Maria Mayer 1906-1972

Winning the prize wasn’t half as exciting as doing the work itself.

-Maria Goeppert-Mayer

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Maria Mayer was a physicist and mathematician who helped to make huge advancements in the world of nuclear chemistry and physics. Amongst her many achievements, her greatest contribution was the proposal of a nuclear shell model. Her research and life work afforded her the Nobel prize in physics in 1963, making her the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for theoretical physics and the second woman in history to win a Nobel Prize at all (after Marie Curie). Thus, Maria Mayer is the subject of this week’s Wonder Woman Wednesday post!

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Maria Mayer was born on June 28, 1906 in Germany. Consistent with the times, her ascent into the upper realms of academia was not easy as a woman. After obtaining her PhD under Max Born at the University of Gottingen in 1930, and holding a doctorate for years, she was still largely limited to unpaid and unofficial work in university laboratories. Her early career consisted of taking on a variety of different positions including both teaching and research jobs. Fortunately, she was eventually offered a job at Argonne National Laboratory, managed by the University of Chicago, which allowed her to work with Edward Teller, and delve into her research interests.

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Her primary research interests were concerned with developing a mathematical model for the structure of nuclear shells, similar to electron shell structure in atoms. She proposed that inside the nucleus, protons and neutrons are arranged in a series of nucleon layers. Furthermore, each nucleon moves in a central potential well created by other nucleons, just as the electrons orbit a potential well created by the nucleus in the atomic shell model. The orbits form a series of shells increasing in energy, and the nuclei with completely filled outer shells are the most stable. She studied the elements and noticed the repetition of seven magic numbers: 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, and 126. Initially, she was unable to figure out a theoretical explanation, until asked about spin-orbit coupling. This simple question immediately made everything fall into place for Mayer, allowing her to finish her computations immediately because she realized that the phenomenon was due to the spin orbit coupling, in which the electron spinning on an axis was coupled with the electron’s orbit around the nucleus. All of this work ultimately led to Maria Mayer winning the Nobel prize for theoretical physics.

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Prior to winning the Nobel Prize in 1963, Maria Mayer was already recognized for her accomplishments and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Her legacy will live on and her contributions to the field of nuclear chemistry and physics have helped shape our understanding of nuclear shells and elements.

Article Written By: Lisa He


Sources:

https://www.famousscientists.org/maria-goeppert-mayer/

http://www.azquotes.com/author/29356-Maria_Goeppert_Mayer/

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/sciencephysics/fl/Maria-Goeppert-Mayer.htm

https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200808/physicshistory.cfm

https://www.osti.gov/accomplishments/mayer.html

Ruzena Bajcsy

“Many people think of robotics as mechanical things, but robotics is also perception – and communication between machines.” – Ruzena Bajcsy

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Today is Wednesday which means it’s time for another Wonder Woman Wednesday post! Today’s feature is Ruzena Bajcsy, an electrical engineer and computer scientist, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. Bajcsy received her PhD in electrical engineering from Slovak Technical University, and her PhD in computer science from Stanford. She was actually the first woman to obtain an electrical engineering PhD in Slovakia, which afforded her the opportunity to come to the United States and attend Stanford. Throughout the years, Bajcsy has garnered an incredible reputation through her research contributions and outstanding leadership. She founded UC Berkeley’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRUS) where she is now director emeritus. She has published over 225 articles in journals and conference proceedings, 25 book chapters, and 66 technical reports. And she has received numerous awards for all of these accomplishments, including the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Computer and Cognitive Sciences, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Award, and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Allen Newell Award. She was also named one of the 50 most important women in science in Discover Magazine’s November 2002 issue. Today, we will take a look at the main contributions that have afforded Bajcsy these awards.

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Bajcsy’s research focuses on a wide range of subjects including artificial intelligence, biosystems and computational biology, control, intelligent systems, and robotics, graphics and human computer interaction, computer vision, and security. Furthermore, she believes strongly in cross-disciplinary research, which is evident in the fact that she has a strong interest in biology and psychology. For example, she has looked at the sensory and motor adaptations in living organisms, and then translated that into her robotics work to determine how much sensor is needed in robots. Her cross-disciplinary talents have allowed her to bridge diverse areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, engineering, and cognitive science. The two contributions in which Bajcsy is most well known for are “active perception” and “elastic matching.”

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Until the 1980s, the model for robotic vision was to interpret and analyze still images taken from static cameras and sensors. Bajcsy however, suggested a more effective method called “active perception” in which moving sensors would allow a machine to gather more information from the surroundings. This idea revolutionized the robotics field because it improved robotic perception greatly, and thus lead to a streamlining in robotic movement as well. Bajcsy was able to recognize and execute the need for robots to act more like humans to perceive their surroundings effectively. Furthermore, this paradigm of vision became applicable to the understanding of human vision, becoming the leading theory for human visual perception. This just goes to show the powerful cross-disciplinary effects of Bajcsy’s work.

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The other contribution by Bajcsy, known as “elastic matching” has transformed and improved medical imaging. The technique involves matching up defined points on anatomical structures and organs, allowing the structures to automatically, align, measure, and analyze the uniquely shaped body parts of an individual. By elastically fitting the deformed images into the idealized medical images, a computer can easily identify body parts and spot anomalies or problems. This has improved medicine by advancing non-invasive measurements of brain structure and function, for example.

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Bajcsy is a female scientist who has made significant contributions to multiple fields using her interdisciplinary work, in which the influences of psychology and biology on computer science and robotics is evident and necessary. Robots are commonly modeled after the human body after all, and perhaps in the future they will resemble human beings more and more closely. The contributions of scientists like Bajcsy, have initiated these scientific advancements in robotics and will continue to allow science to move forward. Thus, Bajcsy is our Wonder Woman this Wednesday because of both her cross-disciplinary research and her outstanding leadership in the creation of a world class robotics laboratory.

Article Written By: Lisa He


Sources:

https://people.eecs.berkeley.edu/~bajcsy/

http://roboticshistory.indiana.edu/content/ruzena-bajcsy

https://www.nist.gov/office-director/biography-dr-ruzena-bajcsy

http://vcresearch.berkeley.edu/faculty/ruzena-bajcsy

https://www.fi.edu/laureates/ruzena-bajcsy

https://www.truststc.org/education/wise/

http://www2.informatik.uni-freiburg.de/~abdon/research.html

https://vision.in.tum.de/research/shape_analysis

http://www.sstscorp.in/robotics.html

https://penncurrent.upenn.edu/1998-11-12/latest-news/ruzena-bajcsy

 

 

 

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)

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If you have ever been in the maternity ward of a hospital or seen the birth of a newborn baby, you may have heard of the Apgar Test. It is a quick assessment of the well-being of a newborn, and it measures many vital indicators of health including a baby’s color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and respiration. Each of the health indicators are rated from zero to two, for a final maximum score of ten. The Apgar score is necessary for physicians to determine whether immediate medical attention is needed following the birth of a baby. This Apgar score was revolutionary for the field of neonatology because it recognized that a newborn’s needs should be the main priority, and it helped to increase health and survival rates during a time when babies were given little attention after birth. The invention of the Apgar score came about with the research of Virginia Apgar; who is the subject of this week’s Wonder Woman Wednesday post!

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Virginia Apgar was determined to become a doctor from a very young age, possibly due to her father’s scientific hobbies, her brother’s death from tuberculosis, or her other brother’s chronic childhood illness. She attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and went on to excel in a surgical internship. However, she soon struggled to find a training program in anesthesiology because it was not recognized as a specialty until later on. Apgar was even discouraged by Dr. Alan Whipple from continuing her studies because other women Whipple had trained in surgery failed to establish successful careers. Despite all this, she trained with Dr. Ralph Waters in the first ever department of anesthesia in the United States at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Eventually, Apgar successfully became an anesthesiologist, and later went on to become the first women full professor at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

A huge part of her career involved studying obstetrical anesthesia, where she looked at the effects of the anesthesia given to a mother during labor on the baby. This work led to the famous Apgar Score, which was the first standardized method for evaluating a newborn. Despite some initial resistance, the Apgar Score later became the standard test. She then went on to continue to study the effects of labor, delivery, and maternal anesthetics on the baby and related that to the Apgar score. This led to important findings; such as the fact that babies with low blood oxygen levels and highly acidic blood had low Apgar scores, and that giving cyclopropane anesthesia was also likely to result in a low score.

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Later in her life, Virginia Apgar dedicated herself to preventing birth defects through public education and fundraising for research. She even became the director of the division of congenital defects at the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (which is now called the March of Dimes). She devoted herself to spreading awareness about birth defect prevention, and gave many lectures and even co-wrote a book on the topic. Her contributions to science in the classroom, the laboratory, and in the clinical setting gained her many awards and accolades.

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Virginia Apgar truly was an inspirational female scientist who made great contributions to perinatology and helped to prevent thousands of infant deaths. Her Apgar scoring system has become the standard medical procedure for newborns and has resulted in the prevention of thousands of infant deaths.

Article Written By: Lisa He


Sources:

http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/apgar-test/

http://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/virginia-apgar.aspx

https://cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_12.html

http://www.notablebiographies.com/An-Ba/Apgar-Virginia.html

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/physicians/p/virginia_apgar.htm

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/airspacesciencemath/tp/Famous-Women-Scientists.03.htm

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/557461260106417000/

http://www.biography.com/people/virginia-apgar-9186891

https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/retrieve/Narrative/CP/p-nid/181/p-visuals/true

Mary Anning (1799-1847)

“She has made herself so thoroughly acquainted with the science that the moment she finds any bones she knows to what tribe they belong. She fixes the bones on a frame with cement and then makes drawings and has them engraved… by reading and application she has arrived to that degree of knowledge as to be in the habit of writing and talking with professors and other clever men on the subject, and they all acknowledge that she understands more of the science than anyone else in this kingdom.” – Lady Harriet Silvester

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The plesiosaurus, depicted below, is a massive predatory marine reptile beast. It is characterized with its sleek body, wide flippers, and unproportionately small head at the end of a long neck, and can grow up to 16.5 feet long. Some people even insist that the Loch Ness Monster is a plesiosaur! For years, people did not believe in the existence of such a creature, and insisted that it was fake and that its anatomy was not possible in reality. Yet in 1823, the first complete plesiosaurus skeleton was discovered, making it evident that this marine species really did exist. It is believed to have lived 120 million years ago in the early-middle Jurassic period, and went extinct along with the rest of the dinosaurs.

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Today’s Wonder Women Wednesday post is dedicated to Mary Anning, the woman attributed with this phenomenal discovery of the complete plesiosaurus skeleton, along with many other important discoveries as well. Mary Anning lived a difficult life, as she was born into poverty on May 21, 1799 in England, along what is now called the Jurassic Coast. To get an idea of her difficult life, her parents had a total of 10 children, of which only 2 (Mary and her brother Joseph) survived. Despite never receiving a formal education, her intelligence, energy, and determination allowed her to still emerge as an amazing scientist. From a young age, her family would collect fossils liberated by storms, which they would then sell to wealthy tourists that visited her hometown. At the age of 11, tragedy struck, and her father died of tuberculosis, putting the entire family in serious financial trouble. The only source of income for the family at the time was finding these fossils and selling them off.

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In 1811, her brother Joseph found an ichthyosaur skull. Mary, at the age of only 12, found the rest of the skeleton a few months later. This discovery was huge and even used as the basis for the first ever scientific paper about the ichthyosaur, published in 1814 by Everard Home. Unfortunately, because Mary was female, and her family was from the lower class, neither Mary nor Joseph received any credit in the paper. Despite this, Mary continued her work and even took on a scientific approach, making an effort to learn about the anatomy and read scientific papers in conjunction with finding fossils.

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Ichthyosaur Fossil

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Plesiosaurus Fossil

In 1823, her major discovery of a complete Plesiosaurus skeleton took place, making her famous and gaining the attention of people worldwide. After that point, Mary continued making countless discoveries and established herself as an important scientist. Her discoveries and work have guided many high ranking geologists and paleontologists and even helped to form the basis of the earliest popular portrayal of prehistoric species. In addition, her discoveries contributed to new ideas and developments about the history of the Earth. Her legacy is evident with the fact that many species are now named in her honor, including Acrodus anningiae, Belenostomus anningiae, anningia, anningella, and the ichthyosaurus species. Indeed, Mary’s legacy will live on as both an amazing scientist and a woman who found success despite her humble origins.

Article Written by Lisa He


Sources:

http://www.famousscientists.org/mary-anning/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/famouspeople/mary_anning/

http://palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk/palaeofiles/history/anning.html

http://betweenarock.co.uk/random-science/mary-anning/

https://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/anning.html

http://www.prehistory.com/plesiosa.htm

thttp://dinosaurs.about.com/od/aquaticdinosaurs/p/plesiosaurus.htm

Maryam Mirzakhani

“Doing research is challenging as well as attractive. It is like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck you might find a way out.” – Maryam Mirzakhani

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Is the Earth flat? Hopefully by now, it is common knowledge that the Earth is indeed not flat, but rather holds a spherical shape. Yet decades ago, there was a point in which our ancestors believed that the Earth was flat. And this wasn’t without reason, as any patch of Earth that you stand on feels very much like a two-dimensional plane. This is because the Earth is an example of a mathematical surface – a shape that can be covered in overlapping pieces, all of which can be mapped on a plane, making it homeomorphic to the plane. And there are many different types of mathematical surfaces, and they all depend on the number of holes in it. For example, a donut shaped figure contains one hole, and is therefore different from a spherical surface with no holes or a pretzel shaped surface with three holes. To put a name to this concept, a donut shaped surface with two or more holes that have a non-standard geometry is called a hyperbolic surface. And geometric objects whose points each represent a different hyperbolic surface are known as Riemann surfaces. This way of looking at mathematical surfaces is very abstract, but necessary in order to understand the work of Maryam Mirzakhani, who is the subject of this week’s Wonder Woman Wednesday post!

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Maryam Mirzakhani was born and raised in Tehran, Iran where she grew up in the midst of the war-torn country. Despite early challenges, she considers herself lucky in that she was able to attend a good high school and further her education by obtaining a Ph.D in mathematics at Harvard University. Mirzakhani’s interest in mathematics began in high school when she discovered her fascination with solving mathematical problems and treating them like puzzles. She is often complimented for her strong geometric intuition which allows her to grapple directly with difficult subjects like the geometry of moduli spaces. Her rare combination of superb technical ability, bold ambition, far reaching vision, and deep curiosity has led her to the success and accomplishments she has accrued over the course of her life so far. Now a mathematics professor at Stanford University, Mirzakhani was the first woman to win the prestigious Field’s Medal in 2014.

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The Field’s Medal is dubbed the Nobel Prize of Mathematics and is considered the most prestigious honor a mathematician can receive. It is officially titled the International Medal for outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics and was started in 1936. Mirzakhani’s winning of the prize in 2014 marks the first time a woman has ever received this honor and it shatters another barrier for women in STEM fields worldwide. In a way, the Field’s Medal is stacked against women in that it is restricted to mathematicians younger than 40, which are the years in which many women dial back their careers to raise children. Furthermore, mathematics itself is a field that is still highly dominated by men, and according to The Washington Post, only 9 percent of tenure-track positions in math are held by women. Despite the odds being clearly against women in this field, Mirzakhani’s win is a testament to the fact that women can in fact become successful in mathematics, and is an accomplishment to be celebrated by all women in STEM. Mirzakhani herself has said “This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,” and “I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.”

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So what led to her winning of this award? Mirzakhani’s earliest work involved solving the problem of calculating the volumes of moduli spaces of curves on Riemann surfaces. She solved this by drawing a series of loops across their surfaces and calculating their lengths. She worked with geometry and dynamical systems and won the Field’s Medal for her sophisticated and highly original contributions to the fields of geometry and dynamical systems, particularly in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces. For instance, geodesics are straight lines on a hyperbolic surface, and the number of closed geodesics of a given length on a hyperbolic surface has long been known to grow exponentially as the length of the geodesics grows according to this expression:

\[ e^ L/L, \]

Yet for the longest time, mathematicians couldn’t figure out just how many simple closed geodesics of a given length a hyperbolic surface can have. Mirzakhani answered this problem in her doctoral dissertation in 2004. She developed a formula for how the number of simple geodesics of length L grows as L gets larger. Turns out that, the number whose length is less than or equal to L grows much more slowly, according to the expression below, where g is the number of holes of the surface.

\[ L^{6g-6}, \]

All of this work is extremely abstract and hard to conceptualize. The bottom line is that moduli space is a world in which many new discoveries await, and it is up to people like Mirzakhani to lead the explorations for more mathematical discoveries. She summarizes her passion for pure mathematics by stating that “doing research is challenging as well as attractive. It is like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck you might find a way out.” Hopefully she can indeed “find a way out” as these mathematical discoveries have great significance in many fields including physics and quantum field theory.

For more information about Maryam Mirzakhani and her research interests, check out the following video below by WIRED Science!

Article Written By: Lisa He


Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/aug/13/interview-maryam-mirzakhani-fields-medal-winner-mathematician

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/august/fields-medal-mirzakhani-081214.html

https://www.wired.com/2014/08/maryam-mirzakhani-fields-medal/

http://mathunion.org/fileadmin/IMU/Prizes/2014/news_release_mirzakhani.pdf

http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2014/0813/Maryam-Mirzakhani-Doughnuts-gender-equity-and-the-Nobel-Prize-of-math

https://plus.maths.org/content/mm

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

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“We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science, and then there is always the chance that a scientific discovery may become like the radium a benefit for humanity.”

– Marie Curie

This past Monday, November 7th, was the birthday of Marie Curie, an extraordinary female scientist in history who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. Thus, it makes sense that this week’s Wonder Woman Wednesday post is dedicated to remembering Marie Curie and her numerous accomplishments and contributions to the scientific community and to the world.

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland on November 7th, 1867 and grew up to study physics and mathematics in Paris. There, she met her future husband, Pierre Curie, who was a professor of Physics at the Sorbonne School of Physics. Marie Curie’s initial experiments were conducted on uranium rays, in which she discovered that the rays remained constant, regardless of the form of uranium. She theorized that these rays came from the element’s atomic structure, and this revolutionary idea led to the field of atomic physics, and the term radioactivity was coined to describe the phenomena. Together with her husband Pierre, they investigated radioactivity, and managed to discover a new chemical element, polonium, in July of 1898. They then went on further to discover another element, radium. Curie was able to develop methods of separating radium from radioactive residues to allow for its characterization and to allow its properties to be studied. As a result of all this work, they were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 along with Becquerel, a French physicist.

Polonium  Radium

Unfortunately, life wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Curies, as Pierre’s life was terminated in 1906 following a tragic accident. After Pierre’s death, Marie took over his teaching position, becoming the first woman to teach at the institution. She dedicated herself to continue their work, and received a second Nobel Prize in 1911, for chemistry this time.

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Curie’s research was also vital in developing x-rays in surgery. She was a brave, selfless person who personally drove to the front lines during World War One to help equip ambulances with x-ray equipment. She became the head of the radiological service of the International Red Cross, and helped to train medical orderlies and doctors in new x-ray techniques.

Although Curie was extremely successful in her work, she had to endure many struggles due to the simple fact that she was female. For example, despite her top grades in secondary school, she was unable to attend the men-only University of Warsaw, and was instead initially educated in Warsaw’s “floating university,” which was a set of underground, informal classes held in secret. Furthermore, throughout her career, she faced some opposition from male scientists in France, and she never even received significant financial benefits from her work. By the late 1920s, her health began to deteriorate, and she died from leukemia on July 4, 1934, as a result of the exposure to high-energy radiation from her research.

Image result for nobel prize physicsDespite the struggles that Curie faced, she is still held in high esteem and admiration by scientists throughout the world. This is evident due to the numerous awards that she acquired throughout the years, of which include many honorary science, medicine, and law degrees, two Nobel prizes in different disciplines, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society, and more. Her legacy will live on, and her discoveries and research on radioactive compounds are extremely important both for further scientific experiments and in the field of medicine.

Article written by: Lisa He


Sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/curie_marie.shtml

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1903/marie-curie-bio.html

http://www.biography.com/people/marie-curie-9263538#early-life

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/marie_curie.htm

http://www.myinterestingfacts.com/marie-curie-facts/

http://periodictable.com/Elements/088/index.html

http://periodictable.com/Elements/084/index.html

 

 

 

Dr. Anna Powers

Women are widely underrepresented in STEM fields nationally in higher education, research fields, and the science and engineering workforce as a whole. For example, while women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, they only account for 29% of the science and engineering workforce. According to the American Association of University Women, this gender disparity is due to various environmental and social barriers – including stereotypes, gender bias and the climate of science and engineering departments. Women may internalize a chronic negative stereotype that they cannot succeed in math and science, which as a result, significantly undermines their real ability. This week’s Wonder Woman Wednesday post features a woman who aims to break down this stereotype and support women who want to pursue STEM careers.

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Dr. Anna Powers is an award-winning university lecturer, scholar, and scientist who started “Powers Education” with the innovative “Power’s Method” that provides a unique tutoring and mentoring service aimed towards helping women succeed in science and math courses in high school and beyond. There are two parts to the Powers Method. One is understanding science through relationships between concepts and formulas, how they interweave. The second is building relationships with mentors and tutors that will provide a strong foundation for success. It is about fostering an environment of support amongst women to improve their confidence in their own abilities to succeed. And it is about helping women reach their full potential in the STEM fields. For more information about her tutoring services, check out her website here! Image result for anna powers nyu

Amongst her many achievements, Dr. Anna Powers was the recipient of the Student Leader Global STEM Award by the American Chemical Society, where she was the first woman in fifty years to be bestowed such an honor. The Award recognizes an outstanding leader committed to international STEM activities, encouraging women and mentoring young people. She was also the recipient of an Outstanding Teaching Award, awarded to New York University faculty for their outstanding contributions to the classroom. Finally, her doctoral dissertation thesis defense was “On the Quantum Behavior of Nanoconfined Hydrogen.”

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I had the opportunity to get in touch with Dr. Anna Powers and conduct a short little interview to learn more about her work, passions, and struggles as a woman in science.


Q: Are there any challenges you may have faced as a woman in science and how did you overcome them? 

A: Yes, sometimes when I tell people about who I am and what I do, they become intimidated by me! I am a very friendly person, and not intimidating at all! And so in an effort to better relate to people, I am sometimes shy about sharing my achievements or avoid talking about them. Obviously hiding one’s brightness is not a good thing. I am not sure if people find me intimidating because I am breaking stereotypes, about the image of science or in general about women in science? I am still trying to figure out a good way to overcome this, but one step I am taking forward is sharing my story with as many people as possible as to inspire them. For example, giving this interview!

 Q: Regarding your tutoring company: what is the aim of your business, what inspired you to create this startup, and what differentiates your company from other tutoring companies?

A: What differentiates us is something very important: relationships. We teach young women to see science in terms of relationships, like a scientist, and to build relationships with mentors who are successful in the field they are about to enter. There is no tutoring company out there specifically focused on women, and there is no company out there focusing on teaching math and science in a way that removes the memorization and instead, builds knowledge. And that is what we do! Over the 7 years that I’ve taught in the university level, I saw many young women struggle with confidence going into the STEM field, I often heard the phrase “I am not good in math” or “I don’t like science”. There were no female role models, and I was the only role model, so I became everyone’s role model in many science classes. It was extremely gratifying seeing my students succeed, but at the same time, I am one person, and can’t physically help everyone. So I decided it would be a good idea to put my two talents together: teaching science in an effective way and helping women succeed, and this is how Powers Education started. What inspired me to create is the need for women role models in STEM and an effective teaching method that makes science easy and accessible!

Q: You mentioned that one of your talents is teaching science in an effective way. When did you first start teaching and what do you think makes your teaching effective?

A: I served as a teaching assistant at the university level when I was only a junior in college – which is extremely rare – amongst other graduate students. When I taught, I found that students could relate to me well because I was similar to them, they understood me. I have a talent for communicating complex ideas in simple ways and I was always good at the quantitative sciences. Later in my career, I got an award for teaching, which was given to only 6 lecturers across NYU’s 50 departments. 

Q: What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of science/work?

A: I enjoy learning Chinese characters, I think they hold a lot of meaning and depth, and they are elegant and beautiful. I also enjoy painting and I paint at home with oil paint or acrylics. I also enjoy dancing, both performing and watching, especially west African dance.

Q: Can you tell me about your research interests?

A: My research interest lies in the area of quantum dynamics, using and developing novel methodology to simulate molecules in nanoconfinement. Specifically, I have extensively studied hydrogen encapsulated inside clathrate hydrates, which are crystalline compounds subject to international research effort that has identified them as a potential material for hydrogen storage. I have investigated the free-energy profiles that describe the motion of hydrogen inside these nano cavities using quantum mechanics which is resulted in the first ever quantum free energy profiles of hydrogen inside this system. The simulations were carried out using methods such as path integral molecular dynamics (PIMD) with blue moon ensemble. Ring polymer molecular dynamics rate theory, incorporating both exact quantum statistics and approximate quantum dynamical effects, was utilized to determine the H2 diffusion rates in a broad temperature interval. A paper on this topic, which is a culmination of a two year international research collaboration, is due to be appear in a high impact journal this fall. I have also aided in the development of new theoretical methodology as well as its application to carbon structured materials, which lead to a discovery of new spectroscopic selection rule. I have given talks about my research at Cambridge University, Tel-Aviv University, as well as the American Chemical Society.

Article written by: Lisa He


Sources:

http://www.powerseducation.com/#success

http://www.aauw.org/research/why-so-few/

https://ngcproject.org/statistics

http://thetab.com/us/nyu/2016/06/01/spoke-dr-anna-powers-women-stem-powers-education-5978

http://www.powerseducation.com/about-us/

http://allevents.in/new%20york/meet-and-greet-with-dr-anna-powers/1693414837591199#

http://chemistry.as.nyu.edu/object/chem.news.PowersWinsACSStudentLeaderGlobalSTEMAward2014

http://cas.nyu.edu/object/cas.teachingawards.winners2011