Women Observing Stars

Thanks to Vanessa Layne, who might have my favorite business name ever:

Integration by Parts                          Porter Square, Cambridge, MA
Psychotherapy for Scientists, Technologists, Engineers and Mathematicians

Vanessa sent me this email:

This astonishing painting just showed up on my Tumblr dash:


I don’t know anything about it.  I don’t know if it depicts actual
women who actually lived, and if they did what role they had in
astronomy (and I would love to know!)  I don’t know if it’s actually
from 1936 (is that style of telescope actually attested to then?)  And
not speaking or reading Japanese, I don’t know how to go about finding
more information.  Maybe you know somebody who could fill us in?  Or
perhaps you have readers who could help us learn about this beautiful

Mysterious as it is, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Even if it
doesn’t capture anything more than the artist’s fancy, I found it
moving and inspiring.

My favorite Librarian Sleuth, Sam Kome, found a couple of museum sources.  The Fukuoka Art Museum showed the piece from the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo from Aug. 21-Sep. 23, 2012. 

Notice the coloring looks a little different on the Fukuoka website.  Here’s the citation:  OTA Chou, Women Observing Stars,1936, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

Sam may also have found out what type of telescope it is.  He says:

I think the telescope is a Nikon 20 cm refractive equatorial model built for the National Musem of Nature and Science in 1931 [1].  Peter Abrahams, a published telescope buff [2] thinks so too. 

[1]  “Nikon | Recollections | 25 cm Refractive Equatorial Telescope.” [Online]. Available: http://www.nikon.com/about/feelnikon/recollections/r29_e/index.htm. [Accessed: 22-Aug-2014].
[2]  “The history of the telescope and the binocular.” [Online]. Available: http://www.europa.com/~telscope/binotele.htm. [Accessed: 22-Aug-2014].







Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Eve Sprunt

Rising to a Challenge by Eve Sprunt, Ph.D.

Being a grandma

I have only one grandchild, Viola, who is not quite 3. It will be interesting to see if she goes into STEM. Both of Viola’s parents have Ph.D.’s in engineering from MIT. My husband and I both have bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT in earth sciences. I was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Geophysics from Stanford. Viola’s maternal grandparents both have degrees in pharmacology. Viola receives lots of attention that is frequently mingled with explanations of the scientific principles governing the world around her.

Eve_Sprunt_with_Gdaughter Figure Caption: Eve Sprunt explaining to her granddaughter, Viola, aged 2½, how to use a sieve to find buried treasure (coins) in the sand.

My childhood

In contrast with my granddaughter, I did not get a lot of attention from parents and grandparents and was not encouraged as a child to take an interest in STEM. As the second of five children (boy-girl-boy-girl-girl) born within an eight year time span, my parents didn’t have much time to spend with us individually.

As a child, I was focused on competing with my older brother, David and trying to earn my mother’s respect. My mother was convinced that David was brilliant and repeatedly informed me that I wasn’t. My mother liked to recite to me a line from the nineteenth century poem, A Farewell, by Charles Kingsley, “Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever.” In her opinion, I wasn’t smart, but I was well-intentioned and worked hard. No matter how well I did in school, she attributed my success to hard work rather than brains.

In sixth grade, I was thrilled when I was offered the opportunity to enroll in a special expedited program that would allow me learn the coursework of the next three grades in two years instead of the usual three. When I took the paperwork home to my mother, she refused to sign. I was devastated. My mother would not let me skip a year, because as she said, she “didn’t want me in the same grade as David doing better than he was.” David was just one year ahead of me, because he had repeated a year. Instead of getting to skip a year, my mother signed the form for me to be in a three-year “enrichment” program.

Part of the enrichment program was a year-long course in earth science in ninth grade. I loved the class and bored my family explaining the geomorphology we saw on family trips. At the end of the year, I was surprised to learn that I had the highest score in my school on the state-wide exam for earth science and received a trophy.   At the time, I had no idea that the joy I had in earth sciences could be translated into a career.

No one in my family had ever attended MIT, but one of my mother’s brothers, who was a mechanical engineer, told my mother that MIT was the best engineering school. For many years, my mother dreamed that David would go to MIT and become a mechanical engineer. In her opinion, girls should study literature or art.

David was given chemistry sets and construction toys, but he did not share them. The closest I got to chemistry was cooking.   My brothers worked with tools, but I never did.

My brother did not do better in high school than he had in elementary school. By the time David was a senior in high school, it was clear he was not MIT material. He applied to colleges that were close to good ski slopes and for which admission was not very competitive. While I was in my senior year of high school, David dropped out of college after the first significant snowfall and took off for the ski slopes

I did well in high school and took calculus, biology, chemistry and physics. My father took me to visit college in Massachusetts. When he learned during our visit to MIT that the ratio of male to female students was then about 20 to 1, he decided that is where I should go. My impression was that my father saw MIT as a way to get me married to a man with good earning potential. Fortunately, I also wanted to go to MIT and was accepted under the early admission process.

Undergraduate years

In the fall of 1969, I arrived as a freshman at MIT as a member of the Class of 1973, and checked into what was then the only dormitory for women, McCormick Hall. There were many events the week before I started class, but one of the ones that I remember most clearly was a tea given by MIT alumnae for the 73 freshman women in my class. Although it was meant to be a welcoming event, the message I took away was that I didn’t want to be like these women, who seemed bitter and disappointed. I received the impression that they had sacrificed having a family for their career, which subsequently had not lived up to their expectations. I concluded that no matter how successful you might appear to others, you rarely accomplish as much as you desire. My resolution was to have a more balanced “emotional portfolio” with both a family and a career.

At the end of my freshman year, I was trying to decide on a major. I was thinking of physics. The freshman I was dating, who intended to be a geologist suggested that I investigate geophysics, because the course requirements were almost the same as physics, but without an undergraduate thesis requirement. When I looked into majoring in geophysics it reminded me of how much I had enjoyed my ninth grade class in earth sciences.

At the beginning of my third year at MIT, I realized that I had amassed sufficient credits to graduate in three years. In effect, I now had the opportunity to skip the year that my mother had denied me in junior high school. However, I didn’t want to leave MIT yet, so I arranged to continue to study for a master’s degree earth and planetary sciences.

My master’s thesis advisor, Prof. Brace, wanted me to stay at MIT for the summer to work on my master’s thesis, but Prof. Simmons suggested that I take a summer job in an oil company research lab. Prof. Simmons went beyond just a suggestion and personally referred me to a friend of his, who was an executive with the oil company. Prior to the summer job, I intended to pursue a career as a faculty member at a university. The summer job experience revealed an alternative that was very attractive. I decided that after I received my Ph.D., I wanted to work in an oil company research lab.

Ph.D. experience

When I went to Stanford, it never occurred to me to ask how many women had received a Ph.D. from that department. I was rather surprised to find about four other female students in the Geophysics Department at Stanford when I arrived, because at MIT I had usually been the only woman in my earth sciences classes. My study partner for the Ph.D. qualifying exam, was a woman who had been in the department for a couple of years. I learned a lot from her, because she was taking the qualifying exam for the second time. I was shocked and saddened when I heard that I had passed and she was being flunked out of the Ph.D. program after failing the qualifying exam twice.

eve_sprunt_costumeFigure caption: Eve Sprunt in 1974 at Stanford dressed for the messy task of drilling and grinding rock samples for experimental work.


Figure Caption: Eve Sprunt at Stanford with some of the apparatus she used for the experiments for her Ph.D. thesis. Safety standards were not as stringent at that time. Eye protection is always advisable in this type of situation.


Although at Stanford, there were only a few other female graduate students, I didn’t feel that there was prejudice against women. However, discrimination was a factor in the interactions with the oil company recruiters, who came to campus. During one recruiting event I met one of the other female students, who was in tears, because a recruiter had asked her, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in geophysics?” After that, I always wondered why I was never asked that question. The illegal question the oil industry recruiters always asked me was about my intent to have children.

Despite the illegal questions, after my first summer job at an oil company research lab, I envisioned my future career as being in the oil industry. Prior to that summer job, I had intended to be a professor. When I finished my Ph.D., I received inquiries from Prof. Brace at MIT about whether I would be interested in a position at MIT. I declined, because I thought that a job in industry would be more compatible with my plans to have children. I knew about the seven year time frame to earn tenure and in the 1970’s, I saw that schedule as incompatible with my biological clock if I wanted to have children.

I got married while I was working on my master’s thesis at MIT, but I didn’t think that I could handle a baby, while I was a student. As I was nearing completion of my Ph.D. thesis, I asked about continuing at Stanford, because my husband needed almost two years more to complete his business and law school degrees. I was offered the choice of being a research associate or a post-doc. I chose research associate, because the maternity benefits were better. I was lucky on my first attempt. My first child, a son, was born nine months after I defended my Ph.D. thesis when I was 26.

As the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Geophysics from Stanford, I had no female role models. I never asked how much maternity leave I could take. When my son was 13 days old, I brought him into work in a baby pack and set up a playpen in my portion of the office for him to sleep in. I strung up a sheet to provide privacy while I was nursing.

My office was in the sub-basement, close to the machine shop. The machinist, Peter Gordon, was a good friend of mine, who had taught me how to use a lathe, milling machine and drill press and how to plumb high pressure systems. When my son became old enough to pay attention to the world around him, Peter would turn on the lathe so that my son could watch it spin. Years later when my son was getting his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from MIT, there was a reception for the graduating students in the MIT machine shop. I shared with the machinists the story about my son as an infant watching the lathe spin. They immediately decided it was “imprinting.” My son had to put up with the machinists’ teasing about the imprinting, because he stayed at MIT to earn his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering.

As a child, my son never took an interest in stuffed animals. He was constantly building things. Art and drawing were of no interest to him. To satisfy, his fine arts requirement in high school, he built the sets for the school plays. He went off to MIT to be a mechanical engineer and never had any doubts about what he would pick as a major.

When my son went to MIT, the male to female ratio was almost even. He had many close female friends as an undergraduate, but none of those friendships developed into a romance. While he was working on his Ph.D. thesis, he met his future wife, a bio-engineer, at a party. They both agree that it was love at first sight and his pickup line was, “How flat is atomically flat mica?”

I knew why my son asked that question, because I was closely following his thesis research. One of my biggest thrills was when my son was finishing his Ph.D. thesis. I was about to leave on an international business trip. My son had sent me his abstract and last chapter and wanted my comments before I departed the next morning. I asked him if he really needed my response and he said that excluding his thesis advisor, I had provided the most useful feedback on his thesis. I was amazed and delighted that I could add value, because my degrees were in geophysics and my Ph.D. thesis was completed about 27 years earlier.   When I read his thesis, I thought about the similarities between his work on the nano-scale and what I had observed on the micro-scale in rocks.

My daughter is four years younger than her brother. I tried unsuccessfully to encourage her to be interested in STEM. She just wasn’t interested. When we visited her brother at MIT, she said, “I can’t believe you let him go to such an ugly school?” I was amazed. I had never thought of MIT as ugly. I always enjoyed MIT’s infinite corridor and also, the views of the Charles River. I loved the intellectual stimulation and the ambiance of MIT.

As a freshman at Dartmouth, my daughter enrolled in the courses required by medical schools, because she was considering a career in sports medicine. After the first couple of days of her freshman chemistry class, she felt hopeless and lost. We talked about the trouble she had with chemistry in high school and how she had hated it. Together, we decided that she should seek a different career path. She ended up taking the minimum number of science classes to get her degree.

In our family of four, she was always the different one. When she was graduating from Dartmouth and heading off to law school, she shared that she had been worried that we could “make her go to MIT.” We laughed, because that had never crossed our minds. Despite her upbringing in a STEM-oriented household, she was not interested. She proceeded to explain that, in high school she “had managed information, because if we knew what she was really doing we would have worried too much.” I decided that explanation of lying to cover-up unauthorized activities was worthy of a future lawyer.

Oil industry

While I was working as a research associate at Stanford and my husband was still in his degree programs, we proceeded with our plan to find two good jobs in the same city. Since I was more specialized, I interviewed well ahead of our target start date.   The idea was that once I picked a location, he would limit his job search to that city.

Young and unafraid, I scheduled my first post-maternity, on-campus interview at a time when I thought my infant son would be asleep. I walked into the interview wearing my son in a front baby-pack and announced, “This is the question you are not supposed to ask.” The interviewer, Ed Witterholt, of the long vanished oil company, Cities Services, countered by asking the entire family for an on-site interview in Tulsa, Oklahoma with baby-sitting provided. With no other standard for comparison, I assumed that was the usual practice. We had no relatives who could babysit for us near Stanford, so I took my son along on all of the trips for on-site interviews and asked to have childcare arranged.

Based on what I subsequently learned about oil companies, I’m amazed that the companies complied with my request and that I received job offers afterwards. I had my choice of six job offers in oil industry research labs with 2 in Dallas, 2 in Tulsa, 1 in Houston and 1 in Connecticut. After I picked Mobil Research and Development in Dallas and obtained agreement that the position would be held for me, my husband limited his job search to Dallas. I thought the sky was the limit.

There were warning signs, but in my youthful ignorance, I did not see them. When after negotiating a slightly better deal, I accepted the position with Mobil in Dallas, the hiring manager blurted out, “And, we are so glad you are a woman.” I took that as positive, whereas I really should have seen it as a warning. The oil companies were finally hiring women, but there were still many barriers. I think I was the third female Ph.D. that Mobil hired and the first, who had children.

Before long, I was hearing things like, “We can’t have a younger woman supervising an older man.”   Instead of being given positions that included supervisory responsibility over people, they created an activity leader position, so that I managed projects instead of people. Not having the opportunity to acquire personnel management experience later became a career limitation.

About five years into my career with Mobil, a male colleague told me that I was of less value to the company than he was, because as a woman, I could not go to Saudi Arabia. I immediately proposed a research project for Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian company that had assumed control for running the giant oil fields in Saudi Arabia from four major oil companies, Chevron, Exxon, Mobil and Texaco which at that time were continuing to provide technical support.   Getting a visa for a woman to travel to Saudi Arabia without her husband is difficult, but about a year of being told I could not go to Saudi Arabia, I did, and I returned three more times.

Over the course of my career, I have traveled to about sixty countries on business. My business travel has included many predominantly Islamic countries, Abu Dhabi, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Dubai, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey. I have had the pleasure of meeting female professionals in many of these countries. On several occasions the local women have taken their personal time to take me around their city to share their culture and experiences with me.


Figure caption: Eve Sprunt in Bahrain while she was serving as the 2006 President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers.   This photo was taken in the capital of Bahrain, while Eve was being given a tour of the city by a female Bahraini petroleum engineer.

Doing what you love

As I learned in ninth grade, I enjoy understanding the processes that shape the natural landscape around me. The variety and beauty of natural landscapes continues to be a thrill. I have been to all seven continents with vacation trips to Antarctica and Greenland and visited over 100 countries.

Business travel has a special charm, because I can engage with local people in ways that are not possible as a tourist. Also, I have had the opportunity to travel to remote locations that few tourists visit. Looking back, there are some things I could have done better, but overall I am pleased that I chose to balance family and work and to be an earth scientist.

Eve_Sprunt_AbsheronFigure Caption: Eve Sprunt on the Absheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea near Baku, Azerbaijan where a natural hydrocarbon seepage is on fire. This site is known as Yanar Dag, which is translated as “burning mountain.” Flames from burning natural gas come from a thin, porous sandstone layer.   Azerbaijan has long been famous for its eternal fires including the Baku Ateshgah, a Zoroastrian fire temple near Baku, which was a pilgrimage site prior to 1883 when hydrocarbon production reduced the seepage of natural gas extinguishing the “eternal fire”.


My professional summary


Now a consultant, Eve worked for Chevron from 2000 through 2013 serving in a wide range of roles most recently as the Advisor, Geological R&D. From 2009 through 2012, she was the Business Development Manager, for Chevron Energy Technology Company. From 2006 through 2008, as University Partnership and Recruitment Manager, she managed Chevron’s worldwide recruiting and university philanthropy. Before that as the Senior Technical Advisor for Chevron Technology Ventures and Manager of the Advanced Energy Focus Area, she managed strategic research in non-hydrocarbon energy sources.   Earlier, she served as Venture Executive in Chevron Technology Ventures for the Venture Equities and Energy and Power Funds. Her first role with Chevron was as Senior Science and Technology Coordinator, Health, Environment, and Safety, managing the corporation’s global climate change policy.

Before joining Chevron, Sprunt worked for 21 years for Mobil Oil Corporation. She worked in positions in upstream new business development for 7 years. The first 15 years of her career, Eve worked in research and development in a wide range of technologies, including formation evaluation, formation damage, and hydraulic fracturing, authoring 23 patents and having a significant impact on the assessment and development of major fields.

In 2013, Eve was selected as the recipient of the highest award given by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). The SWE Achievement Award is “Bestowed for an outstanding contribution over a SIGNIFICANT period of time in a field of engineering.” She was honored for “game-changing contributions to the petroleum industry, to the science and practice of geosciences and petroleum engineering, and to the advancement of women engineers.

A member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) since 1980, Sprunt was the 2006 President of SPE.   In 2010, she was selected as the recipient of the highest honor that SPE presents to an individual, Honorary Membership. She was recognized as a prolific contributor to the dissemination of technology, as an author, speaker and as a tireless SPE leader, including serving as SPE President. Sprunt is a 2000 SPE Distinguished Member and served as a member of the SPE Board of Directors during 1991–94. She also served as an SPE Distinguished Lecturer during 1998–99. Sprunt served as Program Committee Chairperson of the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in 1988.

She holds 23 patents and has authored 28 technical articles, edited two books, and has written over 120 editorials for petroleum industry publications including SPE’s member publication, Journal of Petroleum Technology and Hart’s E&P. She is a founder of the Society of Core Analysts and has served on visiting committees for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Colorado School of Mines. Sprunt holds BS and MS degrees from MIT in earth and planetary sciences and a PhD degree from Stanford University in geophysics.

 Thanks to Jill Tietjen for soliciting this terrific post!


Posted in Engineering | 1 Comment

Diana Wall


Nematodes make me smile. That is what I’m currently studying. They are really important. Nematodes are part of the food web beneath our feet – in the soil. We have to sustain our soils.

I study nematodes (roundworms) and other invertebrates that form a critically important part of ecosystems: life in the soil. My work over the past decades has shown that soil invertebrates are key actors globally in the major ecosystem process of decomposition.

I love Antarctica – that icy continent at the bottom of the earth. I’ve now had the distinct pleasure of working in the Antarctic Dry Valleys for 25 seasons – in the summers – researching my favorite – nematodes. I am delighted that the Wall Valley in Antarctica and a soil microarthropod species are named after me.

Antarctica is such an amazing place – in the summer there are 24 hours of daylight although it is still very cold. In the field I am housed in what are called Shackleton tents – I can stand it in those tents. I go to my tent and read and hear the crack of glaciers nearby. It is truly awe-inspiring.

I got my B.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Kentucky. Before joining the faculty at Colorado State University (CSU), I was a research scientist and professor at the University of California, Riverside. I have many roles at CSU including Director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES). At SoGES, I established a Sustainability Leadership Fellow Program to train graduate students and post-doctoral researchers to communicate their research.

I have received a number of awards of which I am very proud. These include the President’s Medal for Excellence in Antarctic Research, the 2012 Mines Medal from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Fellow of the Ecological Society of America, and in 2014, I was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

I think we need a lot more women in scientific research. Women bring a lot to the table. Science and science research isn’t scary. In fact, it is a lot of fun. I couldn’t have a better job!

Thanks to Jill Tietjen for soliciting this terrific post!

Posted in Biology | Leave a comment

Temple Grandin

RW Photo Temple with Cow

Thank you to GGSTEM contributor Jill Tietjen, who contacted Temple Grandin about writing for GGSTEM.  Photo credit:  Rosalie Winard

Science Needs Different Kinds of Minds
by Temple Grandin

Today I am a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. When I was in high school, I was constantly teased and bullied.  The only refuge I had away from teasing was electronics lab, model rockets, and horseback riding. My science teacher was instrumental in motivating me to study so I could achieve my goal of becoming a scientist.  In his lab, he had lots of interesting projects.  One of my favorites was gluing bits of mirror to a rubber membrane stretched over a large audio speaker.  A lamp was used to reflect light from the mirrors into the ceiling.  When the music played, spots of light jiggled in time with the music.

I had lots of trouble with math and with lots of tutoring, I got B’s in finite math and a C in statistics.  Algebra was impossible.  I am concerned that all the emphasis on STEM will keep people like me out of science. Science needs people like me who have advanced visualization skills to work with the mathematicians.  I discuss this in my 2010 TED talk.  Visual thinkers who may be poor at math are needed.  I will give you an example. When the Fukashima Nuclear Plants melted down, I was shocked to learn that a visualization error had been made in the design.  The mathematicians and engineers did not see it.  If they had installed watertight doors, they would have protected all the emergency equipment that was located in the basement.  This is a mistake I would never make because I could visualize water filling the basement. Science really does need all kinds of minds.  My book, The Autistic Brain, has further descriptions of different types of thinking. The different kids of minds compliment each other’s skills.

Temple Grandin

RW Temple with five cows

Posted in Animal Science | Leave a comment

Conchita Zuazaga

Thank you to Gabriel H. Ortiz-Pena, who submitted this post to GGSTEM about his grandmother, Conchita Zuazaga. He wrote

My grandmother Conchita Zuazaga got her B.S. and M.S. in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico in 1962 and 1964, respectively. After some years of working as an instructor and a research assistant at the UPR, she got her Ph.D. in Physiology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis in 1979. She’s co-authored 17 papers, 2 reviews, and a chapter in a textbook. Some of the awards and honors she’s received include the Puerto Rico College of Chemists Prize (1962) and the Medal of the Association of Women Graduates, UPR (1962). She’s always been supportive of my plans, both when I was thinking of becoming a professional musician and when I decided I wanted to go into astrophysics. She was a professor at the UPR for 30 years (1980-2010) and is working on writing a book in her retirement.

In the spirit of celebrating women in STEM, I would also like to mention that my mother is the first person in her family to get a college degree. Despite being a first-generation student, she went on to complete her PhD. in Neurotoxicology at the University of Cincinnati. She completed two postdocs, one of them at UC Berkeley, and taught for 15 years at the UPR’s biology department.

Earlier this summer, my dad posted a facebook status saying that he had just installed Ubuntu on her computer.  Some of his friends and I laughed a bit at how much of a chore it was going to be to teach her how to operate it, but his response put things into perspective (and motivated me to finish writing the story for you).

He said: “Keep in mind that she has a PhD. in biophysics and programmed Fortran on a PDP-11. I’m rooting for her.”
Sometimes it’s easy to see my grandma having trouble with the DVD or her cellphone and forget those things. Just because she’s not as technologically savvy as us youngsters doesn’t mean she’s not scientifically and technically proficient. I hope this post will serve as a reminder to never underestimate any grandmothers, especially my own.

The picture is of her and my grandfather at what I think was my dad’s third or fourth birthday party. Thanks for starting this wonderful project!

Posted in Physiology | 2 Comments

Jill S Tietjen

Jill Tietjen is a regular contributor to GGSTEM.  Now we get to read about her!

Jill Tiejen_MerrickBOD6-26-14

Photo – the Board of Directors of Merrick & Company, June 2014
Guess which one I am :) ?

Electricity. Something that almost all of us take for granted. My life’s work has been to ensure that the supply of electricity is adequate and reliable. What would our lives be like without it? No computers. No cell phones. No air conditioning. No coffee maker. No refrigerator. The list is almost endless. We would be less comfortable, less safe, less productive.

Did I know that I wanted to work in the electric utility industry when I was growing up? NO. I didn’t even know when I went to college that I was going to be an engineer. No one encouraged me to pursue engineering, not even my Ph.D. engineer father. But, at the University of Virginia (where I was in the third undergraduate class in which women were admitted – under court order), I eventually found my way to the engineering school and graduated with a B.S. in applied mathematics and a minor in electrical engineering.

For my first job, I ended up as a planner for Duke Power Company, an electric utility in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a great fit for me and it allowed me to get my M.B.A at night, while working full time. After moving to Colorado in 1981, I became registered as a professional engineer and have worked as a consultant to the electric utility industry for over 30 years. I serve as an expert witness and testify before regulatory bodies on behalf of my utility clients generally on the topic of the selection and prudence of generating resource selection. Those generation resources have included power plants fueled by coal, natural gas, water, the sun, and the wind. I have also examined power plants fueled by a wide variety of other technologies from nuclear to geothermal.

Since I was not encouraged to become an engineer, I have spent most of my professional career actively encouraging others, particularly girls and women, to pursue STEM careers through the Society of Women Engineers. I served as National President in 1991-1992 and believe not only that engineers make the world work, but that women make excellent STEM practitioners. And there should be more women in all STEM fields.

One of the other things that I strongly believe is that women should be recognized for their accomplishments. To that end, I have twice been at the White House where my nominee has received the National Medal of Technology from the President of the United States (Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, 1991, President George H.W. Bush and Yvonne Brill, 2011, President Barack Obama). I have nominated over 20 women, many of them STEM women, to the National Women’s Hall of Fame (www.greatwomen.org) and today I serve as President of the Board of Directors of the Hall. I blog for the Huffington Post because of that position. I have been inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (www.cogreatwomen.org). I have nominated women for a wide range of other awards as well. And, I have an award-winning and bestselling book for which I speak all over the country – Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America.

Today, I sit as an independent (or outside) director on two corporate boards – Georgia Transmission Corporation of Tucker, Georgia and Merrick & Company of Greenwood Village, Colorado (see photo). Did you know that companies that have women on their boards tend to perform better – produce higher levels of profit – than companies that don’t? More women are needed on corporate boards as well.

My life is not all work. I play tennis (see photo), do needlework, participate in community organizations (I am a lifetime Girl Scout!), and enjoy traveling. My life has been and continues to be rewarding because of my education and career and life choices along the way. I believe you just can’t go wrong by selecting a STEM career.

Jill Tietjen_hhalltennis1

Jill on the tennis court with family and friends, May 2014.  I am on the far left.


Posted in Engineering | 1 Comment

Judy Pipher


Pipher, National Women’s Hall of Fame Induction, 2007.

This GGSTEM post is from Judy Pipher, University of Rochester, Prof. Emerita, Dept. Of Physics and Astronomy.  She says:

Jill Tietjen, professional engineer, author and speaker, as well as President of the Board of Directors of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, suggested that I submit a bio to “Grandma got STEM”. I qualify as a grandma (8 living grandchildren ages 15-29), 2 great-grandchildren (2 and 6), and the six year old has a sibling arriving this December. I am a very proud grandma and also gg (to the 2 and 6 year olds). When I participated in a 2013 National Women’s History Month panel in Seneca Falls NY where I live, there was a photo and article in our local paper of me representing current day scientists, and Melinda Grube playing Elizabeth Cady Stanton, discussing similarities and differences in women scientists then and now. My oldest grand-daughter photographed the page, placed it on facebook with the note “That’s my Gma on the front page!” Photo below.

when Pipher met Stanton

I am STEM qualified: PhD in Astronomy, Cornell University, 1971. Since that time, I have been at the University of Rochester. I retired as full time faculty member in 2002, but continue to conduct research there. My focus since graduate days, has been infrared astronomy. In those days, we hand-built single pixel infrared sensors for rocket astronomy experiments. My thesis research concentrated on dust emission from the galactic plane, and from massive star formation regions. Once I arrived at the University of Rochester, I began an infrared group. Although I had not yet obtained funding, my Cornell advisor gifted me with a dewar (which holds liquid nitrogen and liquid helium to cool the sensors) and I began the process of working on new sensors. Infrared sensors need to be extremely cold in order to be sensitive. With time, I gained funding, faculty colleagues at the University, students, and new projects.

Pipher,  grad. student Jerry Krassner and Prof. Graeme Duthie installing a lamellar grating interferometer on the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO), 1977.

My first projects involved development of an infrared instrument to fly on the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (see photo above) and the first of many infrared array camera developments. In 1984 my fellow infrared astronomer faculty member (the first of several that the department hired) and I became members of the Infrared Array Camera team for what was renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope. It was 20 years before it was launched, and it is still obtaining observations today with the sensor arrays we developed with Raytheon. I concentrated on star forming region research, and we are still publishing papers on this topic with Spitzer data. In the meantime, my group has been developing new infrared sensor arrays for space application. One current interest is NEOCam – it was granted technology funding in 2011 to develop special arrays that can be passively cooled in space by absorbing the cold of space efficiently, while radiating away heat generated by the instruments. Our hope is that NEOCam will be detecting Near Earth Objects – asteroids and comets which are close to the Earth, and may impact it – in 2018. Another current interest is the development of THz arrays for commercial application. For this body of work, I received the Susan B Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007. Other commendations are more field-specific. The photo at the top is the official photo for the 2007 Induction.

Meanwhile I am proud to serve on committees and Boards in my community – the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry, and the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network. And as a member of the NY Space Grant Consortium, I make every effort to encourage young women to enter STEM fields. It is unfortunately not unusual to be the only woman in the room when sensor results are being reported. Astronomy itself, does somewhat better – up to 15% US astronomers are women. But this number pales in comparison with the statistics of our European and Asian colleagues. “Women hold up half the sky” – part of a proclamation by Chairman Mao! has been coopted in a 2009 book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and from which a Half the Sky movement has been formulated. In the US it is time for 50% of young women to pursue STEM educations so that in 50 years, “Grandma got STEM” will be unnecessary.

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