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Meet the Woman Who Makes the James Webb Space Telescope Work
The JWST is poised to unlock revolutionary discoveries. Astrophysicist Dr. Jane Rigby is charged with figuring out how best to harness the capabilities of this amazing observatory. “Give me a telescope, and I can come up with something good to do with it,” says Jane Rigby, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who serves as the agency’s operations project scientist for the $10-billion James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most powerful off-world observatory yet built by humankind. Over the course of her career, Rigby has used many of the world’s premier ground- and space-based astronomical facilities - and she is helming one of Webb’s many “early release science” campaigns front-loaded for its first year of observations, utilizing the telescope to study star formation in galaxies across eons of cosmic time. But her main work with Webb is to work with her team to ensure everyone fortunate enough to use it can do “something good,” by looking after the full breadth of scientific investigations the telescope will perform for researchers around the globe during its planned five-year primary mission. This is no small task: For those hoping to squeeze as much science as possible out of this one-of-a-kind observatory, each and every moment of Webb’s time is precious - and Rigby oversees the schedule.
Posted on 26 Jul 2022
Title IX – Ensuring Gender Equity in Education
Title IX was passed on June 23, 1972, by the United States Congress for the purpose of prohibiting sex discrimination in any education setting or other activity that receives funding from government assistance. Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Over the years, Title IX has provided protection and justice for victims of sexual harassment and assault, students that are pregnant and parenting, members of the LGBTQ+ community, teachers, coaches, and athletes. Read about the history of Title IX, why it’s still relevant, and recommendations for institutions and policymakers in Title IX at 50 a report by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE). AWIS is a member of NCWGE.
Posted on 27 Jun 2022
The Unwritten Laws of Physics for Black Women
"Physics taught me that time moves like an arrow, always pointing forward. But I’d argue time is more like a tightly wound spiral. The names and faces are new at each turn, but this feeling that we don’t belong has hardly budged." Important article by Katrina Miller, a physics PhD student and journalist.
Posted on 27 Jun 2022
Inspiring Black Women In Computing: Modern Figures Joins Khoury College Podcast
The theme of this year’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences DEIAB (diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging) Speaker Series is Why I Belong in CS. The series, a mix of in-person and virtual events, hosted University of Florida professors Jeremy Waisome and Kyla McMullen for a podcast on March 30. Waisome and McMullen host Modern Figures, a conversational-style podcast they created that elevates the voices of Black women in computing. Their podcast is presented by the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Science in collaboration with the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Through Modern Figures, McMullen and Waisome share stories about women and girls in computing, aiming to reach students where they are and dismantle the idea of the stereotype-advancing “single story.” Each podcast follows a similar trajectory to tell the story of each guest - childhood, education, work experience, present career, and future goals - with a focus on who pointed them towards computing. They want their podcasts to be understood by everyone, regardless of how much experience listeners have with computing and technology. They especially hope to engage with high schoolers and encourage them to consider computing-related fields.
Posted on 05 Jun 2022
The Promise of Science at RTI International
Tamara Terry started out at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, as a telephone interviewer. Fast forward 20 years: she's RTI's Research Survey Scientist; Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Leadership Council Domestic Outreach Chair; and University Collaborations HBCU Relationship Manager. Read more about her impactful career - and her amazing advice.
Posted on 05 Jun 2022
Chien-Shiung Wu, the pioneering Chinese-American physicist who helped revolutionize the science of nuclear physics
Chien-Shiung Wu, the pioneering Chinese-American physicist who helped revolutionize the science of nuclear physics, was born on this day in 1912. Nicknamed the "First Lady of Physics" and the "Queen of Nuclear Research," Wu is best known for conducting the Wu Experiment, which disproved the hypothetical law of the conservation of parity. Although Wu devised the experiment which disproved this long-held theory -- and was lauded for providing the “solution to the number-one riddle of atomic and nuclear physics" -- she was overlooked when the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to two of her male colleagues, Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, for their work on the theoretical aspect of the research. Having to overcome significant sexism during her long career in a heavily male-dominated field, Wu once mused at a 1964 symposium, "I wonder, whether the tiny atoms and nuclei, or the mathematical symbols, or the DNA molecules have any preference for either masculine or feminine treatment.” Wu was born in China and excelled throughout her academic career there, but at the recommendation of one of her graduate supervisors, she set off for the US in 1936 to attend the University of Michigan for her PhD in nuclear physics. However, when she learned that women weren’t allowed to use the front entrance at Michigan, she decided to attend the University of California, Berkeley instead. She completed her PhD in 1940 and was recruited for the Manhattan Project’s Substitute Alloy Materials Laboratories in 1944. There, she helped develop the process for separating uranium metal into uranium-235 and uranium-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion. After WWII, she took a position at Columbia University, where she would remain for the rest of her highly productive career. Although she was passed over for the Nobel, Wu received many accolades for her pioneering work, including the first ever Wolf Prize in Physics. Wu continued to do research late into her life; she passed away in 1997 at the age of 84.
Posted on 05 Jun 2022
Succeed or Keep Trying: The Motto that Shapes My Perspective
Dr. Joyner Eke's career story is defined by determination - from engineering school in Nigeria, to a PhD from University of Kentucky, to her current work in life-saving scientific research at ThermoFisher Scientific. Read her story for many valuable lessons.
Posted on 30 May 2022
Seeing Milky Way's new black hole is 'only the beginning': US researcher
At just 33 years old, Caltech assistant professor Katie Bouman is already a veteran of two major scientific discoveries. The expert in computational imaging - - developing algorithms to observe distant phenomena - helped create the program that led to the release of the first image of a black hole in a distant galaxy in 2019. She quickly became something of a global science superstar, and was invited to testify before Congress about her work. Now, she has again played a key role in the creation of a groundbreaking image of the supermassive black hole at the heart of our own Milky Way galaxy - a cosmic body known as Sagittarius A*. Her working group within the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, which revealed the stunning image, was tasked with piecing it together from the mass of data garnered by telescopes around the world.
Posted on 30 May 2022
Scientific collaborations are precarious territory for women
By collaborating with other women, whether through informal mentorships and networks, building diverse lab groups or securing savvy co-authorships, female scientists can push back against the systemic barriers to female-led team research. Nobel laureates Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier first met at a 2011 conference in Puerto Rico, where both gave talks about a then little-known biological system called CRISPR–Cas9, which bacteria use as an immune defence. They immediately hit it off. “She was coming to CRISPR from a very different perspective than I was,” Doudna says. “And I liked her.” The two women began working together across fields and continents — Doudna is a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley. Charpentier, a microbiologist, was at Umeå University in Sweden at the time. Over the next year, they adapted the CRISPR system to edit DNA in any species. The technique is now used to genetically modify organisms for everything from routine laboratory research to agricultural uses and cancer therapies. In 2020, Doudna and Charpentier became the first all-female team to win a Nobel prize, and only the second winning team to include more than one woman. Aside from winning science’s top medal, Doudna calls the collaboration with Charpentier “one of the great joys of my life”. Their complementary scientific expertise and commitment to the collaboration made the work enjoyable.
Posted on 30 May 2022
Women Who Lead the National Science Foundation: Dr. Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves
With an annual budget of $8.8 billion, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) advances research at U.S. colleges and universities and provides opportunities for science education from the precollege to postgraduate level. NSF has had a longstanding commitment to programs that increase participation of people underrepresented in science and technology, including women. One of the Foundation’s most prominent contributions in increasing the representation of women in science is its cross-directorate program for the advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers (ADVANCE), in which it has invested over $270 million since 2001. The Foundation has made a parallel investment in the advancement of women among its staff. Although only two women have been appointed to the top leadership position (not including acting directors) since the first NSF director was appointed in 1951, women today occupy top leadership positions in five of its seven directorates in disciplines spanning geosciences to engineering and as its chief operating officer. In addition, women occupy key positions on its advisory National Science Board, including the current chairperson. One of them is Dr. Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves.
Posted on 09 May 2022

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