Friday, May 19, 2017

AASWomen Newsletter for May 19, 2017

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of May 19, 2017
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. Women in Leadership: It’s Not Just About Confidence    
2. Astronomers Elected to National Academy of Sciences
3. Childcare Opportunity at MetSoc
4. Caltech Students Protest Return of Professor From Suspension
5. Five Ways to Move Beyond the March: A Guide for Scientists Seeking Strong, Inclusive Science
6. We Recorded VCs’ Conversations and Analyzed How Differently They Talk About Female Entrepreneurs
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, May 16, 2017

Women in Leadership: It’s Not Just About Confidence

In her 2014 eye-opening article for the Harvard Business Review, author Tara Sophia Mohr discussed Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified:

You’ve probably heard the following statistic: Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. The finding comes from a Hewlett Packard internal report, and has been quoted in Lean In, The Confidence Code, and dozens of articles. It’s usually invoked as evidence that women need more confidence. As one Forbes article put it, “Men are confident about their ability at 60%, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list.” The advice: women need to have more faith in themselves.

Fortunately, Mohr was skeptical of these findings and decided to survey over a thousand men and women, predominantly American professionals. She asked them, “If you decided not to apply for a job because you didn’t meet all the qualifications, why didn’t you apply?” She discovered that the barrier to applying was not lack of confidence, at least according to the self-reporting of the respondents. In fact, according to the table below, “I didn’t think I could do the job well” was the least common of all the responses for both men and women.

Although it is certainly true that many of us could use an extra dose of confidence, if we listened only to the advice from the Lean In/Confidence Code bull horn, we would be doing ourselves a great disservice. We would be internalizing and personalizing the problem, putting all the weight of this dilemma on our own shoulders (sound familiar?), and assuming that the external environment, the world out there, was a level playing field. The bottom line is that there is more to it than just confidence (internal), and this missing societal component (external) is fundamentally important.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Career Profile: Planetary Geologist: Dr. Justin Filiberto

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, planetary scientists, etc. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Justin Filiberto, a planetary scientist/geologist working at Southern Illinois University and The Open University.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit New Career Profiles are posted approximately every month.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Cross-Post: Astronomy in Color: Student Highlight: Sydney Duncan

Sydney Duncan, Physics & Dance, University of Utah
(Left photo by Sydney's father. Right photo by Luke Isley)
This is a cross post from the Astronomy in Color blog. The Astronomy in Color blog has an entire series of posts highlighting the amazing next generation of scientists in our field. This cross-post features Sydney Duncan. This interview was done by CSMA member Nicole Cabrera Salazar.


Sydney Duncan is a native of Dallas, where she trained in classical ballet at Tuzer Ballet and Texas Ballet Theatre School. At Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, she studied saxophone, voice, and dance. Duncan then attended University of Utah, where she double majored in ballet and physics and performed with Utah Ballet. She has attended summer intensives at American Ballet Theatre, Ballet West, Atlanta Ballet, LINES Ballet, Ailey, Oklahoma City Ballet, Dallas Ballet Dance Theatre, and Hubbard Street. She completed Astrophysics REUs at University of Oklahoma and University of Chicago. At the University of Utah she conducted research on the chemical abundances of globular clusters with Dr. Inese Ivans. She is now dancing professionally in New York City.

Friday, April 14, 2017

AASWomen Newsletter for April 14, 2017

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of April 14, 2017
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. Career Profile: Astronomer to Assistant Professor/Head, Astronomy Lab/Curator, Meteorites  
2. Nominate a Worthy Scientist for a Prize from the AAS    
3. Tackling Sexual Harassment in Science: A Long Road Ahead
4. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
5. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
6. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Career Profile: Astronomer to Assistant Professor/Head, Astronomy Lab/Curator, Meteorites

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, planetary scientists, etc. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Rachel L. Smith, an astronomer who is Head of the Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab, and Curator of Meteorites at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Appalachian State University.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit New Career Profiles are posted approximately every month.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Women In Astronomy IV - Join us!

I'm excited to share with you a project we've been working on for months. The next "Women in Astronomy" conference is coming up quick, June 9-11th in Austin, Texas (right after the Summer AAS meeting).

What should you join us (especially after a grueling but delightful summer AAS?)

The meeting will be panels, workshops, and fantastic plenaries. We are focused on getting folks the skills and experiences they are looking for, and hoping to help build collaborations and alliances. There will be the opportunity to share your work via posters, and several different mixers and opportunities to meet up and find new research collaborators!

Some highlights include a panel on "Engaging the Nashville Recommendations" (recommendations can be found here, a result of the powerful Inclusive Astronomy meeting from June 2015), workshops on Bystander Intervention and Anti-Racism training, and a hack session on demographics - what questions should we be asking, and how? We will discuss the progress we have made and the work we still have to do to support all women in astrophysics, and create a truly inclusive field.

Please join us! You can register here, and let me (or any of the other organizing committee members) know if you have burning questions we can answer. We look forward to seeing you in Austin. Early registration ends on April 15th, so sign up now!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Career Profile: Research Administrator to Deputy Principal Investigator

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, planetary scientists, etc. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Heather Enos, a Masters in Business Administration who is the Deputy Principal Investigator of the OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Regolith Explorer) mission.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit New Career Profiles are posted approximately every month.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Guest Post: Confessions of a Teaching-Focused Astronomer

Our guest post today is from Dr. Jillian Bellovary. Jillian Bellovary is an Assistant Professor of Physics at Queensborough Community College in Queens, New York. She is also a research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History and serves on the Committee for the Status of Minorities in Astronomy. She is passionate about equity & inclusion, knitting, and roller derby.

In August 2016 I started a tenure-track position at Queensborough Community College, which is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system and located in Bayside, Queens.  This job is my dream job, and one I’ve been aiming for for quite a while.  But I didn’t always know this was what I wanted, and I’ve definitely felt like I’m not supposed to want a job like this.  Thus I’d like to share my story.

Friday, March 10, 2017

AASWomen Newsletter for March 10, 2017

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of March 10, 2017
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. A daily routine    
2. The Gender Gap in Publications
3. Why Did the House Science Committee Overlook NASA's Former Chief Scientist? 
4. Here’s What a Day Without Women Will Actually Look Like
5. Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Astrophysicist says women in science need culture change 
6. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
7. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
8. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Monday, March 6, 2017

A daily routine

I approach each morning with a certain tension. I pick up my phone (a terrible way to start the day, you’d think I’d have figured that out by now, I definitely do not recommend it.). I skim twitter, the New York Times, and whatever else has accumulated overnight. It isn’t that there wasn't oppression or ordeals before - but I (perhaps delusionally) thought I knew the shape of them. Now there is a certain wild card feel that I can’t quite shake.

But maybe it is just because I hate going to the obvious place - people who are marginalized will be openly targeted for the foreseeable future. And it is on us (us reading this, us who are privileged in one way or another, us who can leverage something in a given moment) to hold the line. 

Today, a few shoes dropped (how can there be so many shoes? There are so many shoes.).

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Meet the CSWA: Chair Pat Knezek

In our newest series on the Women in Astronomy blog, we'd like to introduce our readers to the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy.  Today's post features the newly appointed Chair of the CSWA, Dr. Patricia Knezek! She will be serving as Chair as a private citizen.

Dr. Patricia (Pat) Knezek joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) in March 2013, and served as the Deputy Division Director of the Division of Astronomical Sciences in the Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences (MPS) for three years. She then became a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Director of MPS and just completed a year assignment to the Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure in the Directorate of Computer & Information Science & Engineering. Prior to joining the NSF she had been with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) as a staff scientist since 2001. While there she worked primarily with WIYN Consortium, Inc. (WIYN), a partnership of the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, Yale University, and NOAO that runs two optical telescopes on Kitt Peak Mountain outside of Tucson, Arizona. She served as WIYN's Instrumentation Project Manager (2001-2005), Deputy Director (2005-2010), and then Director (2010-2013). She has also held positions at the Space Telescope Science Institute, The Johns Hopkins University, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the University of Michigan. She obtained her bachelor's degree in astronomy from the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, in 1985, and her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1993.

Pat has been active in issues of diversity and inclusion for her entire career. She previously served on Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy from 2002 – 2008 (chair 2003 – 2007). Some of her activities have included leading the development of “Equity Now! The Pasadena Recommendations for Gender Equality in Astronomy,” launching (with Rachel Ivie of the American Institute of Physics) the AdHoc group that developed the Longitudinal Study of Astronomy Graduate Students, and developing the Anti-Harassment Policy for AAS.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World"... and why you should read it

Maria Mitchell and her
comet-seeking telescope.
Today's guest blogger is Stella Offner. Stella is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at UMass Amherst where she works on simulations of star formation. Stella's book review of "Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World" by Rachel Swaby is a part of our series about how instructors tackle social justice issues in their physics and astronomy classrooms. The first few issues are here and here and here.

“Albert Einstein was in over his head. He had worked out his general theory of relativity, but he was having problems with the mathematics that would have to correspond. So Einstein pulled in a team of experts from the University of Gottingen to help him formulate the concepts…. [David Hilbert and Felix Klein] scouted for talent. For the Einstein project, Emmy Noether was their draft pick.”
—profile of Emmy Noether, “Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World”

Stories help bring science to life in the classroom. Unfortunately, most scientific protagonists included in textbooks are heroes rather than heroines. Contributions from women (and minorities) are often overlooked. 

After teaching introductory astronomy for several semesters, I decided to diversify my lectures by highlighting the contributions of more female scientists. However, I was brought short by a discomfiting realization: despite being an enthusiastic graduate of a women’s college and organizer of various programs for girls in STEM, I knew few stories about pioneering women of science. 

Where should I go to find these stories? And whom should I include?

The recent compendium of profiles of women in science “Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World” by Rachel Swaby comes to the rescue!  “Headstrong” includes 52 short, engaging profiles of prominent women in STEM. The women span centuries in time, and their scientific disciplines range from medicine to mathematics.  The “Headstrong” anecdotes spotlight the intelligence, quirks, enthusiasm, and pure grit of these pioneers:

- Annie Jump Cannon classified 400,000 stellar spectra by the light of candles - in the process almost setting fire to her attic observatory.
- At 29 Maria Mitchell was among the first Americans to discover a comet.
- Grace Hopper discovered a moth in an early computing machine: the term “bug” for a code glitch was born.

I recommend this book if you are looking for inspiration in the history of science. If you are a science educator, I doubly recommend “Headstrong” for its amazing stories of 52 pioneers in STEM, scientists who are also amazing women. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Women, People of Color and People with Disabilities Still Underrepresented in Science and Engineering

The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics recently released the 2017 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering report, the federal government's most comprehensive look at the participation of these three demographic groups in science and engineering education and employment.

The report shows the degree to which women, people with disabilities and minorities from three racial and ethnic groups -- black, Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native -- are underrepresented in science and engineering (S&E). Women have reached parity with men in educational attainment but not in S&E employment. Underrepresented minorities account for disproportionately smaller percentages in both S&E education and employment.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Career Profile: Astronomer/Planetary Scientist to R&D Manager/Sr. Scientist

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, planetary scientists, etc. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Dr. Carly Howett, an an R&D Manager and Senior Research Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Her main research interest is in understanding the surfaces of icy worlds in our solar system. She also does a lot of mission work and is a Co-I on Cassini, Lucy, Europa-Clipper and a team member on New Horizons.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit New Career Profiles are posted approximately every month.

Friday, February 10, 2017

AASWomen Newsletter for February 10, 2017

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of February 10, 2017
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. Happy Black History Month!     
2. Women in Astronomy IV: The Many Faces of Women Astronomers
3. International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11)
4. Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM (#VanguardSTEM)        
5.  Dr. Brett Denevi: Take advantage of the opportunities that come your way 
6.  2017 NASA Planetary Science Summer Seminar* Applications Open  
7.  Ad Imagines A World Where We Treat Female Scientists Like Celebrities
8.  Job Opportunities  
9. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
11. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Monday, February 6, 2017

Happy Black History Month!

Ok, after stating the obvious (one month? really? We should do better than one month.) let's spend today's post (re)committing to using this time to not just celebrate Black history but to interjecting it throughout our work. What does that mean to you?

This is a particularly timely conversation since I'm assuming most of you in the US have gone to see "Hidden Figures" - a film focused on the missing African American women (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson) in particular who were a crucial part of getting the US space program into orbit. Of course, it is a fictionalized account (including the not-real white savior boss man) compacted to make for a (more) compelling 2 hour narrative. But the premise is spot on. Whose stories have we neglected to tell? What effect has that had on the work we do as astrophysicists?

I'm not going to give you a comprehensive list here, but want you to at least get your feet wet. What are you doing that changes our relatively monochromatic field? Some of us spend time in a classroom where we can change the narrative by including voices and stories from past & present to make more room for contributions from Black scientists to our field. Some of us sit on hiring committees. Some of us mentor graduate students. Let's make sure that we shine light on the work being done wherever we can do it.

For many of us, seeing "Hidden Figures" both brought joy at seeing the celebration of those doing incredible work - but also sadness and frustration for the limited progress made in the meantime. What about now? This is just a short (and by no means complete) list of places to start exploring the rich history of Black space scientists.

Benjamin Banneker - Born in 1731, he was a self-trained mathematician & astronomer who worked as a surveyor, clockmaker, and creator of almanacs.

Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. - The first black astronaut, he joined the corps in 1967. He died in a training plane crash before getting to space.

Dr. Willie Hobbs Moore - The first Black woman to get a PhD in Physics (University of Michigan, 1972).

Dr. Mae Jemison - The first African American woman in space, Dr. Jemison has received degrees in Chemical Engineering, medicine (She *is* that kind of doctor), and served in the Peace Corps. She has also leveraged her platform as an astronaut to draw attention to racism & civil rights.

Dr. Beth Brown - An x-ray astronomer (studying elliptical galaxies), Dr. Brown also worked in her role at Goddard Space Flight Center to bring astrophysics to students across the country.

Professor Mercedes Richards - A professor at Penn State, she studied stars including stellar evolution and binary systems until she passed away last year.

Stephanie Wilson - An astronaut who has flown into space three times, her graduate work in engineering focused on flexible structures in space.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson - One of the current faces of astrophysics, teaching us about the Cosmos while running the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Get on over to Vanguard STEM. Founded by Dr. Jedidah Isler (who studies blazar jets at Vanderbilt University, where she is an NSF fellow), this monthly web series highlights women of color in STEM, and provides a community for them as well.

Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein studies axionic matter and ways it can address holes in our understanding of the formation and evolution of the universe. She is also a passionate advocate for minoritized voices, especially Black women in STEM.

The National Society for Black Physicists (well worth a visit and your support) is highlighting a different Black physicists every day of this month. Go check it out!

And lastly... go get familiar with this collection of African American Women In Physics. Still a small group of women, but growing every day. Become familiar (if you aren't already) with the work they are doing in our field - and commit yourself to making this list grow exponentially by supporting our Black colleagues.

History of Science

This article provides a quick roundup of discoveries frequently attributed only to western cultures, including astronomical work such as time keeping, navigation, and trans oceanic travel - even observations of our galaxy - that was discovered, developed, and deployed on the African continent.

This book review from 2014 highlights some of the deeper issues around colonialism and the way knowledge is created, valued, eliminated, or controlled depending on its source. These issues are at the heart of our failures to create a robust scientific culture supporting our minoritized colleagues including Black astronomers.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Responses to the Executive Order on Immigration and Visas

Protests against the  EO.
Outside SCOTUS, DC,  Jan. 30th.
Photo courtesy of Hannah Wakeford.
Attached below are recent statements, petitions, etc. from the scientific community in response to the executive order (EO) signed by President Trump on January 27th, suspending all immigration rights to the United States for citizens from seven countries  (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia) for 90 days. Images throughout this blog are not attached to original pieces, but were taken by professional astronomers and planetary scientists acting in their personal interests.

On a personal note, I am appalled by these recent actions, including this EO, and the impacts they have on our science and on this great nation.  I will continue to support those working on the front lines of this issue, like the American Civil Liberties Union, and want to pledge my full support to my colleagues, both here in the United States and abroad.


1. AAS Urges President to Rescind Order on Visas & Immigration

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has joined with 150 other scientific and engineering societies, national associations, and universities to send a letter to President Donald J. Trump¹ objecting to his January 27th executive order on visas and immigration. It expresses deep concern that the restrictions the new policy imposes “will have a negative impact on the ability of scientists and engineers in industry and academia to enter, or leave from and return to, the United States. This will reduce US science and engineering output to the detriment of America and Americans.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What can your CSWA do for you??

Members of 500 Women Scientists pass Trump International Hotel
on Pennsylvania Ave in D.C. (Robinson Meyer / The Atlantic)
This is a week of calls to action. If you have not taken action to advocate for science, to advocate for women, to advocate for people of color, to advocate for LGBTQIA people, to advocate for astronomers with disabilities, to safeguard the standing of the United States in the World, to protect your children's future... it's time you get it together. It's time you advocate for yourself. It's time to ask us to advocate for you.

I am writing to ask how the CSWA can serve you in this new year. In the same vein as Jessica's post on Monday, I request your direct comments**, your input, on how the CSWA can advocate for you, what action we should take, what action we have not yet taken that might benefit you. We are a resource to the astronomical community, to women in this community, and we hope to become a better resource to minoritized astronomers in the coming years.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why I Marched

Millions of people marched this weekend in response to the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States.  My social media feed was dominated by photos of my friends and family peacefully protesting all around the country and world. People protested for many reasons.  I asked people in our community to share with me why they marched.  If you want to add your voice/photos to this post, please contact me.

I marched because I want my government to know that I oppose the rhetoric and proposed policies of the new administration that marginalizes and infringes on the rights of immigrants, Muslims, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual assault (to name a few). 
--Jessica Kirkpatrick

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Meet your CSWA: Aparna Venkatesan

In our series on the Women in Astronomy blog, we'd like to introduce our readers to the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. Today's feature is on Aparna Venkatensan.

Aparna Venkatesan is a cosmologist working on a number of research topics including studies of the first stars and quasars in the universe and the physical conditions in early-universe galaxies. Aparna is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of San Francisco (USF), and a former NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow. She has received multiple NSF grants, AAS and APS grants, and the Single Investigator Cottrell College Science Award. She was recently featured amongst USF’s Changemakers. She appeared recently in a number of episodes of The Weather Channel’s show The Strangest Weather on Earth.

Aparna currently serves on a number of local and national committees to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields and astronomy, including the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy, and as co-Chair on the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. She is deeply committed to increasing the participation and retention of underrepresented groups at all career stages in astronomy, physics and the sciences. She has been active in Native American/indigenous education programs/issues, as well as in recruiting and retaining women and minorities over her entire research and teaching career.

Friday, January 13, 2017

AASWomen Newsletter for January 13, 2017

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of January 13, 2017
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. Thinking About Boycotts
2. Meet your CSWA: Nicolle Zellner    
3. 2017 Annie Jump Cannon Award       
4. First women to chair the SSB 
5. House Approves Bipartisan Bills to Promote Women in Science
6. Materials for Teachers and Students: Teaching Guides on Women and Minorities 
7. Month by Month, 2016 Cemented Science’s Sexual Harassment Problem
8. What one semester reveals about Native American students’ struggle to succeed in college 
9. Job Opportunities  
10. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
11. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
12. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thinking About Boycotts

Would you share your restroom with
this woman?
Both the American Astronomical Society and Women in Astronomy IV are scheduled to meet in Texas this June.  Austin, where the meetings will occur, touts itself as LGBT friendly on its Visitor Center web site:
You don't have to look for rainbow flags or limit yourself to one small part of Austin if you're interested in experiencing everything that the city's large and diverse LGBT community has to offer. Unlike many places, which have only one or two areas known as 'gay districts,' Austin's LGBT residents are truly everywhere. And proud of it!
But dangers lurk in the Texas State Capitol in Austin. According to the Texas Observer,
SB 6, authored by Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would nullify trans-inclusive nondiscrimination laws in several Texas cities, including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth and San Antonio. It would also require the state’s school districts and political subdivisions to adopt policies requiring people to use restrooms and other facilities in government buildings that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate. Cities and school districts that fail to comply with the provisions of SB 6 would be subject to civil penalties of up to $10,500 per violation.
Unlike the North Carolina legislation, HB2, which triggered nationwide protests and boycotts of that state, this bill seems to be entirely directed at transgender people who were assigned a male gender at birth but no longer live in that gender. According to the Observer, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, for whom this bill is a top legislative priority, dismissed the threat of economic backlash at a news conference last Thursday, but it is also noted that the Texas Association of Business estimates that SB6 could cost the state’s economy up to $8.5 billion and 175,000 jobs. An organization of businesses named Texas Competes has also made its case for a multitude of economic impacts. And then there is the NCAA Final Four scheduled for San Antonio in 2018. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has said SB 6 won’t be a priority if it clears the Senate, and with the business backlash against the bill, it seems unlikely to be passed by June. But you never know.

A further cause for worry from the Texas Tribune:
Citing bathroom safety concerns, Patrick first waded into the fight in 2015 as part of his opposition to a Houston ordinance, known as HERO, that would have made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on 15 different “protected characteristics,” including sex, race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Houston ordinance was eventually shot down by voters, but as of last summer there were still 12 Texas cities with populations of more than 100,000 that had some rules or legislation in place to protect residents or city employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to The Atlantic, similar legislation is also being considered in Kentucky and Virginia:
Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who works on LGBT issues, says the lawmakers introducing bills now were “people who are committed to targeting the trans community.”
“We saw last session bills across the country attempting to do the same thing,” Strangio said. “We were overwhelmingly successful in stopping them, and we’re incredibly optimistic that we’ll be able to stop the majority of them this session.”
But the advent of a Trump administration should be favorable for bathroom-bill advocates. The president-elect himself offered vague and contradictory statements about North Carolina’s law during the campaign, but a Department of Justice headed by Senator Jeff Sessions, his nominee for attorney general, is expected to be much less friendly to expansions of LBGT rights.
Interestingly enough, Patrick started the press conference with a quote attributed to Martin Luther King which I would read differently than the Lieutenant Governor intended it:
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Spoken from the pulpit on March 8, 1965, while King was in Selma, Alabama supporting the fight for voting rights, it would appear to me that Martin Luther King's timeless words encourage us to think before we support places which abridge the rights of members of our profession.

Opposition to HB2 from the federal government was effective in blocking its implementation in North Carolina, but I don't think that we can count on that kind of support from the new Republican administration. Opposition to HB2 by national commercial and nonprofit organizations also helped, and I think that we have to make sure that our local hosts (and other AAS members in Texas), as well as those who run our venue, know that there is a potential problem concerning a national professional organization in a field where Texas has a significant place, and that they pass on that concern to their legislators.

And remember that for now, we're protected in Austin, so we don't want to act prematurely:
DISCRIMINATION means the direct or indirect exclusion, distinction, segregation, limitation, refusal, denial or any other differentiation in the treatment of a person based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, or disability in a public accommodation.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Meet your CSWA: Nicolle Zellner

In our series on the Women in Astronomy blog, we'd like to introduce our readers to the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. Today's feature is on Nicolle Zellner, our lead editor of the AASWomen Newsletter.

Bio: Nicolle Zellner is an associate professor of physics at Albion College in Albion, MI, where she teaches introductory and advanced astronomy and physics courses. Her research interests focus on understanding the impact history of the Earth-Moon system and how those impacts affected the conditions for life on Earth. Dr. Zellner studies lunar impact glasses to interpret the bombardment history of the Moon (and Earth), and a second project focuses on understanding how the chemistry of simple molecules is affected by impacts.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Meet your CSWA: Sara Seager

In our series on the Women in Astronomy blog, we'd like to introduce our readers to the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. Today's feature is on Sara Seager, who was also recently highlighted by The New York Times.

Sara Seager is the Class of 1941 Professor of Planetary Science and Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Seager’s research team develops theoretical computer models of atmospheres and interiors of all kinds of exoplanets, to make predictions and interpret data, with a prime interest in atmospheric "biosignature" gases. She is widely credited with conceiving of and formulating the main technique used to analyze exoplanet atmospheres today, work that also led to the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere. Professor Seager actively works on the search for another Earth, including: her CubeSat (ASTERIA now being implemented at JPL); Deputy Science Director on the MIT-led TESS Mission (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission scheduled for launch in 2017; and recent leadership of the NASA Science and Technology Definition Team for a space-based, "Probe-class" Starshade and telescope system for direct imaging discovery and characterization of exoEarths orbiting sun-like stars. Among her recent accolades, Professor Seager was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2015, was awarded an honorary PhD from the University of British Columbia in 2015, is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and was awarded the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences in 2012. For more on Professor Seagar, visit