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May 2016
As We Celebrate Mother's Day

Mother's Day is now freshly behind us, and we want to take a moment to give a shout out to all GWIS members that are moms as well. We salute you! In fact, we would like to acknowledge our members who do double duty as scientists and moms in our upcoming spring Bulletin. If your children are young or old, send a picture of yourself with them to our Bulletin editor, Rozzy Finn. We will publish them in a collage with your fellow GWIS members. Also, do you have any tips for other scientist moms out there? Include them with your photo! Please send all submissions by next Tuesday, May 17.

In this issue, we take a look at the future prospects for mothers working in science, particularly for women who aspire to remain in academia. Two articles are featured; the first is an interview of L'Oreal USA Women in Science fellowship winner Ming Yi, a postdoc at UC Berkeley who is making inroads in the female-scarce field of condensed matter physics and has had to take initiative to find balance as she raises a daughter born while she was still in graduate school. A second article addresses concerns many women still feel they face in trying to "have it all" on a research path in academia. 
Don't Miss the GWIS 2016 National Conference!

Rho Tau is proud to host the 2016 GWIS National Conference on June 23-25, 2016. During the National meeting, scientists from all career stages will have the opportunity to network, share their science and gain first-hand science outreach experience at a local science museum. The key note speaker will be Dr. Holly Menninger, Director of Public Outreach for the College of Sciences at NC State University. Also featured will be panel discussions on science literacy and the role of STEM professionals in science outreach as well as poster presentations and talks from GWIS scientists. 

Opportunities will be available for attendees to engage in science outreach at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Preregistered conference participants will be given the opportunity to either speak about their research to the public or attend tables with topic materials on hand. The day will end with a banquet, silent auction and a comedy set from "The Science Comedian", Brian Malow.

The deadline for participating in science outreach at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is May 15. Sign up soon!
The 2016 GWIS elections will take place at the national meeting on June 23rd.
Click below to view the nominees for GWIS officers 
L'Oreal Fellowship Winner Ming Yi on Condensed Matter Physics, Support Networks, and Motherhood

Contributed by Dr. Nicole Barra

Ming Yi is a postdoctoral researcher and Condensed Matter Physicist at UC Berkeley who was one of five women awarded the $60,000 L’Oréal USA for Women in Science Fellowship in 2015. This fellowship identifies exceptional female researchers committed to serving as role models for women in the scientific community and for their contribution in STEM fields.
 Ming’s work has been recently highlighted by the L’Oréal Foundation in this video.
During her graduate training at Stanford University, Ming developed a keen research interest in studying novel superconducting materials. These materials efficiently carry electricity without losing energy. Her work at Stanford’s Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences has been featured in numerous research publications including Nature Communications. Now a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley, Ming continues to investigate fundamental properties of these materials, new techniques for investigating superconductors and how to synthesize these novel materials. Along with her scientific achievements, Ming is dedicated to mentoring and encouraging women in science through the development of support groups for mothers in STEM fields. As a new mother, Ming’s lifestyle changed dramatically during a vital stage in her career. It is her hope that this outreach program will grant women an opportunity to discuss common issues affecting new mothers and encourage women to continuously pursue research during critical times in their careers.

We were fortunate to connect with Ming and asked her to share with us her scientific journey and her experiences in balancing her flourishing scientific career with her family life.

Describe your work in condensed matter physics and why you are passionate about it.
I study materials that have very interesting properties that are not yet understood. Such properties include for example superconductivity, colossal magnetoresistance, and various kinds of magnetism. These material properties arise because of the intriguing spontaneous self-ordering and interactions of electrons, charges, spins at the microscopic fundamental level. Not only do these materials carry enormous potential for applications that can revolutionize our technologies, understanding the emerging patterns at the fundamental level tells us fascinating symmetry laws of nature. It’s that thrilling sense of discovery when we get to understand just a tiny bit more of the wonders of our universe that attracts me to work in condensed matter physics. In addition, I really enjoy interacting and being a part of the scientific community, composed of people who are driven and attracted by the same interests, young and experienced, men and women, whose wide range of ideas and styles makes research a lot of fun.

What are your career goals?
I have always enjoyed doing research. My hope is that I can continue making contributions to scientific discoveries in a research setting, interacting with both young and senior colleagues in a research group at an institution.

Who have your role models been?
I have been very fortunate to have had a string of awesome advisers and mentors throughout my academic career so far, including both men and women. They have shown me how to be leaders, how to balance work and family, how to encourage young researchers. All of them have had a great influence on where I am today.

What sort of examples have you observed in your career in striving for a work/life balance? Do you feel a STEM career has unique issues with balancing work and family?
In my experience, perhaps the biggest obstacle for women in STEM balancing work and family is that it is not yet perceived as a normality, that it still needs to be discussed as an issue due to the relative scarcity of visible role models compared to the general population in STEM. I think the lifestyle changes that come with new motherhood also apply to other fields or industry. But perhaps the less balanced gender ratio of the STEM fields adds a sense of isolation for female researchers in the STEM fields, which often serves as a source of unspoken discouragements. For example, it does not help when you are the only person in the meeting who needs to leave the room early to pick up a sick child from day care, or that you are the only person in the conference who needs to find a private room to pump milk and then a fridge to store them, or that you are the only person in the research group who cannot make it to social events due to child care responsibilities. But I think the good news is that such issues are becoming increasingly visible and openly discussed. It is our hope that some years into the future, social expectations of such needs will be the norm, and that they will not need to be discussed as issues.

You’ve stated your interest in starting a support group for moms in STEM fields. What personal experiences made you believe this is an important issue for women in science? Have you indeed started such a group? If so, can you describe how the group functions?
I had my daughter during the last year of my graduate studies. For me, this was only possible because there were a number of female postdocs and graduate students around me who had gone through the process. Not only did their presence and experience greatly encourage me, they also connected me with a range of programs at the university that helped graduate students with the process of pregnancy and infant care. I think if it weren’t for their visibility and encouragements, I would probably not have considered it a possibility. Hence to me, the presence of such a support network played a crucial role in my decision and experience on starting a family during graduate school. Because of that, I have gathered a group at Berkeley where graduate students/postdocs who are mothers or expectant mothers are meeting monthly over lunch, to connect and to share our experiences. We are not limited to STEM fields. Some of us come from departments where there is no other mother. I’m glad that this is a small step towards counteracting the isolation problem that many of us face, and in helping us get in touch with a supportive network where we can be there for each other.

What do you believe needs to be done to help researchers balance work and parenthood? Are there currently any initiatives that you are aware of at Berkeley or elsewhere that address this?
At Stanford, where I had my daughter, there is an Academic Accommodation program that offers six weeks of full pay for maternity leave for graduate students to have children as well as various extensions of the academic program to help with the maternity leave. At Berkeley, there is an extensive breastfeeding support program that offers lactation rooms across campus as well as access to lactation consultants for students and staff. The existence of such measures is important not only because it helps researchers through the new parenthood, but also sends a message that the institutions do care and are making efforts to help us balance work and family. I think extending initiatives such as these across the board at institutions and more importantly, advertising and making them largely visible to the STEM population would be a great step towards encouraging and supporting young researchers who are considering starting families while maintaining their careers.

To what extent do you have to blend your personal and your professional life to achieve a balance?
For me, one of the biggest obstacles was an internal pressure to adjust and keep up with the work style I had before motherhood. It took a while to mentally accept the fact that your life is changed for good. Adjustments for conference travels and work schedule have to be made for new responsibilities as a mother. However, having both responsibilities also mean that we learn to become more efficient at both, as we value the time spent for each more, and we learn to prioritize.

What is your advice for women working in STEM fields who want to start a family?
I think starting a family is a very personal and wonderful decision to make. Know that you are not alone. Reach out for support. Seek out other women who are going through the same process. Many institutions offer initiatives that help young mothers transition into parenthood, and can be a great connection to other young mothers in STEM. Often times, our group admins are the most wonderful links to such programs as well as other young mothers. Lastly, as I was surprised to find, many of my young male colleagues who are new fathers are also a great source of understanding and support. It is not an easy process, but it is one of the most amazing journeys we will embark upon.

Great Expectations

Contributed by Shu Li, Nu Chapter

What does motherhood mean to a woman in academia? For women, most young academic professionals launch their careers and start tenure track at the ages of 30-40, which is also their most fertile years. It is a time when women have to make the biggest decisions both personally and professionally. A tenure-track appointment not only indicates a chance of job security, it also means a long “to-do list” of keeping a robust publication record, committing to an extensive teaching schedule with high quality expectations, having an exceptional ability to attract funding, and contributing to departmental service and student advisement. On the other hand, from graduate mom like Eleanor Patterson described in her blog, to working professionals as narrated by Katrina Alcorn on the TEDX stage, being a mom is a life-long experience and huge responsibility. It is definitely another “tenure track” we don’t want to fail. 

That is why in 2012, when Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote the Atlantic article Why Women Still Can’t Have It All explaining why she had left her high-power position working for government to take more responsibilities for her family and two teenage boys, it was a sensation sparking nationwide debates, and soon became one of the “must-read” articles in the history of the magazine with three million clicks. In that article she used her experience to take a hard look at “a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged - and quickly changed” in regards to women balancing work and family, when examining why there are so few women in top leadership positions. 

Research by Dr. Mary Ann Mason and colleagues described in Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower shows having children could be a career advantage for men, but it is more likely to be a tough path for women. The “Baby Penalty”, a term used to describe the effect of motherhood slowing or derailing a woman's academic career, can likely explain why delaying of motherhood and low fertility is not a coincidence among women in academia. "Among female faculty members who worked between 50 and 59 hours a week, 41% reported children in the household, while the number for female doctors is a robust 67%”, which makes a tenure track in academia almost sound like birth control. On the other hand, maternity leave and motherhood responsibilities also contribute to women researchers giving up on academic sciences early on, a phenomenon that has been termed “the leaky pipeline”.

Indeed, reality is usually a piece of tough truth that is hard to swallow. However, as Slaughter said in her article, beliefs that embrace to “have it all”, are not necessarily lies, but at best “partial truths”. “We must clear them out of the way to make room for a more honest and productive discussion about real solutions.” There must be solutions out there. Especially for women scientists. For years we’ve been trained to look for solutions in seemingly impossible situations. We have reason to believe that we can find the solutions. From an optimistic viewpoint, there are a lot of eye-opening advice and opinions on this issue, and some strategies have already shown a positive effect.

This is an excerpt from a longer feature article that will be published in the next Bulletin. The Bulletin is a tri-annual electronic magazine sent to all GWIS members.

GWIS Hosts Booth at Science & Engineering Festival

Contributed by Hannah Bowman, Beta Chapter

Graduate Women in Science participated in the USA Science & Engineering Festival April 14-17 in Washington D.C. An estimated 365,000 people participated over the 4 days of the festival, and many of those stopped by the GWIS booth to learn about pH. We loved getting the chance to interact with children and adults of all ages and education levels, and the simplicity of our demonstration allowed us to start conversations about basic science and connect it to every day observations. We had participants choose a “mystery liquid”- a neutral, acidic, or basic clear liquid- and use red cabbage juice to reveal its pH. Participants loved getting to pipet the (admittedly smelly) cabbage juice and see the vibrant color change. Sharing our science and knowledge with participants was incredibly rewarding, and seeing the thousands of other organizations participating in the festival was amazing! We also enjoyed connecting with members of GWIS from all across the country, and would like to thank all of the volunteers who made the weekend a huge success!
 GWIS Reminders 

It's Not Too Late to Join the Book Club! 
Contact Gina Moreno to be included in the discussion for our next on-line book club to be held in late June. We will be discussing Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.

Research Funding Opportunities Visit our website to check out new opportunities that have been shared with u
s. New NIDDK Biologist position recently added!
Iota Chi  Hosts Panel   "Do Babies Matter?" Although provocative, this title helped generate interest in a panel in collaboration with the University of Iowa's Graduate College, about how people have made decisions in regards to starting a family in academia. This panel was unique in that it featured a graduate student, a postdoc, and two faculty panelists to represent a span of many points along an academic career path. This panel, along with a previous panel on Communication as Women Scientists, has helped Iota Chi to connect with faculty mentors across campus.
And Celebrates Accomplishments...  Kelsey Thiem has been awarded a prestigious Ballard-Seashore Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Iowa, Cate Cosme recently traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate for increased science funding as part of her work with the APA's Science Student Council, and Mary Huff Ray will soon be defending her dissertation. Cate and Mary are also both new mothers, and are a testament to how the right environment can allow scientists to have a life outside academia while achieving professional milestones. Way to go, women of Iota Chi!

GWIS brand merchandise for sale. Celebrate GWIS! Check out our on-line store for T-shirts, mugs, bags and much more with our new logo. GWIS items make great graduation gifts!

A women in science card game has been developed for kids. Profits are helping to fund organizations promoting women in science and to develop a women in science video game for computers and smartphones. Click on the image to find out more.

Summer reading...Feminist Science Fiction Books. Check out this list of science fiction books written with strong and complex female characters.

Where are the mothers in academic science? New Boston Post

Post-Grad Job Prospects. A new study quantifies the imbalance between the number of biomedical graduate job seekers and available positions in the U.S. The Scientist

What Do Women Want At Hackathons? NASA Has A List. Fast Company

More and More Science Grads Are Women. So Why Do So Few Make It to the Top? Motherboard

Speak up about subtle sexism in science. Nature

Women In Tech: 5 Fantastic Tips From Entrepreneurs To Princeton Professors. Forbes

We need to do more for women in science. Science

Meet the World's Greatest Female Leaders. Fortune

Trailblazers of diversity. The Engineer

Futurestep Survey: Executives Believe Women in STEM Roles Helps the Bottom Line. Business Wire
Coming Up in the Spring Bulletin
  • More GWIS plucked from the past, including the history of the greek naming system
  • Alternative careers in science
  • Epic women of science
  • Honorary membership nominee, Dr. Rita Valentino
  • More on Great Expectations
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About GWIS

Founded in 1921, Graduate Women in Science is an inter-disciplinary society of scientists who collectively seek to advance the participation and recognition of women in science and to foster research through grants, awards and fellowships. We comprise 20 active chapters of over 800 women who are "United in Friendship through Science" to support and inspire member professional goals and mutual appreciation of science. Learn more at

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Laura Havens 

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