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Leaders of UIC’sWomen in Science and Engineering program, which encourages girls and young women in math and science, will accept a presidential award for mentoring at a White House ceremony Thursday.
The program in the Center for Research on Women and Gender is among four organizations and 11 individuals across the U.S. to receive the 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. UIC is the only winner in Illinois.
The award, announced Friday by President Barack Obama, honors the WISE mentoring initiatives and includes a $10,000 grant for continued mentoring work.
“These individuals and organizations have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the United States remains on the cutting edge of science and engineering for years to come,” Obama said in announcing the awards.
“Their devotion to the educational enrichment and personal growth of their students is remarkable, and these awards represent just a small token of our enormous gratitude.”
Program helps girls get WISE to nanotechnology
11/28/07 ~ Christy Blandford
UIC’s Women in Science and Engineering program is heading into cyberspace to teach girls about an emerging science field.The group’s Women in Nanotechnology program received a $50,000 grant from the Motorola Foundation to create an online mentoring network.
The network will connect girls in elementary through high school with nanotechnology professionals.
“Nanotechnology is changing everything in our world,” said Veronica Arreola, director of UIC’s WISE program.
“It really is a rapidly growing field. Part of our mission is to get our women and girls hooked into fields that are growing.”
The mentoring network will provide the girls with information on nanotechnology — the ability to manipulate materials on atomic or molecular scales to produce microscopic devises.
Nanotechnology is used in many consumer products, Arreola said.
“Nanotechnology is in our lipsticks, shampoos, sunscreens, our iPods — it touches everything,” she said.
“It’s definitely something where a girl could say: ‘I’m not really into science, but I want to have my own makeup line.’ Well, now you are into science.”
The mentoring program will be set up through a social networking site, similar to MySpace or Facebook, Arreola said, where girls can ask questions about nanotechnology or seek career advice.
“We see that online social networking is increasing — the MySpaces, the Facebooks really seem to be where the younger students are,” she said. “Instead of leading them to where we think they should be, we’d rather go to where they are.”
At first, the network will link girls in the Chicago area with Motorola professionals. But the program should eventually have a national scope, Arreola said.
The network is in its planning stages, but Arreola hopes to have it running in early 2008.
Women are well suited to work in nanotechnology, said G. Ali Mansoori, professor of bioengineering and chemical engineering.
Nanotechnology equipment requires great precision and accuracy, he said.
“I think there are probably more women than men in nanotechnology because women are so much more careful,” he said. “They do a better job of understanding nanotechnology.”
Mansoori teaches BIOE 494 and CHE 494, courses on atomic and molecular nanotechnology. He said about half of the students in the courses are women.
Cultivating an interest in nanotechnology among girls is important because the science is expected to be “the route to the next industrial revolution,” he said.
“It’s a new, evolving field that you see more women in,” he said.
“It’s a really important subject and it’s a developing subject.”
Words of encouragement for women in science
11/14/07 ~ Christy Blandford
When she graduated from UIC 10 years ago, Veronica Arreola never expected to achieve her goals so quickly.
Impassioned by gender issues, she dreamed of someday directing a program that would encourage women to pursue careers in science and engineering.
That someday came two years ago, when she was named director of UIC’s Women in Science and Engineeringprogram (WISE).
“The job I have now, five years ago was on my 10-to-15-year list of things to accomplish,” she said.
Arreola has racked up another accomplishment she didn’t foresee. She was named this year’s Woman of the Year by the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women. She will be honored at a reception Dec. 10 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Illinois Room, Student Center East.
“I knew I was nominated, but I really didn’t expect this,” Arreola said.
Arreola’s career focuses on sending this message to women: you can find success in math and science.
“There’s still this societal view that women just don’t do science, they just don’t do math,” she said. “But women can do it.”
Arreola first became aware of the lack of role models for women in science and math when she was in high school. She really liked math, and she stuck out.
“Being a young girl and having an aptitude for math always made me a little odd,” she said. “Being a Latina girl who had an aptitude for math made me really odd.”
She decided to pursue her interests, focusing her UIC undergraduate education on biological sciences and women’s studies.
Almost all her science teachers were men, but she knew women belong in these fields, too.
“Being able to see someone who looks like you do something helps you envision yourself doing that,” said Arreola, who is also assistant director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender.
In her role as director of WISE, Arreola set out to help students like herself who didn’t have mentors in school. She oversees a tutoring program that sends UIC students to two Chicago Public Schools high schools each week to meet with a group of girls who like math and science.
On campus, Arreola serves as a mentor to students who often talk to her about their career ideas or seek guidance for their struggles, she said.
“Increasingly, students in this generation are under such intense pressure on so many different levels to succeed, and a lot of them really don’t know where they’re going,” she said. “Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it just means you’re human.
“I feel that I’ve failed more times than succeeded, but I try to learn from each failure,” she said.
As a UIC graduate — she also received her master’s in public administration in 2003 — Arreola has experience that allows her to empathize, said Monica Rausa Williams, co-chairwoman of the award selection committee.
“She knows the challenges that women face in the sciences, and she’s able to tap into that experience and mentor those students,” Williams said.
Through talking with women at science conferences, Arreola pinpointed what she says is the biggest challenge for women interested in scientific research: “the convergence of the biological clock with the tenure clock.”
Some women want to wait until they have tenure at a university to have children, Arreola said, but tenure comes to most women when they are in their mid- to late 30s.
“That’s when the biological clock is really ticking,” she said.
Among researchers, a chasm between men and women is apparent, Arreola said.
“Studies show that women faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields often report that they have no children or fewer children than they wanted, but men don’t report that — they say they have the number they wanted,” she said.
Still, she said, men are concerned with balancing work and life, too.
“It might not become an issue until they get into the work force, but we see more and more men concerned about 80-hour weeks and accessible child care facilities,” she said.
For those who work at UIC and have children, Arreola has set up an online community. Over the summer, she started an e-mail forum through a listserv for parents to share ideas on parenting and child care issues.
Off-campus, her dedication to women’s issues hasn’t wavered. She works with the Chicago office of the National Organization for Women, the Chicago Abortion Fund and Women in Media and News. She also writes “mommy blogs” for Chicago Parent Magazine and Chicago Moms.
When she’s not volunteering or working, she can be found with her nose in a book — preferably feminist science fiction — or watching sports in her North Side home with her husband, Tony, and 4-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
She’s surprised she’s come so far in 10 years, but she’s happy that she’s helping women see their potential.
“I’m really, really lucky,” she said.
“I get to work with amazingly smart women each day who really do what they want to do with their lives. They want to change the world.”
Yes,the UIC WISE program is now on Flickr. Sign into your Flickr account (or create one) and add us as a contact to see photos from events throughout the year.
Chaitanya Kamisetty, a Computer Science Masters student, has won theGoogle 2007 Anita Borg Scholarship.She will receive a $10,000 scholarship for the 2007-2008 academic year and is invited to visit Google headquarters in Mountain View, California on March 29-31, 2007 for a networking retreat which will include workshops with a series of speakers, panelists, breakout sessions and social activities. Scholarships are awarded based on the strength of candidates’ academic background and demonstrated leadership. Congratulations! Press Release
Karen Moy:Recipient of the Graduate Women in Science Vessa Notchev Fellowship
I am working towards a Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences. I have a B.S. in Paleobiology from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Geology from Indiana University . I am interested in animal behavior and how it is recorded by the fossil record. Currently, I am focusing on the rapid, early increase in complexity and diversity seen in the trace fossil record during the Cambrian period. I believe this increase in diversity and complexity is a behavioral response to an increasingly heterogeneous environment. My hypothesis predicts that the behaviors that lead to complex trace fossils are phylogenetically primitive, and thus widespread throughout the animal kingdom. I am studying the foraging behavior of a diverse array of modern organisms, including the nematode C. elegans , mollusks and arthropods, to assess the similarity of the observed foraging behaviors within and between different groups, and those recorded by the trace fossil record. The Vessa Notchev Fellowship will fund my work with C. elegans , completely covering my lab and equipment expenses.
Congratulations toComputer Science PhD student Lin Xiao on the Best Paper Award in the New Investigator track at the Grace Hopper Conference for her paper Lin Xiao, Sudeepta Musti, Aris Ouksel, “A simulation system for ad hoc query-ready sensors” Lin’s award was announced at the conference banquet. The award comes with a $1000 prize.
A simulation system for ad hoc query-ready sensors
Lin Xiao (University of Illinois at Chicago), Sudeepta Musti (University of Illinois at Chicago), Aris Ouksel (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Sensor networks can be utilized in a wide spectrum of commercial, environmental, health care and military applications. This paper presents an integrated simulation platform we developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago to study and compare algorithm performances in the areas of localization, event handling, network topology control, routing, and query processing in various types of sensor networks. Our research strategy and results are also briefly outlined in this paper.
About the award:
New Investigator Technical Papers
The goal of these technical papers is to highlight the broad range of technical work by women who are “new investigators” in the computing field. Topics can be from any technical computing field. All papers will be reviewed for technical merit, and accepted papers will be published in the conference proceedings. Although preferred, original research is not a requirement for a technical paper submission; for instance, thesis highlights, problem statements, and overviews of an author’s technical field are welcomed. GHC2007 will have an award for the best new investigator paper.
Women in Science and Engineering’s mentoring intiatives and the Presidential Award of Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring is featured inan article in the March 5, 2011 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times. The print edition incorrectly listed women faculty in biological sciences at 65%. This is the actual population of undergraduate women in biological sciences. The actual population of women faculty in biological sciences is 22.1%. This is corrected in the online edition.