The 4th annual WCS lecture took place on Wednesday, May 2nd. Our speaker was Dr. Jennifer Gerbi, a program director at ARPA-E.
Dr. Jennifer Gerbi has been practicing physics and materials science for over 20 years, and has a keen interest in the intersection of high quality science and new business development. Currently serving as a Program Director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), she manages the DELTA and SHIELD programs, developed the new SENSOR program, and manages additional projects for solar and power electronics. Prior to joining ARPA-E, Gerbi worked at Dow Corning in multiple capacities including portfolio building and new business development. She led teams in areas such as solar, batteries, and silicones for electronics. Prior to Dow Corning, Gerbi served as a Senior Materials Scientist at The Dow Chemical Company, focused on rooftop solar shingles. Gerbi served a postdoctoral fellowship at Argonne National Laboratory (vapor phase diamond thin film growth) and as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Illinois (novel thin film diffusion barriers). Dr. Gerbi holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science (semiconductor focus) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also received an M.S. in Physics from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in Physics from Bard College.
WCS members had the chance to sit down for lunch with Dr. Gerbi and discuss her career path.
WCS members had the pleasure to attend lunch and dinner with Mangels Lecture speaker Donna Nelson last week. Donna also gave some excellent talks about both the Nelson Diversity Surveys and her work as a science adviser for Breaking Bad. Special thanks to former WCS president Beth Mundy for nominating this speaker and coordinating the visit!
WCS is hosting this year’s Mangels Lecture!
As science advisor of the hit TV series Breaking Bad Donna J. Nelson will speak about her experiences in Hollywood and how the world of science and film connect. She will reveal how the science and science-related information behind the show was crafted in order to support the actors and engage the public. Nelson also will discuss initiation of and interactions in the work with script writers, providing key insight in the world of chemistry.
This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. The event will take place at 7:30 pm in Kane 102 on 1/10.
A link to the event can be found here, or on Facebook here.
In addition to the lecture, WCS will be hosting a conversation with Dr. Nelson on Diversity in STEM. This will take place on 1/9 at 4 pm in CHB 102.
Last week, UW’s physics department hosted a seminar by Rachel Scherr, a UW physics alumna and senior research scientist at Seattle Pacific University who has also conducted research on diversity and education for the American Physical Society (APS). This discussion was prompted in part by the lack of diversity in this year’s cohort of physics graduate students: of 31 students, 30 identify as male. While the demographics of our chemistry department are much more balanced in terms of gender, the topic of diversity in admissions is important for anyone interested in graduate education.
Joy Delyria talked to us about easing the difficulties that scientific controversy presents. As a scientist, we are not here to change an individual’s mind using one conversation. I mean, if we do, that is awesome! However, realistically, that is usually not the case. Instead, each conversation is about portraying the science and exposing the common myths.
When starting this type of conversation, she first suggests to access one’s audience. How are they currently standing on the issue? Are they venters, on the fence, or on board? Talking to each different type of individual requires a different approach. Based upon the response, we are then able to establish frames of reference for audience.
The second major subject is the potential traps that need to be avoided. A story about cute critters, for example, tries to invoke empathy by creating a narrative. However, this story solely focuses on a tiny aspect of the issue at hand and makes the audience feel as if they are being manipulated. Another important trap to avoid is the crisis or doom and gloom stories that tend to overshadow the subtle message of the talk and to explain the issue at matter too complicated and too difficult to understand. This type of trap also mainly focuses on incidents and accidents as evidence, which does not support scientific discussions.
While these conversations are occurring, some things are to be advised. Most importantly, it is vital to listen to what they are saying, and making comments that assure that. This usually means that the audience is more willing to listen rather than shutting down the argument immediately. Secondly, scientific concepts need to be clarified using good metaphors. Typically, scientists would show the effects of CO2 as part of the green house gases that would heat up the earth whereas a simple example of a blanket would suffice and be more relatable to layman. Creating more CO2 gas is like a blanket; the more layers you put on it, the hotter it gets. Secondly, addressing their values is important in this conversation. Do they personally feel responsible for the environment? Or do they feel more responsible for the community? Addressing these values of responsible management and stewardship would encourage a more positive conversation about the environment.
In conclusion, Joy reminds us that it is not up to us as individuals to change one’s opinion. What we can do, however, is to collectively show them our scientific perspective on these controversial issues in a positive manner. And this by itself is considered success.
Last week, WCS held our third annual WCS lecture (here’s our recap of the first, and of the second)! This time, we hosted Dr. Geri Richmond, from the University of Oregon. Geri has had an amazing scientific career, focusing on the spectroscopy of molecular processes at liquid surfaces, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. She has also been actively involved in science policy (serving on the National Science Board and also as the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) and supporting the careers of women in science and engineering through COACh, a grass-roots organization that provides professional development workshops and networking opportunities for women around the world.
Two of our members, Sarah Vorpahl and Nick Montoni, hosted this fantastic day-long event about Diversity in STEM. Read more about it at the Daily! We’re so proud of you two!
Managing with Mindfulness: Meghann Gerber, PsyD and licensed psychologist, will be giving Women in Chemical Sciences an introduction to mindfulness meditation on Friday, July 29, at 10:00 AM in CHB 239. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that involves cultivating attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental manner. Over time this practice strengthens attention and promotes an open attitude that is particularly helpful for responding to life’s challenges. Please come and enjoy a relaxing wind-down from your week!
Women in Science & Politics: Women in Chemical Sciences will host a talk by UW Chemistry alumna Jennifer Brookes (PhD ’15). As a SPIE/OSA Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow, Dr. Brookes spent the last year in Washington, D.C. working as a special legislative assistant for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D–NY). She will talk about her experience as a scientist working on public policy issues around gender in science and education, and how her work is more broadly connected to the underrepresentation of women and their voices in Congress. The talk will be held on Monday, August 1, at 5:00 pm in 261 Bagley Hall, and all are welcome to attend.
Hi folks! Happy Memorial Day. Here’s my take on Dan Grunspan’s talk, titled “Old Boys’ Club Starts Early: Males Under-Estimate Academic Performance of Their Female Peers in Undergraduate Biology Classrooms.” After I give my two cents, I’ll provide some cool links! Some notes: Dan’s research differentiated between people using the words “male” and “female.” In order to stay true to his analysis, I will do the same (even though gender is a spectrum and male and female are technically references to “biological sex,” whatever that is).
Please join us on Thursday, May 26th at 5:30 pm in CHB 102 for “Old Boys’ Club Starts Early: Males Under-Estimate Academic Performance of Their Female Peers in Undergraduate Biology Classrooms” with Dan Grunspan. Dan is a UW anthropology graduate student and author of a recent study investigating how gender influences students’ perceptions of their peers in undergraduate biology classes at UW.
Here’s the abstract for Dan’s talk; you can also check out the whole paper here.
Women leave STEM fields at a higher rate than their male peers. Inequitable social environments in undergraduate classrooms may contribute to this gap in retention rates. We examine how gender influences student perceptions of one another in undergraduate Biology courses by asking students to list peers they feel are strong with the course material. We asked this question eleven times over three iterations of the same large introductory Biology course. We find that males are more likely than females to be listed by their peers as strong with the course material. Social network models which control for students’ grade, whether they were outspoken, and the course structure, reveal that this bias is driven by males under-nominating their female peers, and over-nominating their male peers. Females, on the other hand, nominated equitably based on student performance and outspokenness. The most renowned students in all three classes are male. The results of this survey may reflect differences in the social environments faced by male and female students, which could influence self-confidence, and ultimately persistence in this STEM discipline.
This event will be a great way to learn more about gender in STEM education and how it affects us as students, teachers, and scientists. Special thanks to Women in Genome Sciences for hosting a similar discussion last month in their department; we’re excited to bring this conversation to chemistry. Hope to see you there!