"Space for Women Day" at the Center for Astrophysics
by Julie Corliss
Nearly 40 young women, teachers, and parents attended the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics' fourth "Space
for Women" day, on Saturday, October 14th, 1995.
Designed to encourage high-school-age women to pursue
careers in the physical sciences and related fields, the daylong
symposium was held on the 20th anniversary of the
original conference, entitled "Earth in the Cosmos: Space for
Women." Similar conferences were held in 1992 and 1993.
The conferences were sponsored by the CfA's Women's
Program Committee, which provides programming for the
recruitment, retention, and professional development of
women at the CfA. At its inception in 1974, the committee
was headed by geologist Ursula Marvin and astronomer
Martha (Liller) Hazen, who both helped organize the first
conference. Held in 1975 in celebration of the International
Women's Year, it drew more than 300 young women and
featured women speakers and panelists working in a variety
of capacities, including research scientists from several parts
of the country, editors, computer programmers,
administrators, and engineers. A popular booklet, entitled"Space for Women: Perspectives on Careers in Science"
grew out of the conference. In addition to suggestions on
how to prepare for scientific or science-related careers, it
detailed several of the major issues raised at the conference,
juxtaposed with thoughts expressed by different participants.
An updated version of the booklet with the same name was
published in March 1995. The new, 20-page, color booklet
features full-page profiles of women who work at the CfA,
ranging from scientists to administrators, describing their
backgrounds and training, and highlighting their
accomplishments as well as their everyday duties. Like its
predecessor, the booklet also has practical information
about how to prepare for a scientific career, such as advice
on coursework, choosing a college, finding mentors, and
more. An appendix lists materials, organizations,
internships, and other resources of assistance to aspiring
scientists. To date, nearly 12,000 copies of the booklet
have been distributed (mostly by individual request), and a
second printing is underway.
Participants in this year's conference received a copy of the
booklet, along with reading lists and information on
astronomy resources (clubs, museums, etc.) in the New
England area. Following a welcome by current WPC
coordinator and solar physicist Shadia Habbal, the conference
began with an introduction by Marvin, who shared her
experience and insight both as a scientist and as the
organizer of the original conference.
Astrophysicist Rosanne Di Stefano gave the keynote
address, detailing her research endeavors on super-soft x-ray
sources, gravitational lensing, and the search for dark matter.
Science historian Barbara Welther presented a brief history of
women astronomers at the Harvard College Observatory in
the early 1900's, and astronomer Tania Ruiz talked about"Backyard Astronomy--or how to get involved in astronomy
The morning also included a panel discussion on career
opportunities in astronomy, moderated by astrophysicist
Jonathan McDowell and featuring planetary scientist Jane
Luu, science education specialist Nancy Finkelstein, radio
astronomer Suzanne Huettemeister, computer programmer
Sumitra Chary, and Harvard undergraduate Rachel Osten,
who works in the CfA's High Energy Astrophysics division.
Before breaking for lunch, the participants split into small
groups led by participating scientists, during which the
students were encouraged to discuss and ask questions about
topics in astronomy.
Following a catered pizza lunch, participants signed up for
two of the following tours: "The Great Comet Crash,"
featuring a slide show and talk about comet Shoemaker-Levy
9's crash into Jupiter last summer by Jane Luu; "The Sun,"
including "live" solar observing on computers with Tania
Ruiz and astrophysicist Han Uitenbroek; "The Stuff Between
the Stars," with a tour of the CfA's radio telescope by
Susanne Heuttemeister; and "Building a Space Satellite,"
featuring a tour of the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics
Facility's mirror-testing lab with physicist Suzanne
Conference organizers included Julie Corliss, Kim Dow,
Nancy Finkelstein, Shadia Habbal, Susanne Huettemeister,
and Donna Thompson. Additional support was provided by Jim Cornell, Amoreena Gonzalez, Jiahong Juda, Amy
Mossman, and Andrea Prestwich.
Julie Corliss is a public affairs specialist at the Harvard -
Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Back to January 1996 Contents
Back to STATUS Table of Contents