Thursday, May 30, 2024

DEIA and Education Activities at the Summer 244th AAS Meeting

By Alessandra Aloisi, Member of the CSWA

AAS meeting logo

This summer’s 244th AAS meeting in Madison, Wisconsin will be held on June 9-13, 2024 jointly with the Laboratory Astrophysics Division. The meeting is promised to be jam-packed with a lot of great scientific talks, as well as opportunities for networking with colleagues and learning more about the state of our profession, equity, inclusion, education, and outreach.

The meeting showcases strong representation of women speakers in the plenary sessions, including:
  • Rachel Bezanson (University of Pittsburgh) - Lives of massive galaxies through cosmic times
  • Cecilia Garraffo (SAO/CfA) - AI models for astrophysics and atmospheric sciences
  • Erika Kohler (NASA Goddard) - Chemical and spectral properties of exoplanetary clouds and atmospheres
  • Judith Lean (Lab. for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Boulder) - Variations in the Sun’s radiative output and effects of this variability on Earth 
  • Kerstin Perez (Columbia University) - Detection of high-energy cosmic particles as evidence of dark matter interactions
  • Noemi Pinilla-Alonso (Florida Space Institute) - Surface compositions of minor bodies to understand formation and evolution of the solar system
  • Teznie Pugh (University of Texas Austin) & Aparna Venkatesan (University of San Francisco) - Protection of the dark skies and the space environment

First Timer’s and Opening Receptions are on Sunday, June 9. Astronomy educators and undergraduate student receptions are on Monday, June 10.  We strongly encourage you to participate in other sessions sponsored by the AAS’s committees working with the AAS Board of Trustees to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in Astronomy. These events include the following:



There are a lot of additional opportunities to learn more about the state of the profession, education, outreach, and diversity activities at this AAS meeting, including:





The full block schedule can be found here. And please feel free to stop by and say hi in-person if you attend one of our events, or tag and tweet us.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Seeking CSWA Members!

The Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) is seeking new members! We are a committee of like-minded people, promoting the committee's mission to build an inclusive and self-sustaining community that supports gender equity and the success of women* in astronomy.

In the past few years, we've worked hard, using input from the greater Astronomy community, to create a Strategic Plan for the 2020s, which includes projects that aim to address Harassment and Bullying, Creating Inclusive Environments for an Ethical Workplace, Professional Development, and the committee's own Operations and Interactions.

Those Operations and Interactions include undertaking projects identified in the Strategic Plan, maintaining a collection of helpful resources, publishing the AASWomen newsletter, publishing a weekly blog, hosting workshops at AAS meetings, working with all of the AAS inclusion committees (CSMA, SGMA, and WGAD), and more!

Are you interested in being part of this team? Apply here! 

This committee still ain't like other women's committees, and we welcome applications from anyone interested in supporting the mission of the CSWA and its projects. The current members of the committee will review applications and make selections, paying attention to career stage, employment area, identity, and CSWA areas indicated to be of interest to the applicant. The application deadline is July 1, 2024.

CSWA logo

* The CSWA interprets “women” to mean people who identify as female, including trans women, genderqueer women, and nonbinary people who are significantly female-identified (1), and includes women with multiple, intersectional (2) identities, including race, ethnicity, class, disability, and more.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

An Undergraduate Perspective: Why Studying Astrophysics Is Worth It

By Jade Marchant, Weber State University

The author celebrates the first particle received from the self-constructed
CosmicWatch portable muon detector. Image credit: Jade Merchant.

Studying astrophysics throughout my undergraduate career has changed my life in so many wonderful ways. Currently, I am finishing up my last semester of undergrad at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Writing this has been a lovely way to reflect on what I’ve done and experienced in the last few years at this school. This education has encouraged enormous personal growth, allowed me to see the universe from a unique and beautiful perspective, and introduced me to so many incredible people.
The astrophysics group at Weber State, led by Dr. Stacey Palen,
stands by the Keith Terry Palen Observatory.
Image credit: Jade Merchant.
The Physics and Astronomy Department at Weber State has a unique gift for helping students find their scientific identity. One of the ways our faculty has helped students discover their passions in science is by offering numerous pathways for students to explore experimental physics. Over the course of one undergraduate degree, I was an observational astronomer taking data on eclipsing binary stars, a particle physicist who built their own portable muon detector, and an engineer who built a radio telescope out of a kitchen wok! In addition to these projects, our faculty replaced final exams with final papers or presentations so that we could explore our interests. These assignments allowed me to demonstrate my knowledge while simultaneously providing opportunities for me to become a better science communicator and they gave me excuses to explore those initial questions that drove me to study astrophysics.
The relationships I have cultivated with my peers have also greatly benefited my undergraduate experiences. The faculty and students at Weber State have created a space for collaboration that has resulted in a strong and friendly community of physicists. One of my favorite memories in lab was when we retied a friend’s hair bow after it had come loose while she kept fiddling away with wires on the rover she was building. This memory is simple, but I feel so lucky to exist in a space where physics, femininity, and friendship were able to coexist in such an effortless way. In the same vein, staying up all night to run a telescope and observe the universe is an incredible experience, but it is infinitely more fun when you get to do it with your friends who are also gigantic nerds! I am incredibly fortunate to have been a part of such a wonderful group with such diverse skill sets and passion for what they do. Through example, my peers have continually shown me how to be a better teammate and a better scientist.
Astrophysics is nothing without community and educators, but I also know that I, individually, have worked diligently to make this degree worth it for me. Deciding to go to college was a huge and terrifying step for me. My high school experience was pretty rough, and I ended up dropping out in my junior year and taking the GED. After this, I thought that my chances at pursuing further education had gone out the window. I am so glad that I gave myself a second chance, because from that second chance I learned that I had as many chances as I needed to change my mind and try again. That persistence and my love for astronomy have carried me through this degree and I know that it will carry me even further.
This degree was so challenging in so many different ways (it is, after all, astrophysics!), but I’ve always tried to maintain hope that this is what I am supposed to be doing and that there is a space for me in this field. In the future I’d love to be an educator, so that I can show more people like me that school doesn’t have to be awful, that hard things are worth doing, and that you can fail as many times as you want. I want to help others find their scientific identity in astrophysics as my peers and the faculty at Weber State have done for me time and time again. For me, astrophysics is SO worth it! 

Jade and friends do radio astronomy with
a kitchen wok reflector. Image credit: Jade Merchant.

Ed’s note: After graduation Jade will be applying physics skills and experience to a job in industry, doing work in electromagnetic compatibility testing. Congratulations!

Friday, May 10, 2024

AASWomen Newsletter for May 10, 2024

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of May 10, 2024
eds: Jeremy Bailin, Nicolle Zellner, Sethanne Howard, and Hannah Jang-Condell

[We hope you all are taking care of yourselves and each other. --eds.]

This week's issues:
Gruber Prize Recipient Marcia Rieke.
Image Credit: NASA

1. Advocating to Change Academia for Mothers 
2. Marcia Rieke Receives $500,000 Gruber Cosmology Prize
3. AIP Launches the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, & Accessibility Strategic Plan
4. 2024 Advancing IDEA in Planetary Science Conference: Save the Date  
5. 4 Amazing Women From History You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
6. Graphic novels can help boost diversity in STEM 
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

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

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Advocating to Change Academia for Mothers

Chromatography Flowers (Image Credit:

In a commentary for Nature, Fernanda Staniscuaski writes that "[w]orldwide, mothers are too often pushed out of academia. But we are stepping up to push for a revolution in academia. Individuals and groups affected by the hostile academic environment should unite.

By organizing to seek change, mothers put ourselves at the forefront of work to reshape academic culture. Our efforts extend beyond personal struggles — we are architects of a transformative movement. The struggle for change spearheaded by mothers yields benefits for the entire academic community."

Eds note: Check out some of our other posts about mothers in STEM:


Thursday, May 2, 2024

AAS Committee on Employment and You! Services and Recent Updates

By Luisa Fernanda Zambrano-Marin, Emily Mason, Chelsea Sharon, and Julia Kamenetzky

The AAS Committee on Employment is here for you! What will you do for work once you complete your degree? How far up in the degree ladder are you interested in going? What branch of work would you want to go into? Here is a summary of what we have been up to this year to help you answer these questions and more!

The AAS Committee on Employment has been quite active updating our online resources and providing training to AAS members. We are composed of fourteen passionate members, led by Julia Kamenetzky from Westminster University; our charge is to

facilitate the professional development and employment of astronomers

at all career stages and on all career paths, and

to promote balance and fairness in the job market

Our most visible activities for the AAS community are workshops and splinter sessions at the winter AAS meetings. This year kicked off with the popular How to Give Great Presentations workshop, led by Rob Coyne and Kavitha Arur at the AAS 243 Winter meeting in New Orleans. Next came Beyond Academe, an awesome event showcasing diverse career paths beyond the traditional academic track. We had a panel discussion featuring NASA scientists, science communicators, and more, who painted a vivid picture of the possibilities for careers beyond academia. The roundtables, where 75 participants were guided by 20 expert facilitators, dove into specific career paths in an engaging exchange of ideas. The committee also sponsored the Software & Data Carpentries Workshops and the Astronomers Turned Data Scientists Splinter Session.

AAS Committee on Employment members (from left to right): Kavitha Arur, Quyen Hart, Julia Kamenetzky, Rica Sirbaugh French, and Amit Vishwas at the Beyond Academe Roundtable Discussion event at AAS 243 in New Orleans. Photo credit to Diane Frendak.

Our committee also works behind the scenes to support AAS members. The committee joined forces with AAS staff to provide feedback and suggestions for the revamp of the Job Register webpage, ensuring clarity and ease of use for both employers and job seekers. Members Emily Mason and Dave Principe have been conducting detailed textual analysis of job postings, in addition to our annual quantitative analysis of postings. 

We kept on with the redesign and update of the list of resources available at the AAS Career Resources webpage including the Academic Career Advice page! Updates to more resource pages will be available shortly. For a summary of the resources available to job seekers and those in charge of hiring (including resources to help ensure an equitable and fair search process) see Chelsea Sharon’s post on the AAS Digest

Collaboration is key. We actively engage with other AAS groups, such as the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Education and Mentoring Specialist Tom Rice, fostering knowledge sharing and identifying areas of common interest. Additionally, we joined forces with the Beyond Academic Careers Advisory Committee (BACAC), aiming to amplify their collective impact. AAS Committee on Employment members also serve on the Meetings Task Force, the Early Career Engagement Task Force, and the AAS Workshop Task Force

Looking ahead, our main projects are to continue with popular workshops at AAS meetings. We plan to

  • introduce a new Project Management workshop,
  • nurture collaborations with BACAC and other AAS committees and task forces,
  • keep analyzing job data,
  • improve website access to career resources, and
  • support international students' and employees’ special concerns.

The AAS Committee on Employment continues to support astronomers’ career aspirations worldwide. We seek to empower individuals at every career stage, foster collaboration, advocate for transparency within the field, and pave the way for a brighter future for the astronomy community.