Woman Physicist of the Month - 2013
DecemberStephanie Slater, CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research
Stephanie J. Slater is a physics & astronomy education researcher who has been innovating in astronomy teaching and learning for nearly twenty years. Dr. Slater is the Executive Director of the CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research where her scholarship focuses on understanding the underlying cognitive mechanisms undergraduates use when engaging in the physics and astronomy. She is deeply interested in how undergraduate students and future teachers approach and engage in science.
A first-generation college attendee, Dr. Slater studied Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Sciences - Astronomy as a master’s student at Montana State University. Her Ph.D. dissertation research, completed at the University of Arizona, focused on understanding the educational impact of undergraduate research experiences of women in physics and astronomy. She found that women’s successful pathways through the STEM career pipeline are highly complex and surprisingly influenced by early experiences in science at much younger ages than previously thought.
Dr. Slater is a prolific author, having co-written books on seminal books on discipline-based education research— Discipline-based Science Education Research (2011) and Astronomy Education Research: A Primer (2010). A frequent public speaker on improving physics and astronomy education through a focus on cognitive science research, she also creates innovative curriculum materials for college students, most notably Engaging in Astronomical Inquiry (2010) and Galileo’s Classroom (2009). Over the past few years, she has been a commissioned speaker and author for the National Research Council. She is most proud of her ardent support of improved science education for women and underrepresented groups, and she recently served on the Education and Outreach Committee, and chaired the Diversity Subcommittee, for the American Geophysical Union.
October/NovemberEmma Ideal, Yale University, and Rhiannon Meharchand, Los Alamos National Laboratory
While attending the Fourth International Conference on Women in Physics in 2011, held in South Africa, Yale graduate student Emma Ideal and Michigan State (MSU) graduate student Rhiannon Meharchand, now a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos, met Ram Ramaswamy, the editor of a book of essays by Indian Women in Physics. The book, "Lilavati's Daughters: The Women Scientists of India" was an initiative by the Indian Academy of Sciences to raise awareness of Women Indian Physicists, and as they read through the book they began to imagine how powerful an equivalent collection by US Women in Physics could be in terms of inspiring, encouraging and educating the next generation of US physicists. Since this book did not yet exist, they decided to create it.
Blazing the Trail: Essays by Leading Women in Science
Over the past two years they have sent thousands of emails recruiting essayists, iterating over the editing of submitted material, researching publishing options, applying for grants and raising funds within physics departments to purchase copies of the book. They decided to self-publish, which meant many more hours of copy editing and proof-reading, interacting directly with CreateSpace. They have selflessly priced their book at the lowest value allowable on Amazon.com that will make the book available for mass purchase by bookstores, etc, and the small profit is deposited directly into an account at Yale to be used solely to buy copies of the book for distribution among US physics departments. The 35 essays they collected document a wide range of experiences and come from junior and senior people from within and outside of academia. The frank discussions of challenges and low-points will provide a real source of support for aspiring scientists and the successes achieved by the essayists will serve as an inspiration. In their own words, from the preface, "The purpose of this book is threefold: to provide a diverse group of role models; to inform young people about scientific careers (physics in particular); and to encourage students to study science and pursue scientific careers."
This is not the first mentoring or service role that these two physicists have initiated in their careers. At Yale, Emma co-founded a group for graduate students to facilitate new students' transitions to graduate school. She has attended the Joint Conference of the National Society of Black Physicists and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists to represent Yale and recruit minority undergraduates to the Yale graduate program. She is a mentor for the Women in Science at Yale (WISAY) undergraduate group and a judge for the local New Haven science fairs. All of this in addition to being an accomplished physicist, as an NSF Fellow and analyzer for one of the Higgs decay chains at ATLAS, and a winner of the 2012 Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award. Rhiannon is a Director's Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos. She won both MSU's Sherwood K. Haynes Graduate Physics Award and, for co-founding the student organization "Women and Minorities in the Physical Sciences", the Department's Outreach Award. In 2010 she won the AWIS Luise Meyer-Schutzmeister Memorial Award.
SeptemberRenee Diehl, Pennsylvania State University
Renee Diehl is a Professor of Physics at Penn State University and an internationally recognized condensed matter experimentalist. She has over 125 publications and a distinguished record of educational achievements, service, and innovations in both the undergraduate and graduate arenas. She is perhaps best known for her research using LEED (low-energy electron diffraction) techniques, which led to her APS Fellowship, the citation for which notes her work in the ‘structural studies of weakly-adsorbed species on surfaces’.
Dr. Diehl has mentored upwards of 20 graduate students and 8 postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have gone on to faculty positions at national and international universities. One of them fondly remembers “…the exceptional working environment created by Dr. Diehl for her collaborators – a true illustration of the respect she has for the value of each individual, regardless of background and culture…”. She has also personally mentored over 30 undergraduate Physics (and other) majors in her lab, a number of whom have gone on to some of the best graduate schools in the country or research positions in major research labs. As an in-the-classroom educator, Diehl has taught courses ranging from conceptual physics for non-science majors to graduate seminars in surfaces and thin films, and all levels in between, including large introductory courses for engineers and core courses for senior Physics majors.
Diehl has played an active role in national educational organizations, including being one of the co-chairs of the influential APS-AAPT Joint Task Force on Graduate Education, the chair of the AAPT Graduate Education Committee, and currently Chair of the APS Forum on Education. She has served on numerous external review committees for US colleges and universities and on the editorial board of Journal of Physics (Condensed Matter). She has been the PI of two major GK-12 grants, including the current CarbonEARTH (Educators and Researchers Together for Humanity) initiative and has helped develop innovative inquiry-based courses on Sound and Light here at Penn State University (PSU). She led the successful bid to host the 2014 Northeastern Conference on Undergraduate Women in Physics and continues to act as Associate Department Head for Equity and Diversity of the Physics Department.
AugustJanet Conrad, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Janet Conrad is a prolific researcher and a leader in the neutrino physics community. Starting with the Decay Channel Experiment at NuTeV to her newest endeavor developing high power cyclotrons for CP violation searches in neutrino oscillation, her work is timely, inventive and important to the field. At this point, she is most well known for being the co-PI for the MiniBooNE experiment from its inception through its first results. The MiniBooNE experiment has provided important data on the search for sterile neutrinos, and important cross section data for the planning of future experiments.
Walking into Dr. Conrad’s office at MIT is like walking into a physicist’s toy store. There are sippy birds, an assortment of magnets spread about, old brass scientific equipment, bubble chamber film and, of course, the leaded crystal from a fixed target experiment propping open the door. It is all a reflection of her love of everything physics and her desire to share that love with everyone that walks in whether they be undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, fellow faculty, or the random passers by. Teaching the general public about the wonders of physics continues to be one of her main priorities through a variety of activities from public lectures to moderating question and answer events after science related plays at the Central Square Theater.
She takes mentoring very seriously and works tirelessly on behalf of her students, postdocs and any others that wander into her sphere of influence. The success of her mentoring is evidenced by the success of her people from faculty in physics departments from the Atlantic to the Pacific and even some in Europe and Japan. Her students have also gone on to pursue other interests in government and industry—there is even one professor of digital arts.
JulyMercedes T. Richards, Pres. IAU Commission 42, The Pennsylvania State University
Mercedes Richards is a computational astrophysicist in the area of binary stars. Her research focuses on 2D and 3D Doppler tomography, computation of synthetic spectra, and hydrodynamic simulations of the gas flowing between stars in interacting binary systems. She is President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Division G - Commission 42 on Close Binary Stars, and also Professor in the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department at Pennsylvania State University (PSU). She received a Fulbright Distinguished Chair for research from the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and the Slovak Fulbright Commission, and she received a Musgrave Gold Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. At the 2012 Quadrennial Congress, she was elected an Honorary Member of the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society.
Her path to success includes a B. Sc. (Special Honors) in Physics from the University of the West Indies, followed by an M.Sc. in Astronomy from York University and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Toronto. She joined the faculty at the University of Virginia where she rose through the ranks from assistant, to associate, and to full professor before moving to PSU. While at PSU, she served as Assistant Head of her department for five years.
At PSU, she has been actively engaged in outreach including teacher-training workshops like Engaging Your Students in Astronomy, as well as research programs for high school students including the Summer Experience in the Eberly College of Science program, for which she is the founding director. Her outreach also includes AstroFest and AstroNight to promote science literacy among a wide range of demographic groups in the larger community surrounding PSU and Exploration Day, which is a hands-on event for the whole family. In addition to her research and outreach, Prof. Richards is a mentor and advocate of promoting young people, including women and minorities, in physics and astronomy.
JuneReina Maruyama, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Reina Maruyama is an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research in nuclear and particle astrophysics focuses on the study of rare events including the search for neutrinoless double beta decay, dark matter, and supernovae. She is the spokesperson for the DM-Ice dark matter experiment at the South Pole, the US physics coordinator for the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events (CUORE), and she has been involved in the installation, operation, and the search for supernovae with the IceCube Detector. Dr. Maruyama earned her B.S. in Applied Physics at Columbia University and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Washington. She was a University of California Chancellor’s postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley and a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where she studied the fundamental forces of nature using laser-trapped atoms with the late Stuart Freedman. Dr. Maruyama came to Madison in 2006 as a scientist and joined the faculty in 2011. In 2012, she was awarded an NSF CAREER Award for the development of a direct detection dark matter experiment at the South Pole.
Dr. Maruyama has been noted for her outstanding mentorship within the University of Wisconsin’s Physics Department and Wisconsin Icecube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC). Her presence at WIPAC has created an invaluable and supportive environment for younger physicists. Maruyama has provided this mentoring and support all while launching and serving as a spokesperson for a new experiment, DM-Ice—a novel dark matter project that is the only direct detection experiment operating in the southern hemisphere. She will be starting as an assistant professor in the physics department at Yale University in fall 2013.
MayHeide Doss, Consultant and Education Specialist
For more than a decade, Heide Doss has been devoted to promoting science and education and, most recently, has worked as a visiting professor, PreK-12 substitute teacher, and consultant—all at the same time. Doss holds a BS, MS, and PhD in Physics and an MEd in Curriculum & Instruction, and although her career path has been outside the “norm” for the physics community, she has created and found opportunities that allow her to work on what she loves.
During the 50th anniversary of the laser, Doss—whose graduate research focused on quantum optics and laser physics—created and conducted outreach programs for the general public and K-12 students on the laser. She also assisted with the development of high school curricula involving laser physics, as well as conducting teacher workshops on the material.
Dr. Doss is an excellent role model for physicists who want to pursue career opportunities in science education and outreach, and she was recognized for her outreach ideas in 2012 with an APS Public Outreach Grant. She is using the grant to develop her own science outreach program, Science on Cards. Doss aims to create a self-sustaining micro business that will design and distribute items, such as cards and bookmarks, which disseminate scientific information to the general public.
AprilValerie Otero, University of Colorado at Boulder
Valerie Otero is a physics education researcher and associate professor of Science Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She was a first-generation college student from a Chicano family who has lived in New Mexico for over six generations. Her academic career has paved a path for many members of her extended family and friends to attend college and work toward earning higher degrees.
As an academic, she has helped CU Boulder develop a nationally recognized presence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education research and STEM teacher preparation, and has been the driving force behind the development of the Colorado Learning Assistant Model, a program now emulated by over 30 universities throughout the nation. In addition, she is author of two nationally recognized physics curricula, a leader in Boulder’s teacher education program, “CU-Teach,” and a dedicated and active proponent of projects that bring access to education including Vamos Buffalos and the I Have a Dream Foundation, which focus on students like herself, who are traditionally underrepresented in science.
MarchSultana Nahar, Ohio State University
Sultana Nahar, an atomic astrophysicist at the Ohio State University, received her B.Sc.Hons in physics and M.Sc. in theoretical physics from Dhaka University, standing the first position in rank in both and holding the record for the first woman to achieve them. She received her M.A. in Quantum Optics and Ph.D. in atomic theory from Wayne State University. At Wayne State, she received the Knoller Fellowship in Physics, the Thomas Rumble University Graduate Fellowship, and the Daniel Gustafson Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student. After a postdoctoral position at Georgia State University, she moved to the Ohio State University with a fellowship from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
Dr. Nahar’s research focuses on atomic processes of photoionization, electron-ion recombination, photoexcitation, and collision. Her contributions include development of the unified method for total electron-ion recombination, theoretical spectroscopy for the Breit-Pauli R-matrix method, and the resonant nano-plasma theranostics (RNPT) method for cancer treatment. She has published around 140 scientific articles and is the co-author of the textbook "Atomic Astrophysics and Spectroscopy". She also has an online database titled NORAD-Atomic-Data.
Dr. Nahar is a very effective research advisor to her group of students and postdocs, as well as researchers in developing and Arab countries. She was recognized by her university with the Outstanding Research Mentor Award. She is also involved in promoting physics research and education in several Asian and Arab countries and is the founder of International Society of Muslim Women in Science. She is an APS Fellow, recipient of the highest honour gold medal from the Topical Society of Laser Sciences, and recipient of the 2013 John Wheatley Award.
FebruaryLaura Reina, Florida State University
When Dr. Laura Reina joined the faculty at Florida State University in 1998, she was a recognized expert on b-quark physics and CP violation, having written numerous papers on b-quark decays while a graduate student in Italy and during postdoctoral positions at Brussels and Brookhaven National Lab. At that point, she became excited by the possibility of new results from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), changed research directions and became a world expert on the phenomenology of the Higgs boson. Knowing that the LHC offered the best chance of detecting the Higgs, she began working closely with the LHC experimenters, doing high precision calculations of the expectations for Higgs searches. This has paid off, with the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson last July.
Dr. Reina’s research will be particularly important in the next few years, as the Higgs boson’s properties are studied. She specializes in the effects of perturbative QCD corrections to Higgs phenomenology, and these corrections are vital in determining the interactions and decays of the Higgs. She has developed a number of analytical and numerical algorithms for implementing these corrections, and they have been part of the particle phenomenologist’s toolbox. Her work has had an enormous impact matched by few others, and she currently has an extraordinary average of 83 citations per paper.
Dr. Reina has helped educate a generation of particle theorists through her well-received TASI (Theoretical Advanced Study Institute) Summer School lectures, which she has given several times during the past decade. She is an excellent teacher, having won teaching awards at Florida State, and is a successful mentor. Her first two PhD students now have faculty positions at research universities, and most of the others are continuing in the field.
JanuaryLiubov Kreminska, University of Nebraska-Kearney
Dr. Liubov Kreminska is an outstanding individual who has done—and is doing—outstanding work in research, service, and teaching. She serves as an example for women science students and has been instrumental in bringing outstanding women in science to speak to students at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. She involves students in her research and has won the College of Natural and Social Sciences Research Mentoring award for her mentoring efforts. Dr. Kreminska’s students have received NASA Fellowships, undergraduate fellowship awards, and have been chosen to participate in Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs), as well as other accolades.
Dr. Kreminska has an extensive list of publications, and she has collaborated with physicists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as well as faculty from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. She has served on several committees and has been a judge for the Nebraska Junior Academy of Sciences, Central Region. Students, the University of Nebraska-Kearney, and the Department of Physics and Physical Science have benefited greatly by her efforts and are grateful to have a faculty member of her caliber.