Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Working Toward the Ideal Astronomy Department

Today's guest blogger is Bruce Balick. Bruce is a former member of the AAS Council, a former department chair, and the past Chair of the Faculty Senate at the University of Washington.  He has been interested best practices for recruiting and retaining outstanding young faculty with long and productive academic careers ahead of them.

There comes a time in the lives of some academics when they wonder whether they are a happy fit into the their department (or similar professional unit).  To quote from an article in STATUS by Meg Urry, "Many of us have worked in unpleasant environments. What happens? You spend a lot of time thinking about the sources of friction, complaining to yourself and to others about the bad things that have happened, trying to calm distraught colleagues so they won’t leave."

Frustrated department members must wonder whether they or the larger unit are to blame.  Then they ask whether there are some objective standards that they are useful for answering this question. 

Yes, there are. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Please do not disturb: Pumping in progress

This is the sign that adorns my office doorknob every day around noon and again at 3. And this is more or less what I look like as I pump -- yes, quite the fashion statement. Thankfully my officemate is comfortable with my pumping in our office. More importantly, however, is that I have the convenient option to use the new lactation room in my building.

Northwestern University's Tech Building is no exception. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires employers to allow time for pumping as well as a reasonable space (that's not a bathroom!) to pump. Specifically, the law requires that employers “provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express milk.” Moreover, employers must “provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public” for nursing employees.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Career Profiles: Astronomer to Financial Analyst

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with an astronomer turned financial analyst. S/he went straight to finance after obtaining her/his Ph.D. Location, salary, and work environment were important factors in his/her decision to leave astronomy. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit http://aas.org/jobs/career-profiles. We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every Thursday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Survive Academia with this One Simple Trick!

Cross-posted from Astrobetter:

Dr. Sarah Ballard completed her PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics at Harvard University in 2012 and is now a NASA Carl Sagan fellow at the University of Washington. She’s written articles for the Harvard Crimson and for the Women in Astronomy blog about parental leave, values affirmation, and the intelligence of groups.  On her website, she also provides some resources for running your own Impostor Syndrome workshop.  Follow her on Twitter at: @hubbahubble

Local scientists discover the technique they don’t want you to know about!
(Sarah Rugheimer at left, Sarah Ballard at right)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why So Few? Spatial Skills

The 2010 report entitled, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), investigates the area of spatial skills learning. One of the largest and most persistent gender gaps in cognitive skills is found in the area of spatial skills, where boys and men consistently outperform girls and women on average. Spatial skills are thought to be critically important for success in fields such as engineering, and many people believe that they are innate and, therefore, some believe that the gender difference in spatial skills explains why there are so few women in engineering, for example.

Research highlighted in the report, however, shows that spatial skills are not fixed and can improve dramatically in a short time with training. This picture shows a sample question on mental rotation, one example of spatial skills. Do you know the right answer? It is D.