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February 26, 2009

Being My Own Role Model

Liberal Arts Lady asked us to write about "Role Models of Women Making History" for this month's Scientiae Carnival I know how much I depend on so many women (and men) for inspiration, motivation, perspiration (or at least the work that caused the perspiration) and getting me through the day (thank you Kathryn, Tom, Mort, Seth, Pamela, Laurie, Danika, Toni, Jane, Shirley, Yolanda, Susan, Jenn, Peter, Ellen and all the rest of you to whom I will have to apologize forever for leaving you out).

But I am not writing about any of you today because Tom and I are in Puerto Rico taking a couple of days just for ourselves. Yup I'm being my own role model and accepting and acting on the idea that sometimes you just need a break in between making and remaking history. Please let me be your role model too

That said I'm going back to swim in the ocean and go down the water slide (again)!

February 24, 2009

The Inaugural Edition of Diversity in Science Carnival Is Up!

So cruse on over to Urban Science Adventures and check it out! The Carnival is celebrating the people of science and engineering – those who innovate, invent, research, teach, and reach out. You'll to learn, or learn more, about a bunch of truly inspiring people. DNLee has done a great job pulling this together and we all owe her many thanks for getting the Carnival started.

February 20, 2009

Biology isn't destiny. But don't worry we can change that.

So ok, on average, men are taller than women; but, since according to the CDC half of all men and half of all women, fall between 64 and 70 inches in height, what's the big deal? The big deal is that we, as a society, have made it a really big deal. Think about it. In spite of the overlap, we see men as tall and women as short. We see tall men (and women) as more masculine. And when we see a heterosexual couple, where the woman is taller than the man, it looks, well, off.

This has lead to some unbelievable things. There is a book coming out next month called "Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry's Quest to Manipulate Height". Amazon describes it as "A fascinating story of medical experimentation, parental love, and the extreme measures taken to make children fit within “the norm.” and says:

Most people rarely think about their height beyond a little wishing and hoping. But for the parents of children who are ridiculed by their peers for being extraordinarily tall or extraordinarily short, height can cause great anguish. For decades, the medical establishment has responded to these worries by prescribing controversial treatments and therapies for children who fall outside of the “normal” height range... [the book tells] the story of the boys and girls themselves, many of them now grown, who were subjected to a wide range of non-FDA-approved medical procedures. These treatments— which consisted of extreme doses of estrogen, pituitary glands taken from both animals and human cadavers, and testosterone injections—often had disastrous side effects.

I'll write a review as soon as I get a copy.

And oh yes, we're not just doing this to our children, we're doing it to our dogs! Check out the breeding standard for Chinook Dogs

The male should appear more massive throughout than the bitch, with larger frame and heavier bone... The desirable range for males will be 25-28” at the shoulder and 70-90 pounds; females, 23-25” at the shoulder and 60-75 pounds.

And no that's not the way they are; that's the way they are "supposed to be". Sigh

PS If you want to learn more about gender ideologies using the height example, read Kathryn Campbell-Kibler's "Why Don't They Hear What I Say? " or better yet listen to her here.

February 16, 2009

Women in Science: 50 Must Read Bloggers

The folks over at Health Zone Blog have complied a list of, well I guess you can figure it out from the title of the post, "50 Must Read Bloggers" on women in science. We are delighted to be on the list along with such cool people as Peggy at Women in Science, Alice and Sciencewoman and Zuska. Ok wait, I gotta stop. I know and like so many of the women on the list and as I've been reading the ones I don't know, I feel like I'm getting a whole new group of friends. So here is the whole list, check it out (ok sorry I didn't do links to them all, it's been a long day and I'm tired. So either google for the links or get them here).


1. Scientiae A blog that composes posts written about the vast field of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The many topics include living the scientific academic life as well as the rest of life and sharing feminist perspectives on science and technology.

2. Women in Science Devoted to women in science and engineering from the present to past decades. Learn about women in science and the important roles they have played in this field.

3. FemaleScienceProfessor Written by a professor in the physical science field. Although she chooses to remain anonymous, her posts are full of backbone.

4. Field Notes from an Evolutionary Psychologist This blog discusses subjects on animal behavior. Research is conducted by a newly employed PhD. who conducts interdisciplinary research on primate behavior.

5. Sciencewomen Written by two insightful women who share their professional and private lives. One is a new science assistant professor with a husband and a young child, while the other is a new assistant professor in engineering education in a long-distance marriage.

6. Cocktail Party Physics A group science blog that’s main objective is to produce a site where readers can chat about the latest news and ideas in science with a spin. Find witty, offbeat and unorthodox views of science itself, literature, pop culture, history, and other facets of our society.

7. Fairer Science This blog is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research on Gender in Science and Engineering Program (NSF). The purpose of this blog is for researchers and spokespersons for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to be able to adequately report their findings. This allows policy makers, educators and parents to comprehend findings and make choices based on them.

8. The Happy Scientist Written by a 6th year PhD student in the earth and life sciences. Read about her frustrations, sometimes, on what it means to have a job as a scientist and especially as a woman.

9. A Lady Scientist Follow a 4th year Ph.D. student in biochemistry on her adventures in grad school. Her posts are thoughtful and give you look into her life experiences.

10. The Culture of Chemistry This blog began as part of an NSF grant to write text for learning physical chemistry that combines modern research and the values of chemistry. Topics of research are computational chemistry and molecules with uncommon structures.

11. Eye on DNA Highlights the latest in DNA related research and applications. Written by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei, an epidemiologist and biotech consultant.

12. Blue Lab Coats A veterinarian and biologist who hopes that what she does in her job and in life makes a difference for others. Read about her experiences in hope that it can avoid some of the errors and frustrations she has been through.

13. We Can Sleep Later Juggling grants, peers, and being a female microbiologist are some of the issues this scientist discusses. She has an educated and insightful view of the world and how science relates to it.

14. Thesis-With Children This blog is written by a PhD student at an Ivy League University. She is also a woman of color in a white, male-dominated field. Read her sincere posts on being an African-American scientist, having two children, and trying to have a healthy relationship with a suffering husband.

15. On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess Dr. Isis is a physiologist at a major university. She blogs about balancing her research career with the necessities of raising little children, how to triumph as a woman in academia, and whatever she finds fascinating.

16. Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde Written by a post doctorate in the biological sciences. Hear about her dilemmas about if I work too much or not enough. Her posts are straightforward and honest when vocalizing on being married to a scientist and deciding to have children.

17. DrugMonkey This blog focuses on the women in the US biomedical research industry. It is a large establishment which pushes our economy while improving public health. Many of these articles highlight these women and their voice in science.

18. ChemicalBiLOLogy Help this chemical biologist find the true meaning of Chemical Biology. Learn about her views on molecular structures as well as her thoughts on gender and making it at her male dominated workplace.

19. ScientistMother Find amusing posts from this scientist who is also a mom. She brings light to motherhood and how it is like raising your own experiment.

20. Lecturer Notes Written by a professor of chemistry, this blog focuses on creating ways to make chemistry a more popular subject. Her articles are filled with ideas and make the subject of chemistry a bit more appealing.

21. Candid Engineer in Academia Frequent posts offering concerns on varied academic issues. Follow her rantings on being an engineer- scientist trying to find her way as a postdoctoral researcher.

22. The Musings of a Life-Long Scholar This is a very knowledgeable and informative blog for women in science or students just starting out. Learn helpful tips on life experience in and out of science from this seasoned geologist.

23. See Jane Compute The goal of this blog is to help inform laymen of technology and its effects on society, science, and culture. This assistant professor in a computing field is close to reaching tenure and hopes to create access to technology for everyone.

24. A Natural Scientist Reading this roller coaster blog just might help you realize what the word busy really means. From writing her thesis, working a full time job, and even expecting a baby, this scientist has her hands full.

25. RRResearch Written by a professor of microbiology at the University of British Columbia. This blog focuses on her day-to-day work, describes experiments and analysis, and her interpretation. The hope
is to give non-scientists some insight into what real research is like.

26. Now, what was I doing? Hear the adventures of being a single female scientist in this blog. The articles will keep you in stitches as she talks about her life living in England, her students, and her peers.

27. What a recently tenured college professor shouldn’t be doing Being a recently tenured Associate Professor has not lightened the pressure for this scientist. Feel her tension and her relief as she writes about her liveliness as an academic, a wife, and mother.

28. Unbalanced Reaction A Newly initiated Ph.D. steers through the unknown area of a twelve month visiting assistant professor assignment. Read about her struggles while trying to decide to move cross country to a future position.

29. Life as I Know it With just finishing her Ph.D. in science research, this blogger gives you a glimpse of the challenges facing women scientist today. From job searching to interviewing, she has covered all the bases when it comes to working in her field.

30. Candidate Models This blogs posts are filled with stories showing that there are still obstacles for women who are interested in pursuing science. Listen to this professor’s wants and ideas for young girls wanting to get involved in science and overcoming those hurdles

31. Dinochicks Blogs Written by a Paleontologist working in Colorado currently doing contractual research, monitoring, and fossil preparation. Postings are mainly on geology and paleontology but there is a bit of bold humor on some other topics also.

32. Thus Spake Zuska Read these posts filled saucy opinions from an extremely feministic professor of engineering and science. She speaks freely about the denial of the scientific community to open their doors to anyone but white males. Her points are very sharp and cut throat when she talks about gender, race, class, and sexual orientation mattering all the time.

33. PodBlack Cat An archive of blog articles, links and thoughts on scientific and education related news and concerns. Features entries and essays on STEM careers for women, gender issues, research on superstition and education of science.

34. Ambivalent Academic Written by a grad student in biology working on her Ph.D. Follow her on her path as she tries to figure out exactly how to get this all done and what comes next.

35. Canada Girl Postdoc in America A blog chronicling the saga of a first year African- American postdoc from Canada. Read these engaging posts on her issues with finishing her thesis, race, gender and just being a scientist.

36. Adventures in Ethics and Science A blog on science with a philosophical twist. This Associate Professor of philosophy previously earned her Ph.D. in physical chemistry.

37. Aetiology A web log by an Epidemiologist with various subjects concerning the science of biology. A strong focus is on the epidemiology of infectious disease including vaccines, medicine, public health and the relation to our everyday life.

38. Bioephemera With a Ph.D. in Molecular Cell Biology, this woman has a number of subjects to discuss. Her articles focus particularly on genetics, developmental biology and philosophy of science but she also has some helpful hints and opinions on being a female scientist.

39. Discovering Biology in a Digital World Written by a microbiologist who then turned tenured biotech faculty and then entrepreneur. She is now a digital biologist who does research that involves computers. Read her random annoyance of research and examples of ways people use digital biology to discover different concepts.

40. Dr. Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge You can tell this pharmaceutical biochemist has a passion for science on this blog. She offers the reader wisdom and knowledge as she discusses the impact science has on our culture.

41. Raising Scientists This blog is all about the ups and downs of this rookie professor of mathematics and science as she starts her teaching career. Posts are funny and witty as she contemplates her students work and behavior.

42. Janus Professor, My Travels in a Two-Body Life This assistant professor in a scientific field at an Ivy League University has a lot to discuss on her blog. From having a baby a couple months ago to having a meaningful relationship with her scientist husband, her writings are full of intellectual thoughts and views.

43. The Neighborhood Toxicologist The focus of this blog is to make people aware of the consequences of contaminants on human health and the environment, especially on marine systems. This environmental toxicologist writes for area newspapers summarizing and interpreting new research on environmental contaminants.

44. The Bean Chronicles A day in the life of a scientist, mother, wife and writer. Read about this scientists’ dilemmas as she struggles with starting a new job away from academia and life in general.

45. Pretty Hard, Dammit Written by a student struggling with the deadline of her quickly approaching dissertation. Stay tuned for further updates.

46. Just a Girl After defending her dissertation on groundwater contamination, this scientist moved with her husband to the West Coast. Her articles are mostly about her new job in consulting but she manages to throw in some funny anecdotes about home and personal life also.

47. Curiosity Killed the Cat Read all about this 5th year PhD student in Science as she tries to overcome her insecurities and own her dissertation. This is an inspiring blog for young girls to read when wanting to pursue a career in science.

48. All of My Faults Are Stress-Related Follow the adventures of this tenured geology professor as she explores the rocks she loves. There are also beautiful photos of the sites where she does her research.

49. Volcanista: a magmalicious blog. While volcanoes are the topic of this blog, there is also enough of information on feminism, social justice, and academia.

50. The Ethical Paleontologist This British blogger is funding her PhD part time being that it is cheaper than full time. She is spunky and has fun blogging about paleontology topics.

February 12, 2009

It’s Black History Month! Celebrate Science and African-American Achievements

And part of the way that we are celebrating Black History Month is with a new carnival. DNLee over at Urban Science Adventure is the mother and first host of the Diversity in Science Carnival. She has given us the task of posting about a person who is a pioneer and/or innovator in STEM.

Since my background is in mathematics and my passion is increasing diversity, especially in STEM, I just have to post about Freeman Hrabowski. It is such an understatement to say that Freeman is amazing. Of course he is smart. He graduated at 19 from Hampton Institute with highest honors in mathematics. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he received his M.A. (mathematics) and four years later his Ph.D. (higher education administration/statistics) at age 24.

Well yes there are lots of smart people our there. What impresses me about Freeman is that, as the President of the predominately white, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), he has been the point person in creating an environment where successful minority science students are the rule not the exception. Indeed UMBC's Meyerhoff Scholars Program“has become one of the leading sources of minority students who pursue graduate degrees in the sciences and engineering—and it soon promises to become the leading source.” According to the website, at every gathering of Meyerhoff Scholars, he reminds students of the importance of persistence, asking them to recite the Langston Hughes poem expressing that sentiment:

“Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.”

Freeman quotes statistics and also tells stories (like all effective change agents, he is a great story teller). One of my favorites is when students challenged him because he tried to talk a student into being a scientist rather than being a science teacher. Those students, he explains, made him reexamine his ideas about what was important vs what was valued. He speaks about the power of listening and of bringing people together, believing that listening to the voice of people effected by the issue and creating a culture that encourages honest robust dialog can lead to a healthier environment.

Freeman Hrabowski is making a difference. And while I am glad that lots of people are hearing him; I just wish more were listening to him and doing what needs to be done.

PS One thing that I didn't know about Freeman before I started writing this was that he "was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, Four Little Girls, on the racially motivated bombing in 1963 of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church." I didn't know this, but somehow I'm not surprised.

Happy Birthday Charles

Last night I was thinking about Charles Darwin and Black History Month while reading the New York Times Book Review section (yes my multitasking can lead to interesting combinations) and what should appear before my wondering eyes but a headline, "Charles Darwin, Abolitionist". The review was of a book called "Darwin's Sacred Cause: How Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views of Human Evolution." Turns out Darwin hated the slave trade and was a strong supporter of the "sacred cause" of abolition.

Who knew?

February 09, 2009

Being a White Ally: AKA WORK

There’s been a lot of discussion going on about race in the science blogosphere lately, not all of which is-- hmmm I'm searching for a word and unfortuntely, the best word that comes out is civil. Anyway much of the discussion, including the sessions on gender and race at ScienceOnline09 (these were civil), has focused on being an ally and their (our) education. Indeed, one of the recommendations that came out of those sessions was:

Underrepresented groups are burdened by the need to educate their allies. Take it upon yourself to learn about the issues. And don't stop learning. Allies need continuing education.

Learning about race isn’t easy, and for me, as a white women, it can be uncomfortable. It's also a lot of work. damali ayo has a fabulous post that explains why work needs to mean “Whites Overcoming Racism through Knowledge.” Knowledge is key; communication, she says "is nothing without knowledge."

I’m working on this, and one of the resources that's helping me is an essay by Peggy McIntosh, called "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." Yes it's over 20 years old but it continues to be both relevant and powerful. Some of the things in it that resonate with me are:

I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.

It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.

Peggy has a list of 50 daily privileges of being white; reading them and thinking about what still holds and what should be added is, I think, part of that work that ayo wrote about.

Even with knowledge, you (ok maybe not you but I) screw up sometimes when dealing with race. It is almost impossible not to. Vito Excalibur's post on what to and not to do when you screw up is really helpful. You will need to read the whole post and follow the links to get the full value (remember this is work and it takes work). Here is what Vito did after she screwed up:

1) I did not insult the shit out of everyone who was criticizing what I did. This tactic is not always easy, but it is surprisingly effective! It is also quite versatile! It includes everything from not angrily calling your critics "cunts" to not gently explaining that if they'd had your educational advantages they'd understand why what you did was completely reasonable. If you don't want to start a flamewar, this is the best tool you have.

2) I linked to the arguments of the people who were disagreeing with me instead of lying about what they were.
This one is straight out of How To Suppress Discussions of Racism. It is currently being used to suggest that RaceFail '09, all the painful and important writing that has come out of it, all the justified criticism, is "bullshit and fake identity politics." As a tactic, it works, it's vicious, and it's dishonorable. If you are sure of yourself, why not provide links to what the people arguing against you are saying? If right is really on your side, people will see that. You will have no need to talk vaguely about trolls, abusers, or dogpiles.

3) I had friends who were better people than me.
This one isn't really to my credit: I was just lucky. When [info]matociquala made her original response to Avalon's Willow, which I still think was a perfectly reasonable response, what happened was that her friends took it upon themselves to not behave so graciously. When I took up my position of defending and justifying myself, it was amidst all the other people involved acknowledging the mistake, apologizing, and promising not to have it happen again. If instead I'd been surrounded by people insisting that we hadn't done anything wrong and that the people criticizing our actions were crazy, I might well have started to believe them. It's what I wanted to hear, after all. All the more reason to try and hang out with people who are wiser than you are.

And yes there are references in the above, you don't understand; remember I told you that you really had to read the whole thing to really get it. Anyway I'm printing these out and putting them up next to my required sheets on Workers Comp and EEOC. I suspect they are going to be a lot more useful. And may I always have friends (and family) who are better people than I am.

February 04, 2009

The Montreal Massacre: The Movie

Each December 6th, along with many other women in science blogs, especially Alice at Sciencewomen, we at FairerScience remember the 14 women engineering students at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. who were killed because they were women in engineering.

It is a horrible story and a sad day. In Canada, the day of the killings, December 6th, became the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. And now there is a movie about the killings. Polytechnique. opens today in Quebec.

I don't know how I feel about that and it turns out I'm not alone.. The women and the story should not be forgotten; but is a movie the best way to do that? I just don't know. I don't even know if I can bear to go to see the movie.

Sylvie Haviernick, whose younger sister, Maud, was killed at the Polytechnique.said:

"It's not an entertaining subject. But since when do films have to entertain us?" When they make movies about the Holocaust, it is meant to be entertaining? "History's great wars, tragic events like 9/11 - you don't stop directors and creators from taking them on."

Maybe I will go see it.

February 01, 2009

Our Dreams for a Better, More Equitable Society

This month’s Scientiae Carnival is about our dreams for a better, more equitable society. A piece of my dream was realized earlier this week when the first legislation signed by President Obama was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, especially when he said he signed it in honor of Lilly Ledbetter, his grandmother “who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up again” and his daughters, “because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams.”

There are no limits to our dreams. acmegirl writes powerfully about choices, real choices, “not just new compulsory roles masquerading as choice.” “More choice”, she explains, “seems really simple, but it would actually require a lot of restructuring of our current version of society. Or maybe not. Letting other people live their lives the way they want to may very well mean the end of the world as we know it. But if everyone in the world woke up tomorrow and realized that it could also mean the beginning of an even better one, the work would be done in short order.” I was all teary when I got to the end of this post, acmegirl gives us both hope and direction!

Mrs. Comet-Hunter agrees, saying that Acmegirl “wrote a fantastic post that pretty much sums up how I would answer this question in a general sense.” She then goes on to show how those choices could work out in her life, realizing that as is the case for so many of us, “these days my dream life seems to be changing on a daily basis. I guess that's what happens when your future is unknown, but there are many options.”

Ecogeofemme from the Happy Scientist, (hmmm a Happy Scientist—that is a dream in itself. Sorry I digress) has “the same visions that many others have -- freedom to have the type of family you want with good, affordable childcare and access to any kind of job with no discrimination.” She reminds us that this is about women AND men. All I can say in response to her conclusion “If there is no men's work and women's work, then there can't be any discrimination related to work. Even science.” is YES! Sciencewoman agrees. Her comment that she fervently hopes “that there could be a better way than having a woman work a "man's job" (in my case, science professor) and then come home and work a second "woman's job" (mother, cook, housekeeper)” was a major reason why I suggested this theme for the carnival.

Journeys of an Academic posts about her ideal world in science. She worries that “we hide behind the idea of "scientific objectivity" and do everything we can to remove ourselves from social and political consequences.” For her a more equitable science would have more people willing to listen, to have a meaningful conversation even though it means questioning their understanding of how science fits into society at multiple venues.”

Volcanista is a little discouraged, feeling that her dream for a more equitable society, particularly in science, is “kind of an impossible end goal.” But “it’s something we have to work towards nonetheless. Because even incremental improvement is real improvement, and it can really impact people’s lives in positive ways.” Confused at a Higher Level has become, well not discouraged, but less optimistic the longer she has persisted in Physics, but she still has her dreams. Reading them made me teary yet again.

Some of our dreams are happening now. Monkeygirl knows there are lots of problems and much to worry about but still is happy and “so so close to living the life of my dreams.” It is, as she says “pretty awesome.” I’m saving this post to reread during bad days.

And on these bad days, I’m also going to go back to Physicienne at Lightly Scattered’s post where she gives us some things we can do to move toward that better, more equitable society. She reminds us of the importance of “being aware of what you are doing, why, and how your actions affect those around you on a more local level” as well as “being aware of what is happening on a global scale and understanding your connection to current trends or conflicts, including how they can impact your life.” PodBlack Cat also gives us hope that are dreams are coming to fruition by telling us about so many of the cool things that are happening in Australia. You gotta check out The Gravity Discovery Centre, especially the sound track!

I’ve been honored to host this Carnival. It has given me great hope for the future. Thank you all.

PS I’m pleased to let you know about a new carnival, the Diversity in Science Carnival. For its first edition, you are asked to write about a person who is a pioneer and/or innovator in any of the amazing fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), how this person impacted STEM and/or inspired you and why his/her story is interesting. The deadline Friday, February 20th.