Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2004 13:57:08 -0500 (EST)
Subject: AASWOMEN for January 30, 2004

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Weekly issue of January 30, 2004
eds. Patricia Knezek, Michael Rupen, & Jim Ulvestad

This week's issues:
1. Annie Jump Cannon Award Nominations - deadline approaching 
2. AIP Initial Employment Report for 2000 & 2001 Physics & Astronomy Degrees
3. Article on the situation for women scientists in the United Kingdom
4. New from the National Academy of Science
5. National Conference of Black Physics Students, Feb. 5-8
6. Inappropriate Question? & Responses
7. PhD later in life
8. Physics textbooks
9. How to submit, subscribe, or unsubscribe to AASWOMEN

1. Annie Jump Cannon Award Nominations - deadline approaching 
From: Patricia Knezek

A reminder that nominations for the 2004 Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy 
are due February 10, 2004. This award honors a woman postdoctoral scholar for 
significant research in astronomy. The award amount is $5000. For more 
information go to:

2. AIP Initial Employment Report for 2000 & 2001 Physics & Astronomy Degrees
From: Patricia Knezek

Patrick Mulvey of the Statistical Research Center at the American Institute 
of Physics (AIP) announced that the AIP has a report that you might find 
interesting that was just posted to their web site.

Initial Employment Report: Physics and Astronomy Degree Recipients of 2000 
and 2001

This report provides a look at the initial employment outcomes and educational
pursuits of physics and astronomy degree recipients at the bachelors, masters
and doctorate levels. It includes starting salaries, unemployment rate,
ratings of professional challenge and other issues related to initial
employment. It also covers topics concerning degree recipients continuing with
their education, such as fields of study and sources of financial support.

This report can be found at:

3. Article on the situation for women scientists in the United Kingdom
From: Sarah Stevens-Rayburn

[Eds. note:  This is a very interesting interview with Julia Higgins,
professor of polymer science at Imperial College London, and vice-president 
of the overwhelmingly male Royal Society.]

I thought you might find this of interest:;jsessionid=OJPFHBHONCHF?id=ns24311

-- Sarah Stevens-Rayburn, Librarian 
Space Telescope Science Institute

4. New from the National Academy of Science

> From WIPHYS of January 27, 2004

Take a look inside the new National Academy of Sciences' Marian
Koshland Science Museum months before it opens to the public in
Washington, D.C. this April. The museum's Web site offers a sneak
peak at the inaugural exhibits on global warming, DNA sequencing
and the nature of scientific discovery.

Explore the new Career Guides page, with links to National
Academies reports on career planning, ranking doctoral programs,
scientific ethics and women in science.

The National Research Council offers 350 Research Associateship
awards for postdoctoral and senior research to be conducted at
federal laboratories in the United States and overseas. February
review applications are due by 5 p.m. EST Monday, Feb. 2. 

5. National Conference of Black Physics Students, Feb. 5-8

> From WIPHYS of January 29, 2004

Dear Students:
On behalf of the organization, I invite you to attend the 18th annual
National Conference of Black Physics Students (NCBPS). This
premier event will convene at Fisk University. Please join us in
beautiful Nashville, Tennessee February 5-8, 2004. Visit the site for applications and for program updates.
All applications will be accepted on a space available basis. The
conference application fee is $150.00.

The conference planners will make hotel reservations. Meals and
lodging will be provided from 3:00 PM Thursday, February 5th
through noon on Sunday, February 8th. Any additional hotel
related expenses incurred during this time (i.e. telephone calls, DSL
charges, room service, movies, dry cleaning, etc.) are the sole
responsibility of the student.

All travel arrangements are to be made exclusively through the
designated conference travel agent, unless they are being arranged
and paid for by you or your home institution. Transportation costs
for the 200 students chosen to attend the conference will be
covered by NCBPS. Students within a radius of 250 miles from
Nashville, TN are encouraged to carpool. Automobile
transportation will be reimbursed at a rate of

If you have any questions or require additional information, please
call me at (510) 444-4275 or email We are
looking forward to seeing you in Nashville in April! Return your
application today!

Best regards,
Delores A. Spence

6. Inappropriate Question? & Responses

> From WIPHYS of January 29, 2004

I have visited over a dozen universities during my search for a
faculty position over the past year. I am dismayed by the number of
times I have been asked during my interview whether or not I am
married or have a significant other. I feel that this is an
inappropriate question for the interview stage and is best left for
discussion after an offer is made. I know of too many women
colleagues (and men, for that matter) who did not receive an offer
from an institution because said institution felt she would turn them
down because they perceived that her life partner would not be able
to join her in the new location. And given the recent article in the
LA Times (available at,0,3009306.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions),
this question is biased against women since men are ~five times
more likely than women to be married to stay-at-home spouses.

Am I being unreasonable? Should I simply accept the argument
that the potential employer needs to set the wheels in motion for
spousal employment issues as soon as possible? If you agree that
this IS an inappropriate question during an interview, what
response do you recommend I give when asked this? Looking
forward to hearing everyone's opinion!

Wendy Taylor 

> From WIPHYS of January 29, 2004

[All today's responses refer to the query in WIPHYS 1/29/04,
"Inappropriate Question?"]

1. University Offers Resources
2. Opting for Honesty
3. Personal Questions Inappropriate
4. An Issue or Not?
5. Dual Career Couples (1)
6. Dual Career Couples (2)

****MESSAGE ONE *******
I am writing in response to the post about inquiries regarding
marital status in a job interview. Not only is it inappropriate for
someone to ask about your marital or partner status, it is illegal at
an equal opportunity employer. The University of Washington
maintains a web site detailing fair and un-fair pre-employment
inquiries at, as well
as a faculty recruitment toolkit
( that is
quite useful for search committees. Another useful resource is the
CSWP report on dual career hires

As a practical matter, departments think they are helping by getting
a possible dual-career hire process started early. These things do
take time and effort, and if an applicant wants that kind of help, it
may be necessary to start before a possible job offer. However, the
appropriate way to ask is not "Are you married?" or "Is your
partner looking for a job?", or "Would you come here even if your
partner didn't have a job?" but to state "Our university has a
program for helping partners find employment in the area -- are
you interested in information about that program?" At UW we
have a pamphlet that can be handed out with all the other benefits
handouts to a potential employee.

Marjorie Olmstead
University of Washington

********MESSAGE TWO ********
Wendy has raised a good question! I was not often asked about my
significant other when I was interviewing because it really is an
inappropriate question. In fact, when I was on a hiring committee
we knew not to ask it. Unfortunately, if you are asked a question
like that and decline to answer it I can't help but think the
committee will be biased against you. It's very hard to know what
to do in those situations. In one case early on I received a
telephone interview and during that interview it came out that I was
married to a working professional. I could sense from then on that
their attitude changed, and I never heard any more from them.
But on the other hand, I didn't really want to waste my time chasing
after a position where there wasn't a pretty good chance of
relocating a family, so I opted for honesty, and I made it a point to
mention my constraints whenever I had a telephone interview. As it
turned out I received an offer (tenure track) from a wonderful
university, they found a temporary position for my husband, and we
moved (with children 4 and 9 years old) to a rather rural setting. In
the end it did not work out but I spent 3 rewarding years with good
colleagues before moving on. Sadly, it does cost universities and
departments quite a bit to take that sort of chance, and families too.
But you must simply do the best you can with the info you have in
such situations. Good luck!
Peggy Hill
Southeast Missouri State University

In reference to item 3, the college at which I teach expressly
instructs all search committee members that questions of a personal
nature, including inquiries about marital status, are inappropriate
and unacceptable. I am in full agreement with this policy and find it
unconscionable that any institution still allows such inquiries to be
made. I also recommend as a standard policy another practice at
my institution, in which each candidate for a faculty position
(permanent or visiting) is given a lunch meeting with two or three
young faculty members who are not members of the search
committee and who are expressly forbidden to communicate
anything about their conversation with the candidate to anyone on
the search committee or in the administration. The confidentiality
of this meeting makes it a safe place for the candidate to ask
potentially sensitive questions. When the candidate is a woman, it
is customary for the search chair to invite only women faculty to
this lunch.

Paula Turner, Kenyon College

*****MESSAGE FOUR *******
 I do not think employers should ask potential employers whether
or not they are married, since people sometimes have good reasons
not to discuss their personal lives. Employers should assume that,
unless you bring it up, it is not an issue. However, if you really do
have an issue - you would not accept the job unless there was also a
position for your spouse, for example, or you would like help
finding local options for your spouse - then you should tell the
potential employer before the offer is made. You might have a
situation in which you might accept the job, given the right offer,
but would prefer for your spouse to also have an offer. If this is the
case you might say that. Getting an offer out at a university is a
difficult operation, and it helps the employer immensely to know
what it would take to hire you. If you are asked whether or not
you are married, and your marital status is not an issue (you are
single or you would accept the job independently of whether your
spouse also has a position), you can simply respond that your
marital status will not be an issue in this negotiation.

 It is tempting for employers to ask this, since even when the
spouse is a stay-at-home mother that person will help make the
decision on whether or not to come. She might want to know
about schools, neighborhoods, types of housing available, or meet
others in town who are like herself. Most of the time, though I do
not think they should do it, employers are not asking this because
they are likely to discriminate against you - they are just trying to
figure out what it would take to hire you. Often in scientific circles,
you should be aware that they do find out through the grapevine.

Heidi Newberg
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

*******MESSAGE FIVE ******
In regard to Wendy Taylor's comment about being asked about her
partner when she is interviewing for a job, to the best of my
knowledge this question is impermissible under EEO regulations.
To confirm this for the particular form in which the question was
asked of her in her interviews, she could check with the Human
Resources office in her current institution. The fact that a question
is impermissible does not prevent it from being asked in many
interviews, of course, even by people who know better. It is
not improper for the candidate to volunteer the information that
her/his partner will need a job also, so an interviewer who actually
wants to be helpful can make a statement of this sort: "If we
decide to make you an offer, we will want you to accept it if at all
possible. If there are any personal considerations that might
influence whether or not you would accept an offer from us, you
are welcome to share them with us if you wish." Such a statement
should be made to candidates of either gender, of course. But to
ask questions about the partner, and thus potentially to use the
information in making the hiring decision, is not allowed. Marc
Sher and I discussed candidates' possible responses to such
questions in our report on the dual-career-couple problem in
physics. You can read what we wrote at
 (scroll down to
section F(ii) at the bottom of this very long page).

Laurie McNeil
Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

****MESSAGE SIX ******
Wendy Taylor asked about inappropriate questions during
interviews. She correctly points out that questions about marital
status, which are illegal under federal law, are often asked. There
is a very detailed report on this issue in the Dual Career Couple
report, at, written by
Laurie McNeil and me. It discusses many horror stories, discusses
the impact on gender equality, and also has a section on the best
way to respond to such questions.

Marc Sher
William and Mary 

7. PhD later in life

[Eds. note:  This is a compilation of a series of submissions to WIPHYS
on this topic.]

> From WIPHYS of January 6, 2004

Please supply any information available for women who did not get
PhD and want to, later in life.

Thank you.

Linda Perry

> From WIPHYS of January 8, 2004

This is a response to the person who wants to get a PhD in physics
later in life. I have two things to relate. My mother got a PhD in
computer science at age 50. She did it piecemeal over a long
period of time (first getting a masters, then working for a few years,
then taking a course at a time, then full time as a research assistant
for the last couple of years). She then got a job teaching at a small
college near where she lives, and loves it. When asked in her job
interview why she did not list the years of her undergraduate
degrees on her resume, she told them it was because if she did, they
would find out she was over 40. Luckily, she looks pretty

The second thing is that I have been on, and been the chair of,
graduate admissions in my department. Some of the faculty
*definitely* discriminate based on age. However, I would never
have let that happen when I was on the committee, so you should
know that there are people who think this is a good idea.
Depending on how long it has been, you might want to take a
course somewhere, if possible, to get back into the thought
patterns, and to convince the admissions committee that your mind
is still sharp (maybe not as quick as a very young person, but your
maturity will make up for that). You will also need to take the
GRE exams. If you know what you want to do or where you want
to go, you should directly contact some faculty members who you
might want to do your PhD with. Good luck!

Heidi Newberg
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

> From WIPHYS of January 12, 2004

Thank you Heidi. One of the things I did was to go to and
check out the programs which had the characteristics I was seeking
in a PhD program, then to go to the websites of those universities.
By and large, the graduate programs were using the same texts I
was reading when I was twenty--(and I am 49) so I am not at all
worried about being 'up-to-date' and able to pass exams! I took a
class in Mandarin Chinese last Spring and the teenagers couldn't
keep up.

[This thread on physics textbooks has been taken up and expanded;
 accordingly we've moved comments on this topic into another section of
 this newsletter. Read on! -- Eds.]

What I am worried about is finding funding and a graduate program
which does not discriminate. At 20, I found my graduate
professors (at name-brand U) uncertain how to speak to a woman.
An older woman--I expect it is worse. (People do not evolve
much--I suspect that being 20 now is little different than it was fror
my great-great grandmother) Thank you for your frankness Heidi--
is there anyone online who has a good story-knows of a department
which has made one or more older candidates welcome, and of any
funding sources specifically for the older student? I read an APS
report on this topic (friendliness to women) a couple of years ago
and went to a U which had scored high, but found the reality was
quite different to the sanitized report. Thanks for any input.
Linda Perry

> From WIPHYS of January 13, 2004

Regarding graduate school late in life and attitudes toward older
women: I've had to switch fields 3 times, after receiving my PhD,
to remain employed in physics research at Princeton University.
(Note: This followed 5 years at home with maternal
responsibilities). Each time I took the graduate courses with
homework and exams in different departments, and did essentially
another PhD including very interesting research and publications
before having to make the next jump. With each new field and set
of graduate students the friendliness and acceptance (by the other
grad students) for a very bright, even if older woman "grad student"
increased. The younger generations of graduate students were
wonderful, accepting and very confidence building. I found the
professors' attitudes not so positive, as most of them had never seen
a woman grad student who was the equal of themselves, nor had
any of them ever had a female professor. However I also must say
that there is a small percentage of very intelligent senior physicists
who recognize excellence even if it is cloaked in a different gender,
and who can be of real help in a career. The key is to be at a place
where there are enough of them to make a difference. So try to
choose a school that has a high rate of graduating women PhDs in

I'd suggest that physics is maybe not the area to get into late in life
at this point in time. Perhaps physics textbooks have not changed
because the field's new areas of research have not grown. Research
money in physics is getting harder and harder to find. Give serious
consideration to other fields, like information technology or
biomedical, possibly fields with more promise.

In any case, best of luck,

Martha H. Redi
Principal Research Physicist
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

> From WIPHYS of January 14, 2004

Regarding PHD late in life: It seems to me that it is more important
to find a thesis advisor who believes in the value of maturity and
self-discipline than to find an entire department that explicitly
recruits and welcomes older students, because I doubt that the
latter exists. I know some professors here in Boulder who are
generally quite pleased if they can find an older student with
experience. If that student is a US citizen, even better. Graduate
school applications were falling (a couple years back at least), and
the second-tier schools were hard-pressed for students. CU
Boulder was actually flying out prospective graduate students for
recruiting weekends! All departments are sure to have at least one
professor who is only interested in the young, bright, energetic
student, and you can't let that person stop you. Maybe you are
older, bright and energetic, and all you need to do is talk more with
the doubtful for that to come through. Or maybe you have enough
experience to know that not every idea is a good one, and you
need to find an advisor who sees the strength in that experience.
Talking to several faculty members at a prospective institution
seems to me to be the best way to assess your prospects, rather
than looking at the statistics of small sample sets (number of older
women PhDs graduated).

Dr. Kris Bertness
NIST, Colorado

> From WIPHYS of January 21, 2004

The frustrating problems faced by the young postdoc who is a mom
with 2 small kids unfortunately seems to be widespread and
disheartening. There are a number of programs which might help
alleviate some of these problems and I thought I'd mention some I
know of, in hopes that: people may benefit from programs which
they didn't know existed; that we may get ideas from each other
about what types of programs have helped others and we can
encourage our own universities, organizations and physics societies
to consider adopting or formulating such programs

The Daphne Jackson Trust in the UK runs a fellowship program
which "enables a return to careers in science or engineering through
updated knowledge and renewed professional skills." Fellows must
have taken a break from a science/engineering related career due to
family commitments. See - for
men & women.

Canadian programs
  Advice to students & postdocs in any country: don't just ask your
  supervisor about maternity/paternity leave.. Ask your Graduate
  Studies program officers, Human Resources, & your Graduate
  Student Organizations at your university. Chances are that some
  programs/policies do exist which your supervisor doesn't know
  about. (e.g. Sherry, whose message prompted this reply, was
  a graduate student in Canada when she had her first child, and
  should have been eligible for the paid maternity leave described

Canadian Students/Postdocs Paid by Research Grants
  Graduate students and postdocs paid by their supervisor's NSERC
  or CIHR research grants (~ NSF or NIH grants) may take off up to
  4 months parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
  Available to mom or dad. The supervisor continues to pay from the
  research grant and the funding agency reimburses the supervisor's
  grant for entire amount.

Canadian Students/Postdocs Fellowship/Scholarship from National
Grant Agency
  For students or postdocs paid in full by NSERC/CIHR scholarships
  or fellowships, the granting agency continues to pay the
  student/postdoc in full for up to 4 months parental leave and
  extends the duration of the scholarship/fellowship by the duration
  of the leave. For dad or mom.

Canadian Physicists with Positions in Government, Industry or Universities :
  1. Parental Leave
    For physicists in permanent positions in labs, univerisities or
    industry, paid family leave benefits are a part of the Canadian
    unemployment insurance system, the same system that covers you if
    you loose your job through no fault of your own (laid off, etc).
     The paid parental leave is up to 15 weeks maternity leave for birth
     mother, then up to 35 additional weeks of parental leave, which
     may be taken by either parent, for newborn or adopted child. Every
     employer in Canada must follow these government programs - it's
     the law.

  2. Compassionate Care Leave
     The family leave program gives up to 6 weeks paid Compassion
     Leave for people who must be absent from work to care for a
     gravely ill family member (elderly parents and common-law partners
     of either sex are included, so this is not just moms/dads and babies.)
     Again, it's law.

These government paid leaves above do not pay your entire salary,
but many employers have additional partial topups in their benefits
packages which typically topup this government program to 75-90% of
your full salary. I find it hard to believe that NSF and DOE
have so few policies for students & postdocs paid on grants from
these agencies. Why not work with people in the organizations to
make proposals for parental programs?

Janis McKenna, University of British Columbia

8. Physics textbooks

[Eds. Note:  This discussion grew out of one on getting a PhD late in life 
(see above), but grew enough to warrent its own section here.] 

> From WIPHYS of January 13, 2004

Interesting statement about textbooks. I think most faculty, and
please correct me if this is not accurate, feel more comfortable
teaching out of textbooks they learned from. Also, I think that
faculty are finding it difficult to find "new" texts that are as good as
the "old" ones.

Peggy Dominy

> From WIPHYS of January 14, 2004

I thought about that question a bit myself. It's true we do use many
of the same texts we did when we were students. I think that this
can be a good thing since symbolization and way of looking at and
treating the physics of the phenomena is similar across generations.
It probably enhances our ability to communicate with one another.
However, this could also be a very stifling situation, too, because it
does perpetuate the traditional way of looking at things. A new
slant may be useful. I think it's true that we feel more comfortable
with things we are familiar with, and that we teach as we were
taught, but for the lower level classes (where there does seem to be
a large number of new texts) physics education research seems to
point out that the traditional ways in which we learned physics are
not the best for most students, and do not bring about substantial
gains in student understanding. I wonder if a change in teaching
styles and texts at the upper levels might also improve student
understanding of physical phenomena?

Peggy Hill

> From WIPHYS of January 14, 2004

I don't think that electromagnetic theory has changed much in the
last twenty years, but some of the other comments about hybrid
fields being the ones that are growing are well-taken.
Nanotechnology has a home in some physics departments, though,
and there are ways to pursue biotechnology and semiconductor
work in departments that welcome cross-discipline research.

Dr. Kris Bertness
NIST, Colorado

> From WIPHYS of January 15, 2004

The answer is an emphatic YES!!! [see WIPHYS 1/14/04, msg. #1]
With the exception of Kansas State's efforts in visualizing quantum
mechanics, PER is almost exclusively limited to introductory
physics. In the nineteenth century, introductory physics *was*
physics, and equivalent to today's algebra-based physics at that.
Advanced work was taught as "applied mathematics." The upper-
level undergraduate and graduate courses are still taught in this
tradition. Yes, we all share a common curriculum, but the current
situation is analogous to the days when all university-educated
people read the same "great books" in the original Greek and Latin.

IMHO, there is too much emphasis on derivation and not enough
on application, and certainly not enough core coursework covering
physics since about 1940. As some students painfully pointed out to
me, even modern physics isn't "modern" anymore. Furthermore, the
introductory sequence is overstuffed, overwhelming, and badly in
need of including physics since 1890.

I think that the "standard" physics curriculum is about a century
overdue for some major revamping, preferably in a manner that
reviews and coordinates all six years (4 undergrad and 2 graduate)
of the standard university physics coursework. Those introductory
topics that are mainly of interest for physicists could be delayed
until the advanced undergrad level, but that means reorganizing the
advanced courses to include them.

Because the traditional curriculum is so very standard across many
universities, and because the necessary changes are global to the
whole curriculum, it will probably take the efforts of a national
committee associated with a professional society to recommend a
new six-year instructional sequence. To make it work, the
recommendation would then need to be followed by efforts on the
part of textbook authors and publishers (preferably informed by
PER) to create or revise course materials for the new sequence.
Finally, purveyors of standardized exams (MCAT, GRE, etc.)
would have to update their exams. Overcoming the inertia won't be
easy, but it we don't, the century-old status quo won't change.

Would anyone else be interested in forming a committee?

Vickie Frohne

> From WIPHYS of January 16, 2004

I have been involved in a NSF funded, upper-division undergraduate
curriculum reform project at Oregon State University. We (20 or so
professors and graduate students have been involved) have taken apart
the junior and senior year courses and then put them back together again!
This "Paradigms in Physics" project emphasizes students constructing their
own understanding of the material they are learning by offering lots of
hands-on small group activities and labs. It is also tries to weave "modern
physics", especially quantum mechanics more thoroughly into the
fabric of the entire curriculum. If anybody is interested in learning
more about this, you can read "Paradigms in Physics: Restructuring
the Upper Level" p 53 of the September 2003 issue of Physics
Today. This issue has some other articles about undergraduate
physics education as well.

Emily Townsend, PhD student in physics

> From WIPHYS of January 20, 2004

Very interesting, but do you use any new texts?
Write new notes? Did you put this information out on the various
websites for teachers and for efforts in teaching physics, rather than
Physics Today? How many on this list read that article?

Someone recently posted a message to watch a TV program. It
started out with a statement that the speaker had only recently
started looking into string theory--then later, he named a date in the
'70s. He started a paragraph about relativity saying the speed of
light is constant--whereas, of course light has been slowed and
stopped in the laboratory. When we have college professors
putting this kind of thing on national television, I must ask again,
what materials are being used to teach these days?

Those of you in graduate programs or teaching them, what texts do
you use, and when were they written? Do they mention recent
developments, even as much as 5 or 10 years old? I really want to
have this discussion and the facts out where somebody may put
them in the media.
Linda Perry>

> From WIPHYS of January 27, 2004

Then there are the labs. As an undergraduate, I had to take a junior
physics lab, where somebody's pick of the seminal experiments
were re-enacted. I particularly remember one about measuring the
electron. It was a lot of smoke and mirrors.

Linda Perry>

> From WIPHYS of January 27, 2004

Linda--Sorry for the delay in my reply. There will be a workshop at
our campus this summer for anybody who wishes to learn more
about the "paradigms" upper division curriculum project. There
is/was a workshop or two at the AAPT meeting this week, as there
was last year and this last summer at our campus. In addition to the
Physics Today article there is an AJP article, which I didn't mention
because it's cited in the references of the PT article.

Some of the texts used are old, some new. In addition, there have
been some new notes/texts written by the people in the group.
There is one on thermodynamics by Allen Wasserman which really
ties the subject to quantum mechanics in a very nice way. David
McIntyre has written an introduction to quantum mechanics
through spin. And Tevian Dray has one on the geometry of special
relativity. We hope they will be published before too long. I'm not
sure what each person has done in terms of posting to websites, but
if you have any particular websites (or other avenues of accessing
physics professors) I'd certainly pass that information on to the
group. If anybody is interested in the materials used, a good place
to start is the Paradigms website, .

Emily (

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