Category Archives: women in science

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

By Kim Roth

Hidden Figures is a currently playing movie based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly of the same title. The movie follows three African-American mathematicians, Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson, who worked as computer scientists during the race to manned space flight at Langley in Virginia during the 1960s.  It is a story of friendship, love,  the space race, and living as an African-American woman during segregation.  The story is compelling and the accompanying music is great.

For me, as a mathematician, hearing the math was exciting. As a person who knows that racism and segregation have made the lives of African-Americans harder but was not alive during the era of segregation, seeing segregation’s effect on these women’s careers was sad and eye-opening. My eleven-year-old daughter enjoyed the story of the space race and the women, but was shocked to find out that segregation portrayed in the movie was historically accurate, which is a sign that her social studies classes and us need to talk about it more. Go and see it at the Clifton 5 where it is currently showing!

Watch the Trailer Here

Women in STEM: a Roundtable

By Nora Connors ’17 and Hannah Hrobuchak ’17

On October 18th and 19th, Nora Connors and Hannah Hrobuchak hosted the Women in STEM Seminar Series for students to hear the experiences of the wonderful female STEM professors here at Juniata. Both Nora and Hannah are currently senior pre-medical students at Juniata College. Nora has a POE in Conflict Studies and Social Justice with a secondary emphasis in Biology and Hannah has a POE in Biology. The idea for this event was born last semester when we were students in the class Nonviolence: Theory and Practice. We were to propose a project that would bring attention to inequalities that exist in our world. Because we are both passionate, female science students who plan on entering the medical field, we thought this event would be a great way to portray our interests to the Juniata community.

The seminar series exceeded all of our expectations. Over 100 students were present over the two days and 7 Juniata professors presented. The seminar involved both of us asking the professors questions and then giving the audience an opportunity to also ask questions. We were both happy with the involvement and attention the audience gave during the presentations. One of the main goals of this series was to convey that these professors are not only extremely successful in their field, but also can serve as resources for all students on campus. A crucial aspect of supporting women’s involvement in the STEM fields is having a support group or mentor that can help encourage us to continue when we are feeling overwhelmed or uncertain.

We would like to close with a great resource that Dr. Williams shared at the event: Project Implicit, which is a test designed to make people aware of the biases they may have. An important step in changing the inequalities that exist in our world is to recognize the biases that each individual personally holds. We often do not mean to have these biases, but once we know of their existence, we can work towards overcoming them. Check out the link if you have the time (there is even a Gender-Science bias test)! https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

For any current Juniata students who are reading this, please let us know if you are interested in getting involved with the Women in STEM Seminar Series. Both Nora and Hannah will be graduating this year and we would love to have the Women in STEM Seminar Series continue on for future students.

 

 

The Only Woman in the Room

By Kim Roth

Dr. Kim Roth is Professor of Mathematics at Juniata College.

My department hired two new people this year.  One afternoon early this semester, Joie Escuadro exclaimed, “There are only women here at the office right now. Women power!” It was then I realized that our Juniata math department is now more than half women, something I have never experienced before.

I am not sure when my first experience was of being the only woman in the room was. While girls have been shown to have the same aptitude as boys in math but persistence in higher level mathematics is lower in middle and high school (Andreescu et al.) I was aware of my gender in relation to math by high school. My teacher, Mr. Grimm, was excellent but difficult. He was also known to have an unspoken view that girls could not do math and that any girl on the math team was a token. I was not on the math team.roth_kim-2

This continued in college. I distinctly remember, as an undergraduate, looking around the room in my Computer Science Theory class, a cross-listed math and computer science class, and being glad that while I was the only woman, at least I was not the only mathematician in the room.

For me, the attitudes about what I could or could not do because of who I was were motivating, in the “I’ll show you” fashion. So I persisted, and I enjoyed the truth and beauty of mathematics so much that I went to graduate school. The percentage of women in mathematics PhD program is currently 32% (Velez et al.). In my incoming class, there were about 20 people, of which five were women. However, I stood out more for my love of teaching than I did for my gender.

There is still work to be done to get more women to choose mathematics. I notice that my non-majors classes have a higher percentage of women than my classes for majors. In fact, I have taught an upper-level math class as the only woman in the room.

So how do you thrive even if you are the only woman in the room? For me, the main tools are community, mentorship, and outreach, leavened with a sense of humor and aided by stubbornness. Community was always part of my mathematical experiences, from working with my best friend Iris in high school math, setting up study groups within my classes in college, holding the beginning of semester party and running the math seminar for graduate students in grad school, to running workshops for new math faculty now. Community you make can be a “Team You”.

Mentors helped me find my way. Jim Walsh, my undergraduate advisor, encouraged me to go to graduate school. In grad school, Florence Newberger helped me write application materials for teaching jobs and encouraged me to join the new math faculty program, Project NExT. Project NExT provided me with a professional network that still provides me support and advice. Carolyn Cuff and Robin Lock mentored my transition into statistics.

Also, outreach helps me give back. I review grants for programs encouraging girls and women in mathematics as part of my duties on the Committee on the Participation of Women for the Mathematical Association of America. Working and mentoring in programs that I participated in as a young professor allows me to pass on the experiences that helped me. I encourage and help my women students to do what they want, making sure they are aware of jobs and have a realistic view of graduate school.

Some of you may be the only woman in the room, but communities and mentors can help you through.

Do not forget to pass it on.

 

References

Titu Andreescu, Joseph A. Gallian, Jonathan M. Kane, and Janet E. Mertz , Cross-Cultural Analysis of Students with Exceptional Talent in Mathematical Problem Solving. Notices of the AMS, 2008, Volume 55, Number 10, pg. 1248-1260.  http://www.ams.org/notices/200810/fea-gallian.pdf

William Yslas Velez, James W. Maxwell, and Colleen Rose , Report on the 2013-2014 New Doctoral Recipents, http://www.ams.org/profession/data/annual-survey/2014Survey-NewDoctorates-Report.pdf, accessed 10/17/16.