01/08 Member Meeting Recap

Hi all,

Here is the meeting recap from last Friday:

  • The Danz Lecture with Anita Sarkeesian will take place on January 21st in Bellevue. Sign up for the carpool here. Additionally, there will be a Q&A and a pre-lecture reception; contact Heidi (hdnelson@uw.edu) for more information/to sign up.
  • There will be a career talk featuring Arwyn Smalley from St. Martin’s University on February 2nd, and there will be donuts.
  • Echo Lake Science Night, a great outreach opportunity, will be February 11th. Rae will send out more info this weekend. Additionally, stay tuned for information about Seattle Expanding Your Horizons.
  • On February 25th we will host the second annual WCS lecture featuring Allison Campbell. Her lecture will be at 4 PM, and there will be various other opportunities to meet and chat with her.
  • We’re hoping to set up an optional mentoring program for incoming first-year graduate students. If you have any suggestions, ideas, or you want to help write surveys, contact Emily Rabe (rabee@uw.edu), Katie Corp (corpk@uw.edu), or Nick Montoni (me) (montoni@uw.edu).
  • Sometime in the nearish future, we’ll be holding a constitution revision/ratification meeting. Stay tuned!

For more reference, here’s a document of upcoming events and the WCS calendar.

Finally, here are some links to non-WCS events that sound really cool (I know I will be going to them, anyway):

If you have any questions, ideas, concerns, comments, or complaints, feel free to contact your favorite officer.

Thanks, and have a happy quarter!

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Member meeting: Friday, Jan 8, 9:30-10:30

Women in Chemical Sciences will be kicking off winter quarter with a member meeting this Friday, January 8th at 9:30 am in CHB 239. We’ll talk about several of the events and projects we have planned for this quarter, including the Danz lecture and on-campus Q&A with Anita Sarkeesian (don’t forget to buy your ticket and sign up for our carpool), a career talk by Prof. Arwyn Smalley from St. Martin’s University, and the second annual WCS lecture featuring Allison Campbell from PNNL (who is also the ACS president-elect). We’ve also got some fun outreach events coming up, and lots of ideas for more events and projects.

Let us know if you’re interested in helping us plan any of these events, or if you have any other ideas or suggestions. Hope to see you Friday!

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Photos from the WCS Birthday Party (Nov ’15)

Happy 3rd Birthday to WCS-UW!  As usual, it was a blast, with pizza, singing, cake, and of course: coloring!
Pictures courtesy of Katie Corp.

WCS Birthday Party Nov '15

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Photos from Highland Terrace Science Night Dec ’15

Science Night was an exciting night filled with kids who really LOVE coloring. The beginning was a slow with not that many kids showing up, but suddenly the table swamped with kids! That was the shocking part, but we were all worked hard to ensure everything went well.

Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Buenaflor.

Highland Terrace Science Night Dec '15

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LGBTQ and You: Wrap-up, Recap, and More Thoughts

Last Thursday, WCS put together a primer on LGBTQ+/Queer identities. It focused on terminology, experiences, and breaking down binaries. The workshop was geared towards those who don’t already have a good frame of reference for how to understand LGBTQ+/Queer-identifying folks.

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Lunch discussion: How do people react to reports of gender bias in STEM fields?

Our lunch discussion series (Thursdays at noon in CHB 339) continues! Contact me (hdnelson at uw.edu) or Teresa (tmheard at uw.edu) if you’d like to join our email list or access the schedule, or if you have a topic suggestion.

This week, we talked about a recently published study (Handley, Brown, Moss-Racusin, Smith; PNAS 2015, 112, 13201-13206) investigating how people react to evidence of gender bias. The authors showed that men view studies demonstrating gender bias less favorably than women do, a finding which has important implications for anyone interested in combating bias in STEM fields.

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WCS presents: Women in STEM lunches 

WCS-UW is kicking off a new event this year that we’re really excited about! Every week we plan to host a casual discussion on a wide variety of Women in STEM topics. Your hosts, Heidi and I, plan on covering anything from how the scientific community is responding to the latest uproar to the newest research on gender biases in STEM, and everything in between. We’re meeting on Thursdays from 12:00-1:30 in CHB 339. Don’t worry if you miss some weeks, we’ll be updating this blog with summaries of the articles and our reactions to them.


Finally, let’s talk about sexism in science

By: Teresa Swanson

It’s no secret that science has always been riddled with sexism. So why is it that the mainstream media is suddenly interested within the last year? Sarah Zhang, a writer at WIRED tackles this question in A New Twist in the Fight Against Sexism in Science.

In her article, Zhang suggests that the evolving changes in news reporting are a reason why sexism in science is getting a lot of press recently. With the popularity of sites such as Twitter and Facebook, first-hand accounts of the news and user-driven data are available to anyone within seconds. This ease of access stimulates quick discussion and easy activism on topics that may have been difficult to gather public support for in the past.

Zhang reviews the month’s biggest story, that of Geoff Marcy, a prominent exoplanet hunter (now formerly) from UC Berkeley. He was found to have sexually harassed female students over the course of at least a decade. Berkeley issued a conclusion to their investigation in June; he was given a letter that amounted to a mere shake of the finger. By October, an incredible majority of Marcy’s colleagues had petitioned for greater discipline. The story went viral after Buzzfeed caught wind of the situation, and soon scientists and the general public alike were outraged at the minimal response from Berkeley. In this case, the response even included pushback to the way Buzzfeed and the New York Times reported the story, pointing out that their treatments were either too dismissive of the victims, or too sympathetic to Marcy himself. Marcy ended up stepping down from his UC Berkeley position.

Zhang then notes the reaction to the case of the notorious Nobel laureate Tim Hunt, who is worried that having “girls” in the lab is too much of a romantic distraction for him and his male colleagues. In response to Hunt, women from around the world posted to social media pictures of themselves in lab or field garb with the hashtag #distractinglysexy. Zhang also references the incident of a Science Careers columnist Alice Huang, who advised women in science to ignore male colleagues who staring inappropriately. Due to the backlash on social media in this case, Huang is no longer writing for Science Careers. 

Near the end of her article, Zhang interviews Huang and hits a note that will likely come up week after week in our discussions. Huang describes the women who have taken their harassment or bias cases to court as the “walking wounded among women.” This description brings up the question: How willing are we, as individuals, to be the martyrs? Huang goes on to say, “but if you find people aren’t the walking wounded for life, then you get a little braver the next time.” It seems many women in science right now have to ask if there is enough support to potentially put our careers on the line to fight sexism, or if a nuanced approach is more appropriate.  The answer may be as individualized as every career and every situation. One thing is clear though: the conversations must continue to happen. This is exactly why we’ve started our discussion group.

Thursday was a fitting start to our personal conversation. We took time to look at the past and appreciate the fight our predecessors undertook. Any previous women in science had to tolerate the harassment and bias from men to pave the way for future generations of women. One by one, these women stayed quiet and achieved positions of power and respect, and have made it possible for our generation to take a more vocal approach to sexism. The numbers of women in sciences are finally growing large enough that women can band together to address sexism issues and propose meaningful changes to encourage equality in the workplace.

Just as the younger generations of women are a growing presence in science, so are the men who are willing to take a stand against sexism. Women have many more allies than previously, and this could be a resource to strengthen. We thought this might be an interesting topic to come back to in the future.

Zhang’s article was a satisfying and quick overview of the largest topics of science sexism in mainstream media this year, and a great launching point for future discussions in many directions.

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Graduate School Application Panel

Last week, WCS-UW and Free Radicals/PLU hosted a panel for undergraduates interested in applying to graduate school. Professors Rob Synovec (UW chemistry associate chair for graduate education) and Brandi Cossairt (member of the UW chemistry admissions committee) provided an administrative view of the application process while several graduate students shared their personal experiences. Thank you to all the of panel members and those who attended the event; it was a great way to start off the year!

If you missed it or would like to refresh your memory, here are a few key points:

  • Be sure to check the individual websites of institutions that you are interested in – you’ll be able to find application deadlines and information that may be unique to the school
  • When getting letters of recommendation, try to use faculty rather than TAs and bosses (the latter don’t carry too much weight)
  • If you transferred schools while an undergraduate, get letters from previous and current institutions
  • When looking for possible letter writers, you want to find that one person who can be your advocate and say something unique about you (doing undergraduate research can give you this)
  • Undergraduate research isn’t imperative, but you should have an idea of whether you like research or not
  • Your statement of purpose should express your interest relative to each institution – mention specific faculty, unique characteristics of program, etc.
  • Tailor your cover letter to each school
  • The most important part of your application will be your body of work as an undergraduate
  • In your statement of purpose, think of how you’re going to get the busy reader to take notice of your application – distinguish yourself early and explain any red flags
  • Be careful with templates, you want your statement to be original
  • There is an advantage to getting your application in early
  • Before you apply, it’s okay (and can help you) to contact professors at the institution to introduce yourself and express why you’re excited about attending that school
  • If you would like to defer, be sure to check with each individual institution as they have different policies
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Photos from Inspire STEM at UW Bothell

Photos from the UW Bothell Inspire STEM Festival on October 10th, where we taught students about chromatography by making coffee filter art.  All photos by Jeffrey Buenaflor.

Inspire STEM at UW Bothell Oct '15

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Resources for undergrads applying to grad school

Level Up! Moving on to Graduate School: This guide and worksheet (written by Olivia Lenz, UW materials science & engineering graduate student) walks through the entire grad school application process, from choosing where to apply to accepting an offer.

UW Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships, and Awards: While this office focuses on scholarships and fellowships, they offer workshops and materials to help with writing personal statements, building a resume or CV, and asking for letters of recommendation – all of which are also relevant for grad school applications.

American Chemical Society: The ACS provides several chemistry-specific resources, such as this “Planning for Graduate Work in Chemistry” guide, as well as more general links.

The ACS Directory of Graduate Research: This database includes a ton of information on chemistry professors and departments, and is searchable by research field, location, and gender. It’s a great place to start looking for potential research advisors.

Trends in Ph. D. Productivity and Diversity in Top-50 U.S. Chemistry Departments: An Institutional Analysis: This study, published in the Journal of Chemical Education in 2014, includes lots of interesting data about department size and representation of women and underrepresented minorities in Ph. D. programs over the past few decades. The University of Washington ranks #2 among these departments in the percentage of Ph. D. degrees granted to women between 2005 and 2009!

The Grad Cafe: The blog posts and discussion forum on this site offer perspectives from all different fields, from both prospective and current grad students. There’s also a database of grad admissions decisions to help figure out when you might hear back from your programs.

The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report both provide a lot of general information on the grad school application process, as well as program rankings – but don’t take the rankings too seriously! There are many different ways to rank programs, and individual experiences and outcomes vary a lot within each program.

Feel free to add your own links in the comments, or email us at wcsuw@uw.edu!

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