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February 27, 2010


So the theme for this month's Scientiae is continuity. BTW thanks Amanda for hosting this month.

As I was thinking about what to write about continuity, I realized that I'm going to have to get all academic on you. Don't worry it won't be painful and you may even find it interesting.

So let me tell you about Eric Jolly and my Trilogy of Student Success.

There are three pieces to the trilogy (ok yes it's a trilogy; guess that there are three pieces may not be a surprise). The pieces are:

Engagement Having an orientation to the sciences and/or quantitative disciplines that includes such qualities as awareness, interest and motivation.

Capacity Possessing the acquired knowledge and skills needed to advance to increasingly rigorous content in the sciences and quantitative disciplines.

and oh yes, the theme of this month's Scientaie, Continuity: Institutional and programmatic opportunities material resources and guidance that support advancement to increasingly rigorous content in the sciences and quantitative disciplines.

Why am I making you read this? Because I want to make it clear that interest (engagement) and skills (capacity) are not enough to make it as a woman in science. For pretty much all of us it does take a village-- kids do need institutional and programmatic opportunities, material resources and guidance in order to make it. In real language that means:
you don't know what a scientist does; you probably won't want to be one;
you don't know that just taking the SAT isn't enough; you don't take the content tests, you don't get into the best colleges;
your high school has no AP courses; you don't get into the best colleges;
no one helps you with financial aid; heck you may not go to college at all.

So yes-- convincing kids, even very, very smart kids, that STEM is for them is not enough- indeed in many ways it is what Paul Tsongas called a cruel hoax. If we truly want to diversify STEM, then we all need to be in it for the long run. We need, well yes, continuity.

PS If I've totally enthralled you with the trilogy--you can always read the long version.

February 23, 2010

Tell your students' stories and hopefully get them some money

Yup the title says it all; except that the stories are due March 1st. Sorry I just learned about it today. So here it is below:

Do you know students who have done something remarkable to address the Grand Challenges our world faces? Nominate them for the Extraordinary Stories Award! It couldn’t be easier!

Nominations may REUSE existing videos, essays, articles, business plans, posters, presentations, photo essays...
OR can be newly created

Who qualifies? Just about ANYONE who is or has recently been a STUDENT: K-12,
undergrad & grad students, recent alumni…

What’s at stake? Cash prizes totaling $15,000 and trip to Boston Summit on the Educational Implications of the NAE Grand Challenges - April 21

Who am I up against? All submitted stories will be celebrated at http://www.grandchallengestories.org/stories.t.

Go here for more information or here to nominate a story:

I know you have some stories-- consider submitting them and heck send them to me too-- would love to post some. And oh yeah you know the rules no names unless the person the story is about let's me know it's ok to use her/his name.

February 22, 2010

Pat's at AAAS

Ok actually I was at the 2010 AAAS annual meeting in San Diego. I got back late last night and reorientated to snow. While I was there I presented on how NSF's Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professorate (AGEP) has led to dramatic increases in the annual number of STEM PhDs awarded to underrepresented minorities (URMs). And it has.

In the past 8 years, institutions in the 19 AGEP Alliances increased the numbers of their URM PhD recipients in All Natural Sciences and Engineering by 49% (from 377 to 563).

Now we need to get those numbers much higher but a 49% increase isn't too shabby especially when the rates of increases for URMs are higher than for other US students. AGEP really is reducing the gaps while all gain. YES!

And oh yes you can read all about it here.

February 16, 2010

Girly and geeky, together at last

Isn't that a great title? How I wish I had thought of it, but Kate Harding beat me to it in her "tale of two women who found science and math right in the heart of Girlsville".

Quoting Boing Boing which was quoting Sherry Turkle's book Falling for Science, (Gotta love the web), Kate tells the story of computer scientist Christine Alvarado's mathematical awakening -- which involved a My Little Pony.

I had several small plastic Ponies that I used to play make-believe with my friends. But I had one larger, plush My Little Pony, a bright-green stuffed horse with a vivid pink mane and tail that I played with all by myself. I would sit for hours on my own, braiding and rebraiding its tail. I developed a system for braiding the tail of my Pony that taught me about mathematical concepts-- from division to recursion.

And if that's not happy making enough, Kate goes on to tell us the story of science writer Linda Geddes wedding which included biology experiments, a white princess dress, a tiara and a color scheme,

And when Kate concludes:

Some girls think My Little Ponies are dead boring and some women think big, white weddings are, and they certainly shouldn't be pressured into faking interest for the sake of the status quo. But neither should kids and adults of any gender who love traditionally feminine things and traditionally masculine intellectual pursuits be expected to see those loves as contradictory.

I start to swoon

Hat tip to FairerScience friend Kathryn Campbell-Kibler for sharing this.

February 15, 2010

Scientaie is back (ok not that it was ever really gone)

There has been some talk about the future of Scientiae and I'm delighted to tell you it's baaaack. Amanda over at A Lady Scientist is hosting and the theme is "continuity".

So my friends start writing and e-mail Amanda a permalink to your posts to scientiaecarnival [a] gmail [dt] com by 11:59pm on February 27th.

February 13, 2010

It was raccoons

Back in June, I posted asking you all for your advice as to who might be "stealing" our compost. Catherine suggested raccoons and at least for the compost heap, she was right.

The other day Tom looked out his office window and saw 1, 2, 3 fat raccoons at the compost heap. After months dining out of our compost heap, they should be fat. FairerScience friend Seth Campbell-Mortman suggested we name them "Black" "White" and "Bushy" (for their tails).

Somehow Black, White and Bushy pried the compost heap door fame off the base. To get at the compost food, they lift the whole door frame up, take out what they want (they love lobster shells and corn cobs) and then carefully put the door frame back so we can't tell it's been moved.

Unlike most magic tricks, this one is even more impressive once it is explained. Now if we can just figure out how they pried the door frame off the base without leaving any clues..... .

February 12, 2010

Introduce Barbie to Engineering Day

I was going to write about Thursday being Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day but hey Barbie, a computer engineer-- how can I resist posting about that?

Yes Barbie, that Barbie.

According to Wired, Barbie the computer engineer has glasses and a Bluetooth earpiece. She's wearing a t-shirt featuring a binary code t-shirt and has a smart phone and carries, a laptop case.

Progress??? Regression??? Leggings? Oh wait as a Go Fug Yourself fan I know that leggings are so so wrong. And oh yes soooo wrong too are Barbie's proportions compared to any woman alive even Twiggy or Fergy.

It's been a long long week -- so you all are going to have decide- should I be outraged? or not pleased? or neutral? or happy? Ok if you vote for happy, you are going to have to explain why..

BTW Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is part of National Engineers Week and there are lots of cool resources including a bunch of hands-on activities.

Thanks (well sort of thanks--did I mention it has been a long week and computer engineer Barbie didn't exactly make it easier?) to FairerScience friend David Mortman for letting me know about Barbie as computer engineer.

February 08, 2010

Thank you Susan

Susan Bailey and I started FairerScience low these many years ago (ok it was four and half years ago but some days it seems that FairerScience has always been part of my life--which by the way is a good feeling!)

Susan has spent her life making the world a better place for women and girls including spending the last 25 years directing the Wellesley Centers for Women. Well Susan has just announced that she is going to retire at the end of the year. Wellesley will miss her greatly; I on the other hand won't because I'm planning to get to see her more after she retires.

I'm sure there will be many celebrations of Susan in the months to come but I wanted to get things started early. Thank you Susan for all you've done for us all. I'm looking forward to seeing where your next great adventure will take you and to being along for a part of the ride.