Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Getting intimate with the Sun and the Moon

By Angela Speck

For those of you who don’t already know me, I’m the director of astronomy and professor of astrophysics at the University of Missouri. I’m originally British, but have lived in the US for nearly 20 years and have been a US citizen for nearly 6 years.

I have started writing this blog so many times and I keep giving up and starting over. So here I go again. This time I am taking a very personal approach. I’ll explain why later…

I hope that most readers got to witness at least some of the Solar Eclipse that happened on August 21st last year. This was my first time experiencing a total solar eclipse, and this eclipse consumed my life.

Let’s start at the beginning. I live on the path of totality, bang-slap in the middle, in the middle of Missouri. I came here as a faculty member at Mizzou in 2002. Even then, 15 years ahead of the big event, local amateur astronomers were bugging me, telling me I had to get ready. I didn’t really do much prep for the next 8 or 9 years (I was busy getting tenure, and getting promoted to full prof). Actually that’s not entirely true. While I was not consciously preparing for the eclipse, I was developing useful skills, especially in networking, public engagement and science communication. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

AASWomen Newsletter for March 16, 2018

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of March 16, 2018
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. Autism Isn't the Problem              
2. Science — without the mansplaining
3. Same Course, Different Ratings
4. Female researchers publish childcare recommendations for conference organizers
5. Watch: Female Astronauts Speak About Women in STEM
6. Senior female scientist dropout rate causing concern
7. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
8. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
9. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Autism Isn't the Problem

The below post was written by a contributor who wishes to use the pseudonym ExUngueLeam. The author is a junior astronomer whose friends and colleagues may be able to identify her from her writing, but who is unwilling disclose her Asperger’s publicly.

As a woman with Asperger’s, I have the dubious of honor of regularly fielding a particular set of questions about harassment and bullying in academia. These questions usually go something like: "If a colleague or student of mine is on the autism spectrum, and they are bullying or harassing someone, don't I need to accommodate for that? If I hold them accountable for their bad behavior, isn't that... ableist?"

The "Autism is to Blame" excuse is typically deployed in communities which are culturally perceived to be "geeky" or "nerdy", and this includes STEM. The popular television show Big Bang Theory dedicated an entire cringe-inducing episode to it.  It comes up so frequently at gaming and scifi conventions that there is an entire page dedicated to it at the Geek Feminism Wiki. But occasionally you run into it more mainstream fields: Australian television host Don Burke recently tried to invoke Asperger's to dismiss a rash of (rather horrifying, content warning applies) sexual harassment and assault accusations. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cross-post: The Star-Studded Life of Ms. Dorothy Bennett

Photo credit: Piotr Redlinski

In April 2016, author Amy Sohn wrote a piece in JSTOR Daily on Dorothy Bennett, a woman who was influential in the founding of the Hayden Planetarium as an assistant curator, delivering over 1000 lectures there.

Ms. Bennett had a remarkable career, which included  co-authoring an introduction to astronomy for young readers in 1935 called Handbook of the Heavens along with a then-member of the club and an astronomer at the museum.  It stayed in print for nearly sixty years.  

Ms. Bennett also organized an expedition to Cerro de Pasco, Peru, in June 1937, to view the longest solar eclipse until 2004.  To read the entire article, go to:


“Expedition team with Te-Ata Fisher arriving at Callao, Peru, 1937,” Charles H., Coles, Courtesy American Museum of Natural History.