Guest Repost: “A Chemical Imbalance- Gender and Chemistry in Academia” by Biochem Belle
Aug13

Guest Repost: “A Chemical Imbalance- Gender and Chemistry in Academia” by Biochem Belle

I'm pleased to bring you another guest re-post from Biochem Belle. She's previously shared her writings about letting up on the pressures we place on ourselves in science professions. This time, her post is about A Chemical Imbalance, a new 15-minute documentary that looks at gender parity in academe through the lens of one university. This post originally appeared at Biochem Belle's blog, Ever On & On. As an undergrad preparing for med school, I fell in love with chemistry, thanks in large part to a quirky gen chem professor. He convinced me that a biochem major would be great for pre-med. That department became my home for 3 years. It was fantastic, and I found my true interest in science. And I never felt that there was anything unusual about being a woman pursuing chemistry. In grad school, that changed. I've often wondered what flipped the switch. Perhaps the first clue was the fellowship offer that had the goal of increasing representation of women and minorities in the field. That initiated higher awareness of the disparities in my field, which expanded as I talked to peers and just took a look around. There were several women in my grad school class (going through the group in my head, 10 years later, I think we were pushing 40%). But at the time, there was one woman on tenure-track in the department. Another joined the department after my first year. Scanning through the faculty listings today, my undergrad department (undergrad focus with M.S. and small Ph.D. programs) is more than 25% women; my grad program looks to be around 10-15%. My Ph.D. department is fairly representative of the faculty breakdown in physical sciences, according to the most recent NSF data. Life sciences perform better, with about 30% female faculty. Across disciplines, it's not just that there are far fewer female faculty, but they earn less than their male colleagues. This phenomenon is not restricted to the US. A Chemical Imbalance is a short documentary and e-book looking at the history of female chemists at the University of Edinburgh. In the UK, less than 10% of STEM faculty are women. The Department of Chemistry at Edinburgh boasts 25%. The film, less than 15 minutes long, looks at the milestones of the department's female faculty. It also takes a brief look at the two big questions: Why do numbers of women in the faculty ranks remain low (and drop off further at upper levels), and what should be done to change the landscape? The creators provide four action points for a start. Here's why I think they matter. Monitor our numbers. Paying...

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Professor Of Corn?
Apr16

Professor Of Corn?

It’s a common complaint that “there’s nothing good on TV”. Last night I was clicking through the channels--it was already 10 PM--when I came across a PBS Independent Lens film called "King Corn." The movie is about two young guys who drive to Iowa to learn about growing corn in the industrial farm age. I was already intrigued and was deciding whether to stay up and watch when I noticed that the filmmakers were interviewing my college chemistry professor. Steven A. Macko studies isotopes. And he can tell you what your diet consists of by analyzing your hair. “That’s my chemistry professor!” I yelled. “He analyzed my hair!” Turns out, as "King Corn" illustrates in great and fascinating detail, that most Americans eat so much industry-grade corn in our processed food, soft drinks, and meat, that we are literally made out of corn. If Steve analyzed your hair, what would he find? Keep in mind that he’s analyzed the diets of dinosaurs and ancient mummies with isotopic analysis. If you’ve been drinking too much Classic Coke, he’ll be able to tell. You may still have a chance to see the film on your local PBS station. Check it...

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