown that each of the evaluation criteria is biased against women (see references 1-4 below). According to Meg Urry, a professor of astronomy at Yale University, past president of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and past chairperson of the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA), though she doesn't have statistics, in the departments she's been in, it’s the women’s cases that get picked on.

Is there a better option? Urry calls the tenure system terrible. David Helfand, former chair of astronomy at Columbia University and a past president of the AAS, has himself steadfastly refused tenure stating that tenure does not equal excellence. In the Physics Today article, a physicist who was denied tenure says, "Tenure is necessary. Without it, the university system would crumble. Scientists would go to other sectors for higher-paying, less stressful jobs." And there are plenty of examples of this. In the same article, geochemist Maureen Feineman says that in the long run, she's been a much happier human than she would have been in a tenured position.

What do you think? Please comment below and/or anonymously submit your experiences of tenure denial and/or difficulties in positive reviews. We will publish the stories in a forthcoming series about tenure experiences.

Read more:

The Insular World of Academic Research: More community-focused scholarship could build public trust. What's standing in the way? Read about this at The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required).

Know Your Rights: Tenure Discrimination

The Future of Tenure (Rethinking a beleaguered institution., page 10)

Tenure's Broken Promise (It’s scarce, unevenly distributed, and limiting scholars’ careers., page 30)


1. Gender Differences in Grant Submissions across Science and Engineering Fields at the NSF 

2. Exploring Bias in Student Evaluations: Gender, Race, and Ethnicity

3. Gender diversity of research consortia contributes to funding decisions in a multi-stage grant peer-review process

4. A moving target”: a critical race analysis of Latina/o faculty experiences, perspectives, and reflections on the tenure and promotion process

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Nüzhet Gökdoğan, Turkey's first woman astronomer

By Jeremy Bailin

On August 14, 2023, Google honored astronomer Nüzhet Gökdoğan with a Google Doodle. Gökdoğan was born in 1910 in İstanbul, Türkiye, and received an undergraduate degree at Lyons and a graduate degree in physics at the University of Paris before returning to join the faculty at İstanbul University in 1934. Her Ph.D. dissertation at İstanbul University was the very first doctoral thesis in the Faculty of Science. She was the founding president of the Turkish Astronomy Society, Chair of the Astronomy Department from 1958-1980, and served as first female dean of the university's Faculty of Science. Her work included stellar and solar abundances, and the history of astronomy in Turkey.

Gökdoğan paved the way for an outstanding current generation of women from Turkey in astronomy, including Feryal Özel, Chair of the School of Physics at Georgia Tech, who said "she's an inspiring scientist who was ahead of her time and paved the way for women in Turkey through all the roles she held and the institutions she started. A Turkish woman completing an astronomy PhD in 1930s and going on to lead academic institutions and observatories... what a remarkable achievement!", and Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil, Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College, who said "Nüzhet Gökdoğan is an inspiration to women everywhere, not only in Turkey. It's unfortunate that I became aware of her life much later than I should have, and sadly, this is a situation shared by many extraordinary female scientists whose accomplishments aren't given the recognition and celebration they deserve."

Join us in celebrating Gökdoğan, and read more about her life and contributions here.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Women Eclipse Chasers

We welcome contributions from our readers! This week’s guest post was written by Thomas Hockey, Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Northern Iowa. He lives on the path of the 1869 total eclipse of the Sun. His post is especially timely as we in the United States prepare for the annual eclipse on October 14, 2023 and the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Sometimes science and politics overlap in serendipitous ways. One just has to look for them.

The trans-continental 7 August 1869 total eclipse of the Sun was the first for which scientific observation was expected to have a spectroscopic component. It also was the inaugural in the United States at which a significant number of women participated in its study. 

The United States Nautical Almanac Expedition to the path of totality included Professor John Van Vleck (1833-1912; Wesleyan University), who was stationed in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. He was assigned spectroscopic observation, even though he was a neophyte to what eventually would be called an astrophysical technique.

The three minutes of totality simply did not allow for an inexperienced spectroscopist to observe and record what he had seen. Van Vleck needed help and found it close by--down the street from his hotel, where an attorney just starting out had hung a new shingle.

Mansfield (~1870), Credit: Wikipedia

Arabella Mansfield (1846-1911; née Belle Aurelia Babb) volunteered to take notes for Van Vleck. Doing so, she gave up time that otherwise might have been spent viewing the celestial spectacle itself, the first over Iowa in recorded history and the last in a lifetime.

But Mansfield was not new to ‘firsts’. She was the very first female lawyer licensed in the entire country.

Less than 50 kilometers away, Maria Mitchell (1818-1889; Vassar College), the pioneer professional female astronomer in the United States, observed the August 1869 total solar eclipse, too. She did so along with a group of her students and young alumni, the first scientific expedition populated exclusively by women. Here is where the coincidence appears.

The famous professor from New York and the attorney from Iowa do not seem to have met surrounding the event that was the total eclipse. However, both the National Woman Suffrage Association and the Association for the Advancement of Woman began organizing in 1869, and membership lists overlapped. Mansfield would become a member of the former’s executive committee, while the presidency of the latter would be held by Mitchell. In these roles they crossed paths. 

We are reminded that even astronomy looking up—considered esoteric by many—does not take place in a vacuum of progress below.