Thursday, December 29, 2016

Events at the 229th American Astronomical Society Meeting

Several key events will be occurring at the 229th American Astronomical Society meeting, held January 4th-8th at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas. Danny Barringer posted to Astrobetter for the upcoming meeting, and Jason Wright had previously written a first timer's guide to the AAS meeting for Astrobetter.  The AAS has posted an important update for the winter meeting (after receiving feedback from the 227th meeting), which includes "Grab & Go" Meals and Restaurant Discounts, Complimentary Shuttle Service, Bigger Badges for Accessibility, and Enhancements to the Exhibit Hall (including the announcement of the STARtorialist booth).

Below are highlights for events that may be of interest:

1. Student Pavilion and Mentoring Events:
The Student Pavilion, located in the exhibit hall, will provide a unique space for students to meet, network, and collect information. The AAS will provide table space and well as mentoring opportunities. Mentoring sessions will be held Wednesday-Friday (January 4th-6th) at 9:30-10:00 AM, 5:30-6:00 PM, and 6:00-6:30 PM each day, as well as Saturday morning (January 7th) and will include mentors form various backgrounds (more information on mentors will be available at the Student Pavilion). The sign up sheets will be available starting at the UG Orientation Reception and will then be available at the student pavilion.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

#AAS229: Making the Most of the AAS Winter Meeting with Twitter

It can be intimidating to attend the AAS winter meeting, especially the first time. This winter ~2500 astronomers will gather in Grapevine, Texas to exchange ideas, discuss research, and network with other professionals in astronomy. The program can be overwhelming, with thousands of oral and poster presentations as well as dozens of workshops and events. But for our relatively small community, it’s also a fun week to reconnect with friends and meet new people who may become lifelong colleagues. 

This guide is for those who are looking to expand their AAS experience by utilizing the power of Twitter. We highlight some great ways to connect digitally at the conference.  If you have further suggestions for how to make the most of AAS+Twitter, please contact Nicole or Jessica and we will add them to this post.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

AAS Equity Survey Responses

We present the responses to a community-led questionnaire for candidates for AAS election on their views of issues relating to inclusion and equity in astronomy. The questionnaire (which was not endorsed or sponsored by AAS or its committees) was sent out to candidates on Dec 4, requesting a response by Dec 14. This short time scale was set by a desire to collect responses before the AAS election, voting for which has now opened. We recognize that this was also a time when many candidates (as well as the folks who helped put together this survey) faced many pressures and demands from the end of the semester and final exams. We are grateful to all of those candidates who in this busy time were able to make time to respond. Given the limited time frame, we accepted responses to part or all of the questionnaire, as well as free-form statements on candidate views of equity and inclusion. As the first effort of this type, we hope that feedback will improve similar efforts in the future. We would also love to see other interested folks in the community take the lead in expanding similar questionnaires (or in asking AAS to provide more direction for the statements written by candidates) in order to address not only equity and inclusion, but other issues that matter to us as astronomers, so that we can all vote in a more informed way.

Also included in this folder is a read-me document that shares the instructions given to the candidates for their participation. We invite you to read and consider all of these candidate responses, and to use them to engage the candidates and our elected AAS representatives in a continuing conversation about these important issues.

Finally, we are especially grateful to other AAS members, many junior, who wish to remain anonymous but assisted greatly with brainstorming and executing this survey.

Prof. Rebekah Dawson
Prof. Elisabeth Mills
Prof. Jorge Moreno
Dr. Nicole Cabrera Salazar
Prof. Sarah Tuttle

Monday, December 19, 2016

Taking Action on the Gender Bias in STEM

Malaysia Primary School Girls
Today’s guest blogger, Anne Virkki, works as a postdoctoral research scientist in the planetary radar group of the Arecibo Observatory. She is originally from Finland, received her PhD from the University of Helsinki, and soon after defending escaped the dark and cold weather to the heat of Puerto Rico.

In the last AAS Division for Planetary Science meeting in October I joined the Women in Planetary Science lunch and discussion event. We discussed the small number of women in many of the spacecraft science teams as well as editorial boards of scientific journals and even smaller numbers of women from the different ethnic minorities. I find the event useful but felt that the discussion never got into the very core of the problem or practical actions on how to tackle it.

What we did discuss was the unconscious bias, but mainly on the level of employers choosing the future employees and how to make everyone included at the work places.  

However, a gender bias exists in the lives of many of us from a much earlier stage; it is a legacy carried by parents and teachers to children in societies where conservatism lives strong. The elders conserve the gender roles they learned from their own elders as values they either consciously or unconsciously pass on to their children: Girls should be seen but not heard, boys are better in mathematics and technology than girls, girls should learn to knit and cook and clean while boys should learn handiness like fixing the car or other “traditional forms” of engineering. For many families these stereotypes are fortunately history but for many others they are very present up to this day, and will affect the career choice of the children. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gender Identity Policies Affecting Astronomers

By Jessica Mink, AAS CSWA+SGMA
When people think about the integration of transgender people into an academic environment, they tend to stop at the use of public facilities. That is the focus of people and groups who are in fact opposed to our identities and in the end, by denying us access, to our very existence. But we need other kinds of support. In my September Women In Astronomy post, I asked readers to help the American Astronomical Society Committee on Sexual orientation and Gender identity Minorities in Astronomy (SGMA) assess institutional gender identity and expression policies in their institutions. In one of the responses to a Facebook post of it, I learned that Campus Pride had conducted a much larger survey, though I found that it did not differentiate between identity and expression. It provides links to anti-discrimination policies at 998 institutions of higher education which include at least one, usually gender identity, but I don't have the time to ferret out specific wording from all of these. We also wanted to include some of the other institutions which employ astronomers in our survey, and a few of those came in.

Since November 8, local anti-discrimination rules have become more important as at least one member of the newly-elected U.S. administration has vowed to remove LGBT protections from Federal Regulations: In May, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence released this statement, the significant sentence of which I have underlined:
I have long believed that education is a state and local function. Policies regarding the security and privacy of students in our schools should be in the hands of Hoosier parents and local schools, not bureaucrats in Washington, DC. The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature. I am confident that parents, teachers and administrators will continue to resolve these matters without federal mandates and in a manner that reflects the common sense and compassion of our state.
Many of my transgender friends are worrying that our Federal protections will disappear. Those protections have been mostly instituted by regulation and court interpretation since Congress has failed to pass an explicitly inclusive anti-discrimination law. Possible changes in regulators and judges could change our available rights. We are hurrying to correct the gender in our Social Security records and to get passports with the correct gender, things which have been made possible by changes in regulations during the Obama administration. Those of us who work for the Federal government or its contractors fear the loss of coverage of gender corrective medical care in our health insurance plans, which has only recently been required.

In that context, the results of our small survey are given here:

Institution                         Date          Gender_Protection
Wesleyan University                 9/30/2016     identity,expression
American Museum of Natural History  9/29/2016     identity,expression
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center    9/27/2016     identity,perceived_gender
University of Michigan              9/23/2016     identity,expression
University of Delaware              9/23/2016     identity,expression
University of Pittsburgh            9/22/2016     identity,expression
University of California            9/22/2016     identity,expression
Arizona State University            9/22/2016     identity,expression
Penn State                          9/22/2016     identity,sex_stereotyping
University of Colorado              9/21/2016     identity,expression
American Astronomical Society       9/21/2016     identity,expression
Smithsonian Institution             9/29/2016     identity,gender_stereotyping
Harvard University                  10/3/2016     identity
Johns Hopkins University            10/11/2016    identity,expression

The on-line version of the policy of each institution is linked from its name. The date is that on which the policy was checked. Policies change: my employer, the Smithsonian Institution added "gender stereotyping" between the time I wrote the original survey post and the time I started putting together the responses a week later.  Because this survey is the beginning of SGMA's effort to get employers of AAS members to meet the same standard, I wondered how "stereotyping" differed from "expression" and asked the National Center for Transgender Equality. They responded:
"Sex stereotyping" or "gender stereotyping" is something some federal agencies are using for some nuanced reasons having to do with the Justice Department's equivocal position on whether federal sex discrimination laws cover sexual orientation. So, you often see it used in this way: "race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and gender stereotyping), sexual orientation, or disability." It's a somewhat confusing legal term and we don't recommend it as a substitute for gender expression. Similarly, "perceived gender" is not the same as gender expression. We believe nondiscrimination policies always cover a perception of someone's characteristics (like if your boss harasses you based on assuming you're Muslim but you're not actually Muslim), and that if "actual or perceived" language is used it should be applies to all covered characteristics. 
For private businesses and state and local policies, we still recommend "gender identity and expression" or "gender identity and gender expression."
10 out of 14 compliant employers is a good start, and we'll be fortunate if we can hold on to the partial protection of the two federal installations in the survey. We still have to work to move every institution toward the simple standard of forbidding discrimination based on either gender identity or gender expression. Then we'll be on to insurance coverage, the details of which are much harder to ferret out unless the institution is in a state which requires coverage of transgender-related services.

[This press release from GLAD, GLBT Legal Advocates and Defenders (of which I am on the Board) came out while I was writing this post. Covering an agreement on accommodation of transgender students in Massachusetts' community college system, it gives us some further goals.]

Monday, December 12, 2016

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes

Well, it has been quite a year.

Semesters and quarters are winding down around the globe. Students and teachers alike are stumbling towards a tired finish line, and we have all settled into the short days that tell our brains and bodies that maybe now would be a great time to hunker down for a break. 

I’m trying to make this a period of contemplation. Although I am often the happiest when things are overwhelmingly busy (who doesn’t love falling into bed physically exhausted with a quiet mind?), my best thinking often happens when I find that quiet place where my brain can drift haphazardly. Unsolved problems get solved, weird ideas get spawned, and crushed, and made anew. The heavy lifting often happens in these quiet times when I can’t distract myself with busy work. 

A lot of things matter a lot, but time keeps passing too. For me it is hard not to just stagger to the end of the term and the year. Here are a few things I'm focusing on as we come to the end of another trip around the sun.

Reflection: This is the end of my first quarter as a tenure-track faculty member, which is still even a weird thing to write. It has been a great big adjustment - figuring out managing my time, recruiting, managing people, and planning for the longer term (is what I’m doing today going to help me tomorrow? In two years? In ten years? OH GOD WHAT AM I DOING??) I’m trying to take some time to both plan and reflect both weekly and quarterly. Getting swept up in the passing of time is too easy, and I want to at least steer the boat some of the time. 

Data: I’m working on being an honest tracker of activities and time. Sure, I’m not a lawyer, and no one cares what I’m doing with my time except me. But hey, we’re scientists. I want to know if I’m spending my time the way I think I am. The human brain is a beautiful disaster, and we operate in stories more often than we’d like to admit. Pushing back with data when appropriate is useful for me to keep myself accountable. I think this also helps me to be reasonable when thinking about my expectations for others. 

Rest: I suck at this. I should have learned this lesson a long time ago. I am resistant to this lesson. But joking aside, our brains and our bodies need rest. Some people don’t need a ton, some people need a bunch, but we have signed on to a career where some amount of “suffering for your science” is seen as a badge of honor. You should do what feels right for you, but as someone who now supervises people - it is important for me to model living in a way that isn’t destructive. And it is important for my students and staff to know that I value not just their contribution to our science, but them as people. 

Risk: I’m better at this, but am working on my intentionality here. We didn’t become scientists to check boxes or march through our days like zombies. I can definitely get worn down by the repetition. How is it December, for example? I want to make sure that I’m not just choosing the easy path, but something that feels like a meaningful contribution. I want to take enough intellectual risks that I flirt with failure. Especially with the pressures of narrowing funding opportunities it can seem wise to try for “sure things”, or make choices that we justify with being pragmatic. I tend to be a pretty pragmatic person so have to resist the urge. I don’t want my group to exist to keep existing. I want us to push into new understanding of the universe.

Forgiveness: I did not finish everything I hoped to finish. I did not meet all the goals I set. I could have handled some situations better than I did. I am working a lot on learning the lessons I can learn, finding space for forgiving myself, and moving forward. I am definitely guilty of being locked in past mistakes or patterns in an indulgent way sometimes. The excuses are familiar and comfortable. Forgiveness involves facing things head on and owning them, rather than glancing at them out of the corner of my eye and avoiding them. 

I hope you all can take a moment between finishing classes, and wrapping presents, and laying on the floor to mark the passing of time, and all the successes you’ve had this year. It is human nature to minimize our triumphs as we push forward. Take a moment to enjoy even the small moments of growth and victory. See you all on the flip side. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

AAS Candidate Questionnaire

Community members interested in issues of equity & inclusion have authored a survey for AAS members running for elected office, to request additional details on their policy positions and plans related to their prospective offices. The full questionnaire appears below. It was constructed with input from the community on issues that are important to all of us as we cast our votes.

A star (*) appears by the 5 questions that the authors consider the most important.

Survey responses will be made publicly available to AAS voters in read-only Google documents, and the availability of these responses will be advertised on the Astronomy in Color blog and here on the Women in Astronomy blog.

AAS Candidate Questionnaire

1. In a few sentences, what does equity and inclusion in astronomy mean to you?

2. In terms of racial, sexual, gender, and disability equity in our field, what do you believe the AAS is doing well, and what does the AAS need to improve?

3. (*) As part of the AAS leadership, what equity issue do you most want to address? What challenges do you believe the AAS will need to address in the next three years?

4. How do you see the AAS leading our field to racial, sexual, gender, and disability equity while respecting the self-governance of universities, departments, and other employers?

5. (*) Beyond its astronomy-specific responsibilities, do you see the AAS responding to more general threats to the rights or welfare of marginalized groups in the U.S., even if it risks political backlash?

6. What can the AAS do or continue doing to aid the professional development and employment opportunities for its growing population of junior members from minoritized groups?

7. (*) How will you work with the AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA), the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA), the Working Group on Accessibility and Disability (WGAD), and the Committee for Sexual Orientation and Gender Minorities in Astronomy (SGMA) to ensure that the AAS is continually progressing toward making astronomy equitable for all?

8. (*) What background and experience in inclusion, equity, and accessibility work would you bring to this position that would help you make progress on these priorities? What personal experience would help inform your stance on these issues?

9. (*) Given recent publicized revelations of sexual harassment by senior astronomers, how do you believe that the AAS could help improve the climate in our field to better protect members from experiencing harassment along all axes (including race, disability, sexuality, and gender identification) and to support those who have experienced it?

10. Do you support at least one plenary AAS session per year (either at the winter or summer meeting) that addresses community issues related to equity and inclusion? How would you use your position as AAS leadership to ensure there is ample time and support for this type of plenary?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cross-post: DPS/EPSC 2016 Plenary on Unconscious Bias by Dr. Patricia Knezek

This is a cross posting from the Women in Planetary Science blog.

The new DPS Sub-committee on Professional Culture and Climate implemented many ideas at the 2016 meeting in Pasadena, some of which were: a plenary talk featured in this post, more prominent displays of the anti-harassment policy at the meeting entrances, a hotline for reporting harassment incidents, and additional questions about the meeting climate on the post-meeting survey. The meeting survey will be e-mailed to attendees in the near future, please take a moment to fill it out!

knezek_patricia-100x150Dr. Patricia Knezek insightful talk outlines the prevalence and importance of unconscious bias, what it is (and what it is not), demographic data (including some for planetary science by Julie Rathbun and others), and what we can do to mitigate unconscious bias.
Her slides are available here.

If you have not already taken the Harvard Implicit Association Test, it is an interesting way to test your own biases (and not just for gender bias!)

Thanks to Patricia for this talk, and for the members of the DPS Professional Climate and Culture sub-committee for all of your efforts towards making the meeting a comfortable space for all.

Friday, December 2, 2016

AASWomen Newsletter for December 2, 2016

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of December 2, 2016
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. 500 Women Scientists
2. 2016 Holiday Gift Guide   
3. Cross Posts: On the US Election: Inclusion, Allyship, & Solidarity in Astronomy & Planetary Science
4. Now Open: L'Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellowship Application      
5. Next Scholar Program Accepting Applications  
6. Berkeley Students Are Challenging How Faculty Harassment Is Handled
7. The Search for Hidden Figures (contest announcement)
8. High School Girls Have Designed Africa's First Private Satellite
9. Children Learn Early On That Scientists Are Men
10. Job Opportunities  
11. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter
12. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter
13. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Monday, November 28, 2016

500 Women Scientists

A group of women scientists who have been working in Washington as AAAS science fellows have written an open letter to the US congress and the new administration expressing their concerns. The full text is below. This effort was inspired by a letter of 100 women of color and the letter from the National Academies of Science.

They have also formed a group, through which they plan to create "strike teams" of group members to address the issues detailed in the letter and other issues of interest to the group members.  If you are interested in getting involved, please sign-up on their web page. Note that the letter is not restricted to issues of the US and acknowledges the global nature of science, they welcome non-US-resident-signatories.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Image From NASA: courtesy of The Cassini-Huygens Project team.
For the past few years, the Women in Astronomy blog has posted a holiday gift guide in preparation for the vast array of holidays celebrated in December. The 2014 post included links to various shopping and blogging sites focused on science and empowering girls (many of which are still useful today), and the 2015 post focused on a gift giving guide from the creators of STARtorialist. Just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, here's the 2016 Holiday Gift Guide, which is mostly links to help get the perfect gifts for the space fans in your life this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cross Posts: On the US Election: Inclusion, Allyship, & Solidarity in Astronomy & Planetary Science

Several statements, in addition to two (Nov. 9th and Nov. 14th) posted via the Women in Astronomy blog, have been posted by groups affiliated with the American Astronomical Society with regards to the recent US Presidential election and the need for inclusion, allyship, and the safe guarding of our colleagues and friends. Three of those pieces are attached (in brief forms with links to their fuller versions) here: The November 9th blog from the Astronomy in Color Blog, the November 18th post from AAS President Christine Jones on behalf of the AAS Council, and the November 20th post on the Women in Planetary Science Blog from the Men's Auxiliary Group who recently met at the Division for Planetary Sciences Conference.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Losing Privilege and Gaining Something Else

by Jessica Mink, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Jessica and Darian,
neighbors and tandem partners
Not many people have the experience of giving up a trait which carries with it a significant amount of privilege in our society. When I changed my gender five years ago this month, several of my woman astronomer friends asked me how I experienced life differently after I gave up my male privilege. I thought that I knew some of the answers a year ago and wrote what I had learned in a post, "On Becoming a Woman Astronomer". As I have learned more, I continue to find more uncertainty about my place in the world. I've realized that in significant parts of my life, I'll continue for a long time to be seen as a transwoman because my personal history has two differently-gendered chapters. Here is another annual installment in my unending journey.

In my world, being transgender has tended to be positive. Far more people have congratulated me for my courage than have insulted me, at least to my face. This is not true of all of my trans friends, and that difference is always in my mind as I try to figure out how much is good fortune and what I can teach others from my experience. I've enjoyed more involvement in the world, being asked to represent the T of LGBTQ because I'm more out than most of my demographic. An eight-month stint as chair of the board of our local transgender chorus led people to believe that I was a local trans leader. I got to know a bigger sample of the trans community, was interviewed  by a local NPR station, and got invited to places I'd never been before. I've also learned that past male privilege has followed me into my new life, maybe because in my controlled experiment I was trying to change only my gender but not my environment. I still get credit for things that I did as a male, so people tend to think of me in a less gendered way than if I had always been a woman.

I decided to write about this because of several recent events which made me think about where I am, both in and out of the astronomical part of my life. It started with a workshop on negotiation for women at work two weeks ago, where it turned out that I knew more about negotiation than I expected. I also learned that women have a harder time finding a the right style of argument than men. A couple of days later, I participated in a panel on intersectionality in science at a nearby university as the trans/female representative. I got a lot of time to listen to the concerns of undergraduate women and realized that I'm probably too old to experience the harassment that younger women seem to get almost everywhere. By missing that kind of experience, I won't ever quite feel what other women in science (or elsewhere, for that matter) feel.

Then there was the election, which seems to have brought out a backlash against women, especially those that act out of the box, and trans people.  I still tend to act as if I can do anything without having my gender questioned, but now worry more that I will inadvertently out myself as trans when I don't want to be.

Other minority groups seem to be more open to me than they were before I changed, and I try to be as open to them. It's been interesting to move between single-race groups which are trying unsuccessfully to be more inclusive and other groups which just are inclusive. I keep trying to figure out how what I've learned from my own intersectionality can be used to include and empower divided demographic groups in my city, state, country, avocations, and profession.

Just this past weekend, I attended a 25th anniversary meeting of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, which I helped start. Most of my original colleagues, who I had not seen for many years, were there and instantly accepted me, though with a bit of surprise. While our planned trail goes through all of the major cities on the East Coast from Maine to Florida, including a quite diverse population, its support group is maybe even whiter than astronomy, despite early attempts to be more inclusive. There is a lot of work to be done!

I returned to my Boston community for Saturday dinner in honor of a black woman bicyclist who had just biked across the country with her violin and dog. The group was integrated racially and a major contrast from that I had been in all day. It's not that the constituency is not there, just like there are people of many races who want to be astronomers. We all need to think about what the barriers are and how they affect how our profession connects to the world.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Third verse (almost) same as the first...

This is a modified version of the full blog post, at the request of the AAS leadership.

The full post can be found here. 

My heart is sick. I like to think I’m fairly realistic about our world, and our country. Those of you who know me know that unbridled optimism is not my going-in position. But I still have spent this week struggling with the fact that this is where we are. Several people have commented to me that it has felt like a funeral. Probably because it is. 

First, I want to write to all of you who are in and out of a dark place. To all my minoritized friends and colleagues. You are not alone. And I don’t mean that in the abstract way. I mean that in the “reach out and I’ll be there, call in the cavalry” sort of way*. To everyone who is scared for their family, scared about losing their rights, scared about the sharp spike in hate crimes over the last few days - You are not alone. We will prepare, and we will fight this. 

To those of you preaching appeasement and patience: No. We know what that looks like. We are better students of history. I am not afraid to stand up to protect the existence of those who society has pushed to the margins. I am not afraid to stand up to protect myself. 

I encourage you to keep a critical eye on the world around you. Like the proverbial frog in the slowly warming water (not a thing, by the way, so don't try this at home) one must be careful to not constantly acclimate in the drift towards tyranny. The signs are subtle, but not impossible to see. Long before the lists are made, we will begin to censor ourselves and those around us out of fear. Do not let fear guide you.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking hate incidents. In particular, notice two things: First, although the hate is broadly distributed, anti-Black and anti-immigrant sentiment feature in the majority of attacks. Second, look where the attacks are happening: Schools and universities. It is crucial we stand up and use our voices to repudiate this violence and hateful rhetoric. We must use our bodies to shield those being attacked. 

We have a lot of work to do. I’ll see you out there. #KeepLovingKeepFighting

*Seriously. Reach out at tuttlese at uw dot edu if you need to touch base.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Reflection Moment: The Importance of Bystander Intervention

Our country is currently in a moment of reflection. And as everyone discusses the political changes that may occur, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of our allies out there, and ask that everyone remember to love and respect each other. We as a community (in STEM, and specifically in both Astronomy and Planetary Science) have been discussing allyship and bystander intervention for some time now, but these discussions have increased in intensity in the past year.

An illustrative guide to bystander intervention from Maeril. Thank you to Maeril (twitter: +itsmaeril) for giving us permission to use this illustration!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Meet your CSWA: Vishnu Reddy

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.

Vishnu Reddy is a tenure-track faculty member at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson. His research focuses on detecting and characterizing natural and artificial moving objects for NASA and DoD. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, in 2009 and worked as a research faculty there till 2012. Prior to working at the University of Arizona, Reddy worked as a research scientist at Planetary Science Institute, a non-profit based in Tucson.

Reddy served as the press officer for the Division for Planetary Sciences of the AAS for six years and has actively participated in NASA community service activities. He is married to fellow planetary scientist Dr. Lucille Le Corre and they live in Tucson, Arizona with their cat Loki and horse Hokuloa.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Hyde Amendment's Impact on Astronomers (and Go Vote!)
Poster image and data from
Today's guest blogger is Anonymous. Anonymous is a PhD student in planetary science, holds a national graduate prize fellowship, and identifies as a woman of color. She has completed undergraduate and masters-level degrees at top-tier institutions and is looking forward to a long and rewarding career in STEM.

Note: Although we moderate comments on this blog, due to the personal nature of this post we have decided to remove the opportunity to comment.

This summer, I learned firsthand the consequences of an under-considered policy that affects all Americans in astrophysical sciences capable of becoming pregnant: the Hyde Amendment. It’s a policy that the Republican ticket would only strengthen and one that Hillary Clinton has already promised to instead overturn if elected President.

At the start of the summer, my partner moved in and despite our best efforts to the contrary, I became pregnant.

It took a while for me to realize I was pregnant. I’m a part of a research team working on a large space grant and we had our penultimate grant progress meeting quickly approaching. I thought the work stress was both making me get a terrible cold and pushing the arrival of my period. I just really didn’t think I could have become pregnant and, until then, I never knew how much the first trimester can feel like having the flu.

Ten days before the grant progress meeting, realizing I was smelling things my weak nose had never before smelt, it finally occurred to me to wonder if I were pregnant. Immediately after the stick’s “+” sign lit up, I called the local women’s health center naively hoping I could schedule an abortion for that very afternoon -- after all, when a friend of mine once drunkenly crashed his bike into the curb on Friday, he was able to get his front teeth replaced Saturday morning. It seemed to me that in pretty much all medical emergencies getting an appointment within 24 hours would be standard.

Of course, because there are ample male politicians who fear women behaving similarly to men and rely on forced gender roles to feel masculine, there are strict abortion laws around the country and abortion is not considered an immediate medical necessity (think about how these people consider IVF vs abortion). This forces Americans with unwanted pregnancies living in such restrictive states to fly to more progressive states (like the one I live in) to be treated. Thus, having an abortion on the same day was out of the question; I’d have to wait a week.

During that week I felt like Dr. Elizabeth Shaw from the movie Prometheus and for the first time really understood the emotions that could drive a person to stick a clothes hanger in their body. I have no desire to become a parent while finishing my PhD and even if I did, my uterus has congenital medical conditions that make it almost certain any pregnancy I pursue will only lead to a late-term miscarriage -- the very sort of miscarriage that Mike Pence has had women of my skin hue imprisoned for in Indiana.

My appointment was set for the Friday before my Monday grant progress meeting. The woman scheduling my appointment told me I should budget at least 5 hours at the clinic and, for security reasons, no electronics would be allowed inside the clinic (goodbye laptop and research work!). Because I was early in the first trimester, she told me to prepare for having a medication abortion -- I would need to totally clear out my Saturday schedule and plan on spending the day on painkillers and anti-nausea meds while alternating between the bed and the toilet.

The real surprise for me came towards the end of the call. “What is your insurance? Mmhmm, ok, you should be prepared for them to not cover this procedure.” Because my health insurance plan receives federal funds, the Hyde Amendment prevents it from covering an abortion unless I can prove “continuing the pregnancy will endanger [my] life.” Luckily, my partner and I were in a secure financial situation so we could weather the immediate costs and, with the help of the clinic, I was also able to prove the medical treatment had been a necessity by filing a claim after the abortion (and grant progress meeting). Two months later, I was reimbursed $366 out of the $489 cost.

Most people think of the Hyde Amendment as just hurting low-income women (of color) on Medicaid or women refugees (of color) dependent on USAID. These women obviously need this basic coverage, and who knows, perhaps the coverage could enable them to pursue educational opportunities that’d lead to an illustrious career in astrophysical sciences.

However, what most people overlook, is that the Hyde Amendment doesn’t just hurt these easy-for-society-to-ignore women. It hurts ALL people capable of becoming pregnant whose health insurance is part of a federal plan. I could be the director of NASA and my health insurance still would not cover one of the simplest, safest medical procedures there is. And if I was working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, besides not having my health insurance cover the procedure, I would have to wait 20+ days for the procedure -- a length of time any busy scientist would agree is unacceptable. This lack of coverage furthers the gender pay gap since it forces people to use up more of their income for basic (but gendered) medical treatment and it also exacerbates other gender gaps at work as these people lose more work time to take care of basic health needs.

The presidential election isn’t the only vote that matters for this issue -- in fact the outrage over recently much discussed “locker room talk” just shows how important it is to vote down the entire ballot against candidates who have felt entitled to control and belittle the lives of women, especially women of color and queer women.

Being able to sit at the table, to lean in, and speak up depends on being a respected, autonomous person. Being respected and considered autonomous in the eyes of the law is the first step in fully being a respected, autonomous person. Grab that respect and autonomy for yourself by voting. Double check that you are registered, double check where to vote. Then, go vote.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cross Post: Women in Astronomy & Computer Science: There’s Still Work To Do #WiSTEMspotlight

This feature is a re-post from The Digital Science, which can be found here. As part of Digital Science’s celebrations for Ada Lovelace Day, for the month of October they are running series of blog posts where inspiring women and men in STEM are sharing their personal stories. Anyone can get involved and we encourage you to read and share your thoughts using the hashtag #WiSTEMspotlight.

About the author: Kimberly Arcand is Visualization Lead for the Chandra X-ray Observatory. She is a co-author of popular science books including “Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond“ and “Your Ticket to the Universe: A Guide to Exploring the Cosmos.”

This is my story, but it is also the story of countless others.

My career is found at the intersection of two forward-looking and fast-paced fields: astronomy and computer science. While I never mapped out this particular trajectory, it’s been a compelling and fascinating journey so far – I look forward to where I can go from here.

Unfortunately, success in these STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines is not a given for many, especially women and people of color. Far too often, there are hurdles and obstacles – many unseen and unrecognized – to reach key milestones for those who fall outside the traditional perception and background of what a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician should be and where they should come from.

Friday, October 21, 2016

AASWomen Newsletter for October 21, 2016

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of October 21, 2016
eds: Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Christina Thomas, and Maria Patterson

This week's issues:

1. Checking In     
2. Sexual Harassment Workshop: Highlights and Outcomes
3. Blue Waters Graduate Fellowships  
4. What To Do When You're Called A 'Diversity Hire' 
5. Women need to be seen and heard at conferences 
6. Gender pay gap is widest during workers' 50s, analysis shows 
7. Women in computing to decline to 22% by 2025, study warns 
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, October 17, 2016

Checking in

Happy Monday. How are y’all doing?

I’m going to be honest. We’re all feeling a bit fatigued in my physical and virtual neck of the woods. We don’t often talk politics in this particular venue, but I’m going to say - This presidential election season has been especially brutal on my soul.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

DPS Professional Culture & Climate Subcommittee/Announcement of DPS Plenary

The Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) created the Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee (PCCS) this past year with the goal of considering and recommending actions that the DPS can take to remove or reduce factors in our professional culture that lead to anything other than scientific merit in consideration of any members's ability to achieve success as a planetary scientist.

Top, L-R: Christina Richey, Nancy Chanover, Rebecca Oppenheimer, & Karen Meech
Bootom, L-R: Guy Consolmango, Sarah Horst, Matthew Tiscareno, & Sona Hosseini

The current members of the PCCS are:
Christina Richey (co-CHAIR, ASRC Federal and NASA HQ)
Nancy Chanover (co-CHAIR, New Mexico State University)
Rebecca Oppenheimer (American Museum Natural History)
Karen Meech (University of Hawaii IFA)
Guy Consolmagno (Vatican Observatory)
Sarah Horst (Johns Hopkins University)
Matthew Tiscareno (SETI Institute)
Sona Hosseini (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)