Category Archives: Reflections

Women’s March

On January 21, 2017, several groups of students from the Chemistry department and WCS participated in the Women’s March to support women and their human rights. Rachel Boccamazzo, a senior biochemistry and biology undergraduate, provided an image, showing a small sample of the amount of individuals who were present on Jackson street. 

View from Jackson street towards downtown

The large population represents a common feeling among many women across the nation. Lizzy Canarie, a first year Chemistry PhD student, clearly described that the Women’s March “gave me hope in a time of anxiety and negativity.” These feelings are common during an uncertain time like this. Being able to openly express those feelings is important, and participating in the Women’s March is a good way to do so. Other opportunities include 10 actions in 100 days and March for Science. Women’s March started a campaign called 10 actions in 100 days. Every 10 days, they suggest an action to voice your opinion. If you would like more details, this link will lead you to their website: . The March for Science will be held April 22, 2017, and more details are to be followed. These are just a few ways in which we can voice our passions and rights as a woman and scientist.

Power Posing might not be all we thought it was

In November 2013, we were very privileged to host Amy Cuddy at WCS-UW.  It was an all-around blast, and everyone learned a lot from our fabulous guest speaker.  Many of us started using “Power Poses” regularly in our own lives.

This last January 2016, Amy Cuddy’s popular power-posing research went up against the scientific tradition of replication study.  The new study couldn’t replicate the effects of power posing, though, Cuddy argues, several elements of the original 2010 study were changed.

BigThink:  A New Replication Suggests ‘Power Posing’ Is a Waste of Time, but Here’s Why You’ll Still Be Told to Do It for Years to Come
Slate:  The Power of the “Power Pose”: Amy Cuddy’s famous finding is the latest example of scientific overreach.
NPR: ‘Power Poses’ Co-Author: ‘I Do Not Believe The Effects Are Real’

What do you think, clever scientists?  How much faith should we put in power posing?  Will you still be using it in your personal life?

UW Nobel Laureate

We’re delighted that a UW professor was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics, but are disappointed at the committee’s alarming trend of only awarding the prize to men.

Women Crack the academic glass ceiling

This week’s C&E News features an article entitled “Women crack the academic glass ceiling” on the increased representation of women among chemistry faculty at major research universities, according to surveys conducted by OXIDE, the Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity. Though the percentage of women professors is still only 19.1%, this represents an improvement over the last survey and an encouraging trend. The article also includes interviews with several professors (including Christy Haynes, who gave a talk for WCS in fall 2014!) on how their departments are improving diversity and what else can be done.

Recap: Dan Grunspan, UW Anthropology, on Gender Bias amongst Undergraduates in STEM Courses


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).

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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 or Teresa (tmheard at 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.

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Happy Birthday to Emmy Noether

As you may have seen on Google’s page, this March 23rd marks what would have been Emmy Noether’s 133rd birthday. If you hadn’t heard of Emmy Noether before, you’re not alone (I hadn’t either); it just goes to show how easy it is for scientists to be lost to time even when their discoveries aren’t. So let’s take a look at Emmy Noether’s contributions to science/math.

Emmy Noether was born in Germany on March 23rd, 1882. As a child, she was not noted for being academically gifted, although family friends remarked on her talent for solving logic puzzles. She studied at the University of Erlangen, which, in addition to only having 2 female students out of almost a 1000 total, only allowed her to audit classes. In spite of this, Dr. Noether would eventually successful complete a dissertation in mathematics in 1907. After being introduced to the work of David Hilbert, she began her first forays into abstract algebra. David Hilbert went on to get her a teaching position at his university, although the school would not pay her and only referred to her as his assistant. She eventually received recognition of her status of a professor, along with a small salary. Unfortunately, as in too many histories of German scientists, the rise of the Nazi party in Germany came with the expulsion of Jewish professors from their posts. Although Dr. Noether continued to meet with students to discuss mathematics, she eventually left Germany for a paid position at Bryn Mawr College, where she worked until her death in 1935.

Much as it pains me to admit, I cannot hope to properly explain Emmy Noether’s contributions to the field of abstract algebra, particularly non-commutative algebra (where the commutative property no longer applies). Suffice to say, her contributions to mathematics and theoretical physics helped theoretical mathematics to become a field of study, and are still being used today. So happy 133rd birthday to Dr. Noether!

A few good days for computing and astronomy

Happy birthday on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of December to Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, and Annie Jump Cannon, respectively!

Grace Hopper: Born December 9, 1906 in New York City, Grace Hopper was said to always be curious. At the age of seven, after deciding to figure out how alarm clocks worked, she systematically dismantled seven alarm clocks in her house before her mother caught on. She graduated from Vassar College in 1928 with degrees in mathematics and physics before gaining her Ph. D. in mathematics from Yale in 1930. She taught mathematics at Vassar College until 1943, when she joined the US Navy Reserve WAVES program. Assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project in 1944 under Howard Aiken, she would co-author three papers on the developing Mark I computer over the next 5 years. In 1949, she began working on the UNIVAC I. During this project she also produced one of the first working compiler, the A compiler, in 1952. Although initially no one believed her, by 1954 she was appointed the first director of automatic programming.

In 1959, Hopper became the technical assistant in charge of developing the COBOL programming language, one of the first to use English-based code and be machine-independent. COBOL is still in use today. During the 70s, Hopper pushed for the creation of standards to test computer systems, components, and programming languages. These Navy standards led to significant convergence of programming languages used in computers and in the 80s were officially acquired by the National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology. By her retirement in 1966, Hopper had been promoted to a Naval Reserve Commander, eventually achieving the rank of commodore by special Presidential Appointment. Over her life, she was made to retire from the Naval Reserve three times, although that never stopped her from continuing her work. Perhaps the best accomplishment of Rear Admiral Hopper, even according to her, was her commitment to training young people. Grace Hopper died in 1992.


Ada Lovelace: Born on December 10, 1815 as Augusta Ada Byron, she was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron. Byron separated from his family soon after Ada was born. Her mother, Anne Byron (who by some accounts was also an intelligent mathematician) encouraged her daughter to study mathematics and logic in part to curb the insane romaticism she worried Ada had inherited from her father. This talent for mathematics led her to a friendship with Charles Babbage, and their working relationship led to Ada Lovelace collaborating on Babbage’s Analytical Engine. In 1842 and 1843, her work with Luigi Menabrea’s article on analytical engines culminated in what many consider the first computer program. While Babbage focused on the number-crunching capabilities of his engine, Ada Lovelace suggested that these machines could go much further into other fields of science. Ada Lovelace died at age 36 from uterine cancer. Possibly more so than any other scientist discussed thus far, I encourage everyone to read more about Lovelace’s work, and the controversy that still surrounds her contributions to science. Or, for something lighter, you could check out Kate Beaton’s Hark A Vagrant comic on Ada Lovelace, available online.


Annie Jump Cannon: As you may see in the Google Doodle, December 11 marks Annie Jump Cannon’s 151st birthday. Born in Dover, DE to a Delaware state senator, Cannon was taught about the stars from an early age by her mother. In 1884 she graduate from Wellesley College with physics and astronomy degrees. After two additional years studying solely astronomy at Radcliffe College, she was hired as an assistant at the Harvard Observatory in 1896. Hired to be one of “Pickering’s Women” (named after then observatory head E.C. Pickering) she work to empirically classify stars in the southern hemisphere. Her star classification system was created from two already known models into the now-universal O, B, A, F, G, K, M system. Between 1881 and 1924, Cannon classified more than 225,000 stars. In 1911, when she became curator of astronomical photographs, it was said she could classify as many as three stars a minute. In 1925, she became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford. She was given the Henry Draper Gold Metal by the National Academy of Sciences, and was the first female officer of the American Astronomical Society. Cannon retired in 1940, and died a year later, still living in Cambridge, MA.