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December 29, 2007

An obligatory end of 2007 Post

Ah, it’s that time of year…top ten lists, reflections, and resolutions. 2007 was definitely a big year for me and it warrants some reflection. Since every media outlet seems to be doing lists I thought I would try my hand at one (there’s also the fact that I love making lists and talking about myself, so, there you go). I haven’t made any resolutions for 2008 yet but I have been thinking about trying to focus more on the positive. It probably wouldn’t be that difficult for me to rattle off a list of not-so-fun (and some downright terrible) parts of 2007 but in the spirit of that quasi-resolution I decided to focus my list on the good things that happened. So, without further ado - my top 10 favorite things about 2007, in no particular order and featuring both the big and little joys in life:

1. That I finally finished my dissertation, defended it, and completed my PhD.
2. Graduating! Yeah I know it’s closely related to number 1 but it was such a big deal that I’m including it twice. I lost my voice during the graduation ceremony (the tail end of a cold, heavy robes, and two hours in a hot stadium with no water can do that to you) but it was a wonderful celebration. I felt very lucky that so many people were able to come to Maryland and watch me graduate - my husband, parents and sister, in-laws, grandmother, and many of my friends were able to be there.
3. Starting my new job as a Research Associate at Campbell-Kibler Associates. I am thrilled to be working with Pat and love the work that we’re doing.
4. In case there wasn’t enough self-promotion going on, starting a
business with my mother was the fulfillment of a long-time goal. We’re having a wonderful time being crafty and working together.
5. Going to some great concerts –
Indigo Girls, Carbon Leaf, and the hilariously potty-mouthed Kathy Griffin.
6. Celebrating my sister-in-law’s engagement and sharing the excitement of her wedding planning.
7. Getting our fixer-upper house one step closer to being finished by fixing up our living room.
8. Celebrating my graduation, anniversary, and new job with a lovely vacation in Mexico.
9. Realizing that my husband was right when he kept telling me that
The Wire was the best show on television. We just finished watching all four seasons on DVD and are looking forward to the impending start of Season 5. The main plotline for Season 4 was focused on the public schools and was both incredible and heartbreaking to watch.
10. Traveling to NYC to spend time with friends and spend lots of money at bead shows.

So, the best of 2007…it was a very exciting year but we’re going to wind it down in a nice, quiet way. We’re thinking of going to see the CSI Exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston. If you’re near Boston, you should check it out, the last day of the exhibit is January 1st. The website for the exhibit looks pretty fun and it’s great to see diversity in the cast of a show centered around science. If you’re not near Boston, don’t fret, the exhibit will be traveling to different museums throughout the U.S. until 2010.

FairerScience wishes everyone a safe and happy new year!

December 27, 2007

Which came first: the order or the universe?

A recent cover story in Science Times, the regular science section of the New York Times , asked, “Which came first: the order or the universe? And can science ever supply an answer?” The article, “Laws of Nature, Source Unknown” seemed to be screaming one answer clearly: girls are not a part of the equation. This article featured a large, colored illustration which took up nearly half the page. Four prominent figures were represented in the article, three that appear to be boys drawing images related to various fields of science and exploration. The fourth image was that of a girl, standing by—perhaps she was observing, but it was obvious she wasn’t an active participant in the pursuit of science exploration.

Yes, the print version of the Times did include two other illustrations, including one that featured a girl alone with her drawings. But these were approximately two-inch square black and white images and they were buried a couple of pages into the section. It’s unfortunate that the editor didn’t clearly direct the illustrator to better represent gender participation in the sciences.

FYI: The article ran December 18th and the online version does not include the large illustration of dispute but does feature an expanded version of the two smaller ones—which appear as one illustration online—so unless you have access to the print version, you may not get the full picture.

Donna Tambascio
Deputy Director for Communications
& External Relations
Wellesley Centers for Women

Posted by Pat for Donna

December 25, 2007

Science: It's Everywhere

I am busily reading one of my Christmas presents (thanks Jerry and Jane), The Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book 1896 by, of course, Fannie Farmer. From the dedication to Mrs. William B. Sewall "in appreciation of her helpful, encouragement and untiring efforts in promoting the work of scientific cookery, which means the elevation of the human race" to Chapter XXXVII Recipes Especially Prepared for the Sick which begins "Statistics prove the two-thirds of all disease is brought about by error in diet." the book is full of the science of its time. Indeed Fannie Farmer writes her wish is that the book "may awaken an interest through its condensed scientific knowledge which will lead to deeper thought and broader study of what to eat."

I'm having a wonderful day today and hope you are as well

Merry Christmas

December 21, 2007

Good Cheer or Want to be a Star?

Today I was going to blog on a new article from Scientific American Mind: "Sex, math and scientific achievement: Why do men dominate the fields of science, engineering and mathematics?

But it is almost Christmas and I think we need some good cheer. So you'll get the analysis blog on the article sometime over the holiday, but today it's time to kick back, sip some eggnog and congratulate the Discovery Channel for their good taste.

According to CraigsList, the Discovery Channel wants you, reader of FairerScience, for a program called Hidden Cities. They are looking for "an adventure loving architecture, urban planner or engineer."

They say "Via their unconventional exploration and hosting techniques Hidden Cities will reveal the inner workings of the most essential elements of urban life through the structures and infrastructures that make the city work, whilst awe-inspiringly uncovering the history behind them. We'll examine such essential elements of urban life as water, power and transportation, among others."

They are looking, in their words for "talented hosts (Men and Women!) for its next long running hit series. Women, African-American, Latino, Asian and Native American applicants especially encouraged to submit"

If you want to apply, e-mail DiscoveryCasting@gmail.com with contact info, brief bio, picture, the reason why you are Discovery Channels next star and a video link of any television appearances or video reel you may have.

Do you want me to be your agent?

December 17, 2007

Windows, Winter and Webcasts

A bit of advice based on personal experience, do NOT replace your bedroom and bathroom windows in December during one or more blizzards. One of the many side effects is that you get behind in your postings.

That said, many thanks to skookumchick for plugging the webcast that we at FairerScience will be doing January 9th for the National Girls Collaborative Project . I really was planning to tell you about it and even ask you to register here.

Here’s the blurb about what we will be doing:

Why Don't They Hear What I Say?

Have you ever felt as though you're shouting and no one hears; that your good work on gender and science is ignored by policy makers, teachers, and parents who all too often fall back on myths and stereotypes about gender?

If your answer is yes, then join Pat Campbell and the FairerScience team to learn more about why you aren't being heard and what you can do to help people separate myth from reality. We will cover issues of language, of media reporting and just what the facts actually are. In addition, we will explore the women in science blogging community and ways blogs can be used to introduce girls to the real lives of real scientists.

The National Girls Collaborative Project archives all of its webcasts on its site and ours will be there too. I’ll be posting about it as well. But we would love it if you would join us.

Remember it is January 9th from 2:00-3:00 EST; 11:00-12:00 PST and well you know 1:00-2:00 CST and 12:00 -1:00 MST and you can register here.

December 10, 2007

Taking a Look at Tenure at MIT

My first two blog posts for Fairer Science were full of good news but my pessimistic nature told me that wouldn’t last…and now we’re here, with a depressing Boston Globe headline: Tenure at MIT still largely a male domain. I thought it was an interesting article; it touched on hiring rates, the pipeline issue, mentoring, and tenure clock adjustments.

I looked at the pretty graph that the Globe staff helpfully provided, showing promotion to tenure at MIT for the past 5 years. 5 years ago things were pretty bad – of the 15 faculty granted tenure, a whopping 0 were women. But then there were some improvements: 4 out of 15; 6 out of 19; 5 out of 19. Hey, women were above 25% for three years in a row, break out the bubbly! Wait, not so fast – this year the number is 1 out of 24.

Now, I obviously understand the importance of taking a larger view of things – you can’t make grand conclusions based on one year. Yet, that voice inside me still yells “One?” The Globe quoted MIT president Dr. Susan Hockfield: “We are absolutely committed to accelerating our progress, and we want to be able to show that progress every single year, but all of the variables that go into this mean some years, it's not going to look as good as we want it to look." She also called the group photo of faculty members “unsettling” and Dr. Nancy Hopkins (a biology professor at MIT and a professor who walked out of Lawrence Summer’s infamous speech) found the photo “unnerving.” Both are good adjectives, although I’m tempted to use a few other words that I probably shouldn’t post publicly. The Globe article mentions some steps MIT has taken to address the problem and we at FairerScience know that there are many talented people who are working so hard to achieve equity. (Hey, look at me being optimistic!)

December 07, 2007

Science Fair Triumphs

Growing up, whenever I saw science fairs depicted on a television show or featured on the local news I always thought they looked pretty cool. I would imagine myself standing next to some neat experiment with a colorful poster explaining what I had done. This little fantasy never came true for two main reasons. First, I don’t remember my school ever having any science fairs and second, I didn’t really like science classes that much. (I know, I know, I’m posting this on “Fairer Science.” At some point I’ll write about the innovative science courses I took as an undergraduate and hopefully make up for this shocking admission).

Today I want to celebrate three amazing young women who recently stood next to their colorful posters at a national science competition, the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. But they did more than just stand there, they won the whole shebang. For the first time ever, the winners of the individual and group grand prizes were all young women. Isha Jain from Bethlehem, PA won the individual grand prize (and a $100,000 scholarship) for her research on bone growth. Her work has already been published and the judges “found her work to be at graduate student level.” Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Harinoff of Plainview, NY won the team grand prize for their tuberculosis research (they will split a $100,000 scholarship). There’s talk of their work helping to develop new treatments for tuberculosis.

If you get a chance, check out this this Business Week article or this MSNBC article for more photos of the fabulous winners, some great quotations from them, and more information about their impressive accomplishments.

Pat pointed out an interesting fact about the competition, one that reminds us that there’s still more to do: 75% of the finalists have a parent who is a scientist. Pat commented that “(big sigh) the best way to get more top scientists still seems to be for scientists to have more children and we guess that means that we at FairerScience just have to work harder.”

Posted for Jenn by Pat who promises that Jenn will be doing her own posting next week

December 06, 2007


Today Skookumchick e-mailed me the following, reminding us all of what happened 18 years ago.

"On December 6, 1989, an armed gunman named Marc Lepine entered an engineering classroom at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. He demanded all 48 men in the class leave the room, lined up all 9 women against a wall, and, shouting "You are all a bunch of [expletive] feminists!", proceeded to shoot them. He went into the hall and shot 18 more people, mostly at random. He finally shot himself.

He had killed 14 women all together, and injured 9 more women and 4 men.

The women who died could have been anyone. They could have been your friends, your mothers, your sisters, your lovers, your daughters, your neighbors, your students, your teachers, maybe even you.

They were killed because they were women."

Remember those who died in the Montreal Massacre:

Genevieve Bergeron, 21, was a 2nd year scholarship student in civil engineering.
Helene Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master's degree.
Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.
Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.
Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.
Maud Haviernick, 29, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials, and a graduate in environmental design.
Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a 2nd year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.
Maryse Laganiere, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.
Maryse Leclair, 23, was a 4th year student in engineering materials.
Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a 4th year student in mechanical engineering.
Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.
Michele Richard, 21, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials.
Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

Please honour the white ribbon as a symbol of the fight against violence against women."

Today is, in Canada, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Ceremonies are held all across the country and flags on all federal buildings are lowered to half-mast as a reminder of the need to end violence against women.

December 05, 2007

Turning a Ferrari into a Physics Degree

There are too many days when sexism and misogyny feels overwhelming – this week I read posts about some horrific anthropomorphic pencil sharpeners, I can’t even bear to describe the figures but there are posts and pictures at femnisting the mood to be disgusted and outraged.

But my first blog post on Fairer Science will actually feature something positive, due to an article my scientist husband pointed out to me. The article features Cynthia Bamdad, who is the founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Minerva Biotechnologies. The article itself, from MIT’s Technology Review is from from 2004 but it still made me happy.

First off, I love the company name. I generally find the names of Biotech companies to be pretty boring and not only is this one not boring, it’s named after a goddess! And not just any goddess, but according to Wikipedia , Miinerva was “was considered to be the virgin goddess of warriors, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, crafts, and the inventor of music.” No comment from me on the virgin goddess aspect but that’s a pretty cool combination (plus as a crafty diva I like the combination of wisdom and crafts). The article doesn’t discuss the origin of the company name but mentions that prior to becoming a scientist Dr. Bamdad was an artist so I can only assume we like the name for the same reasons.

Goddesses aside, the article about Dr. Bamdad was a nice success story. After her divorce her only asset was a Ferrari, which she then sold to fund an undergraduate degree in physics. That led to a PhD from Harvard, patents, and success in the private sector. Dr. Bamdad went a step further and started her own company: “Like many first-time entrepreneurs, Bamdad was spurred to mount her own steed by watching someone else get extremely rich off of her work.”

So, boo to nasty pencil sharpeners and yay to science goddesses everywhere.

Thanks to Gary Lavine for the link!

Posted by Pat for Jenn

December 03, 2007

Scientiae Carnival is up and better than ever.

December's Scientiae Carnival is up. The topic, transcending the debate, is a good one and Kate from A K8, A Cat and A Mission, has done a great job pulling some really interesting topics together and putting her own spin on it.

I'll be thinking about and quoting her comment below for quite a while:

And I feel as though in academia, where we should know better, the fetishism of balance (to borrow a phrase I read recently in the context of the global warming debate) has made it so that we can't have honest conversations about what our lives look like and how we would like science research or education to look.

Thanks Kate!