AAS Committee on the Status of Women  
Issue of October 17, 2008  
eds. Joan Schmelz, Hannah Jang-Condell & Caroline Simpson 
 
This week's issues: 
 
1. Article about Women in Math from NY Times 
 
2. Campaigns Weigh In on Issues Affecting Women in STEM 
 
3. J. Mayo Greenberg Scholarship Prize 
 
*** FOLLOWING POSITIONS WERE TAKEN FROM WIPHYS *** 
 
4. Tenure-Track Faculty Position, Syracuse University  
 
5. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN 
 
6. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN 
 
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1. Article about Women in Math from NY Times 
From: Geoff Clayton [gclaytonfenway.phys.lsu.edu] 
 
October 10, 2008 
Math Skills Suffer in U.S., Study Finds 
By SARA RIMER 
 
The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls 
and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest 
levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are 
almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries 
where mathematics is more highly valued. 
 
The study suggests that while many girls have exceptional talent in 
math -- the talent to become top math researchers, scientists and 
engineers -- they are rarely identified in the United States. A major 
reason, according to the study, is that American culture does not 
highly value talent in math, and so discourages girls -- and boys, for 
that matter -- from excelling in the field. The study will be published 
Friday in Notices of the American Mathematical Society. 
 
"We're living in a culture that is telling girls you can't do math -- 
that's telling everybody that only Asians and nerds do math," said the 
study's lead author, Janet E. Mertz, an oncology professor at the 
University of Wisconsin, whose son is a winner of what is viewed as the 
world's most-demanding math competitions. "Kids in high school, where 
social interactions are really important, think, 'If I'm not an Asian or 
a nerd, I'd better not be on the math team.' Kids are self 
selecting. For social reasons they're not even trying." 
 
Many studies have examined and debated gender differences and math, 
but most rely on the results of the SAT and other standardized tests, 
Dr. Mertz and many mathematicians say. But those tests were never 
intended to measure the dazzling creativity, insight and reasoning 
skills required to solve math problems at the highest levels, Dr. 
Mertz and others say. 
 
Dr. Mertz asserts that the new study is the first to examine data from 
the most difficult math competitions for young people, including the 
USA and International Mathematical Olympiads for high school students, 
and the Putnam Mathematical Competition for college undergraduates. 
For winners of these competitions, the Michael Phelpses and Kobe 
Bryants of math, getting an 800 on the math SAT is routine. The study 
found that many students from the United States in these competitions 
are immigrants or children of immigrants from countries where 
education in mathematics is prized and mathematical talent is thought 
to be widely distributed and able to be cultivated through hard work 
and persistence. 
 
The International Olympiad, which began in Romania in 1959, is 
considered to be the world's toughest math competition for high school 
students. About 500 students from as many as 95 countries compete each 
year, with contestants solving six problems in nine hours. (Question 5 
from the 1996 test was famously difficult, with only six students out 
of several hundred able to solve it fully.) 
 
The United States has competed in the Olympiad since 1974. Its six- 
member teams are selected over years of high-level contests, and 
trained during intensive summer math camps. 
 
One two-time Olympiad gold medalist, 22-year-old Daniel M. Kane, now a 
graduate student at Harvard, is the son of Dr. Mertz and her husband, 
Jonathan M. Kane, a professor of mathematics and computer science at 
the University of Wisconsin, and a co-author of the study. The other 
two co-authors are Joseph A. Gallian, a math professor at the 
University of Minnesota and president of the Mathematical Association 
of America, and Titu Andreescu, a professor of math education at the 
University of Texas at Dallas and a former leader of the United States 
Olympiad team. 
 
All members of the United States team were boys until 1998, when 16- 
year-old Melanie Wood, a cheerleader, student newspaper editor and 
math whiz from a public high school in Indianapolis, made the team. 
She won a silver medal, missing the gold by a single point. Since 
then, two female high school students, Alison Miller, from upstate New 
York, and Sherry Gong, whose parents emigrated to the United States 
from China, have made the United States team (they both won gold). 
 
By comparison, relatively small Bulgaria has sent 21 girls to the 
competition since 1959 (six since 1988), according to the study, and 
since 1974 the highly ranked Bulgarian, East German/German and Soviet 
Union/Russian IMO teams have included 9, 10 and 13 girls respectively. 
"What most of these countries have in common," the study says, "are 
rigorous national mathematics curricula along with cultures and 
educational systems that value, encourage and support students who 
excel in mathematics." 
 
Ms. Wood is now 27 and completing her doctorate in math at Princeton 
University. "There's just a stigma in this country about math being 
really hard and feared, and people who do it being strange," she said 
in a telephone interview. "It's particularly hard for girls, 
especially at the ages when people start doing competitions. If you 
look at schools, there is often a social group of nerdy boys. There's 
that image of what it is to be a nerdy boy in mathematics. It's still 
in some way socially unacceptable for boys, but at least it's a 
position and it's clearly defined." 
 
Ms. Miller, who is 22 and recently graduated from Harvard, and Ms. 
Gong, 19 and a Harvard sophomore, both cite Ms. Wood as their role 
model. Ms. Wood and Ms. Miller helped coach the United States girls' 
team that began competing in the Girls' Math Olympiad in China two 
years ago. Thirteen girls from the United States have competed in the 
last two years, according to the study, and all are of Asian descent 
except one, Jennifer Iglesias. 
 
The leader of those two teams, and of the United States Olympiad team 
is Zuming Feng, who grew up in China and teaches math at Phillips 
Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. 
 
Dr. Feng says that in China math is regarded as an essential skill 
that everyone should try to develop at some level. Parents in China, 
he said, view math as parents in the United States do baseball, hockey 
and soccer. 
 
"Here everybody plays baseball," Dr. Feng said. "Everybody throws a 
few balls, regardless of whether you're good at it, or not. If you 
don't play well, it's O.K. Everybody gives you a few claps. But people 
don't treat math that way." 
 
A big part of the problem, Dr. Mertz and others say, is that while the 
young math Olympians are wooed by elite colleges like Harvard and the 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as the country's 
leading hedge fund firms, they are mostly invisible to the public. 
 
"There is something about the culture in American society today which 
doesn't really seem to encourage men or women in mathematics," said 
Michael Sipser, the head of M.I.T.'s math department. "Sports 
achievement gets lots of coverage in the media. Academic achievement 
gets almost none." 
 
Ana Caraiani, 23 and a graduate student in math at Harvard, is a two- 
time Romanian International Olympiad gold medalist. "In Romania, math 
is not considered as something you need to be a nerd to do," Ms. 
Caraiani said. "Math is about being smart. It's about having 
intuition. It's about being creative." 
 
Still, she says, it was not easy excelling in mathematics as a girl in 
Romania. In 2001, in fact, she was the first girl to make the 
country's Olympiad team in 25 years. 
 
 
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company 
 
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2. Campaigns Weigh In on Issues Affecting Women in STEM 
From: Geoff Clayton [gclaytonfenway.phys.lsu.edu] 
 
Earlier this summer, AWIS and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) 
submitted a list of questions to both the Obama and McCain campaigns 
regarding the candidates' positions on issues which affect women in 
STEM. With just 20 days left until the presidential elections, they've 
received responses from both candidates. Go the AWIS web site: 
 
http://www.awis.org/ 
 
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3. Mayo Greenberg Scholarship Prize 
From: WIPHYS, Oct. 16, 2008 
 
Leiden Observatory and the Leids Universiteitfonds have pleasure in 
inviting applications for the fourth J. Mayo Greenberg Scholarship 
Prize.  
 
Mrs. Naomi Greenberg and family members of the late Professor J. Mayo 
Greenberg, the distinguished Leiden astrophysicist, have generously 
provided funds for this scholarship in memory of Professor 
Greenberg. Additional funding provided by the Kruytbosch Legacy, the 
Leids Universiteitfonds and Leiden Observatory will enable the 
Scholarship Prize to be awarded annually.  
 
The purpose of the prize is to provide an opportunity for a talented 
graduate student to carry out research and/or receive education at 
Leiden Observatory in one or more of the fields that were of interest to 
Professor Greenberg. These include:  
* Laboratory astrophysics, 
* Dust in the early Universe, 
* Dust in the Milky Way and other galaxies 
* Comet formation, 
* Origin of life. 
Although applications will be considered from the whole world, 
preference will be given to applicants resident in developing 
countries. Candidates should have sufficient educational background in 
the field to benefit from attendance at graduate courses or 
participation in the research.  
 
The Scholarship Prize will support a visit to Leiden for a maximum 
duration of 9 months. In very exceptional circumstances there may be a 
possibility of extending the visit for a longer period.  
 
Applications for the 2009 Prize should be received before 30 November 
2008. These should include (i) a curriculum vitae, with details of 
relevant background, (ii) a statement containing the purpose for which 
the grant is requested and (iii) a motivation for the 
request. Applicants should arrange for 2 - 3 references to be sent under 
separate cover.  Applications should be addressed to:  
 
Professor G.K. Miley,  
Chairman, Selection Committee,  
J. Mayo Greenberg Scholarship Prize, 
Sterrewacht, 
Postbus 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, 
THE NETHERLANDS 
 
Applications can also be sent via email to droststrw.leidenuniv.nl, 
with the relevant documentation as attachments in MSWord, latex, pdf or 
postcript format.   The results of the selection will be announced on or 
before 31 December 2008  
 
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4.Tenure-Track Faculty Position, Theoretical Cosmology or 
Particle Astrophysics, Syracuse University (Revised Ad)  
From: WIPHYS, Oct. 10, 2008 
 
The Department of Physics (http://physics.syr.edu) invites applications 
for a tenure-track assistant professor position in theoretical cosmology 
or particle astrophysics. The department currently has strong programs 
spanning cosmology and particle physics, with theoretical, experimental 
and computational components. We expect the successful applicant to have 
interests that overlap with and complement these ongoing research 
efforts. Applicants should have a clear record of research 
accomplishments and a strong interest and ability to teach effectively 
at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. 
 
Candidates should visit http:www.sujobopps.com, search for Assistant 
Professor/Physics (job #024592), and apply electronically. 
 
All applications require a CV which includes both research and teaching 
statements, and a list of three or four professional references. If you 
have any questions please contact facultysearchphy.syr.edu. In 
addition, three letters of recommendation should be forwarded to 
facultysearchphy.syr.edu or mailed to Cosmology Search Committee, 
Physics Department, Syracuse University, 201 Physics Bldg, Syracuse, NY 
13244-1020.  
 
Review of applications will begin December 1, 2008, and will continue 
until the position is filled. Syracuse University is an affirmative 
action/equal opportunity employer. Members of minority groups and women 
are especially encouraged to apply.  
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6. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN 
 
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Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered. 
 
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