AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of October 7XS, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. A Question About Professional Behavior: Responses

2. Developing a Diverse and Successful Undergraduate Program

3. Nominations for the CSWP Woman Physicist of the Month 

4. New demographic study from U.K.

5. Site Visit Program Offers Insights and Advice for Women & Minorities 

6. Aspen Center for Physics Winter Meetings and Summer Program 

7. 2012 Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics 

8. Job Opportunities

9. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

11. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

1. A Question About Professional Behavior: Responses
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]

Last week we asked if it was ever appropriate for a senior professor to
ask an undergraduate student out for coffee. We got several excellent
responses, which appear below. 

Here is my take on this situation. Suppose your (remember, you are a
senior professor) motives are completely pure. You want to discuss the
student's future in physics or astronomy or you want to recruit the
student to work in your research lab. These are professional discussions
which should take place in a professional environment: your office. In
addition, you may think that you are acting in a purely professional
manner, but the student may not (see below). 

The only other possibility is that your motives are not pure and that
asking a student out for coffee is simply a first step toward a more
social and even sexual relationship. STOP! Just don't go
there. This is completely inappropriate behavior. 

So let's take it to the next level: suppose the undergraduate
student is no longer in your class. If you are still in a position of
power over this student, e.g., he/she works in your lab or you might be
asked to write a recommendation letter for him/her, then your
relationship must remain completely professional. Yale University has
implemented a policy forbidding professors from having sexual/amorous
relationships with ANY undergraduate student (see the AASWOMEN
newsletter from Oct 2010). We hope other colleges and universities will
soon follow suit. 

From: Lee Anne Willson [lwillson_at_iastate.edu]

You need to avoid any situation that could be construed as a date. It's
not the coffee, it's the situation that matters. 

Example 1: Class just ended, and the student is still asking
questions. Someone else needs the room. You can say "let's go up to my
office" or you can say "let's go to the department coffee room and talk
about this". In either case the situation is not date-like, is public,
and is appropriate. 

Example 2: Same situation, but you say "Let's hop in my car and go to
Starbucks downtown". Not a good idea: This gets into ambiguous

Bottom line: Dating this person is not possible now. It might be
possible some day, when the student is no longer a student of yours or
in a direct line of power to you. A good rule of thumb is to wait two
years before contacting a former student if you are looking for a
relationship. So, for now, you need to avoid any situation that could be
construed as opening the door to a relationship. 

A point that is sometimes missed is that you not only have to avoid
forcing attention on someone that doesn't want it, you also must avoid
taking advantage of what may be natural hero-worship coming from your
position as an established, successful professional in the field your
student is ambitious to join. 

From: Nancy Morrison [NMorris_at_UTNet.UToledo.Edu]

No, in fact, I don't think it would ever have crossed my mind,
regardless of the student's age. 

If I invited students (usually, grad students) out for drinks or a meal,
it was in connection with giving them the opportunity to network with a
visitor, either a colloquium speaker or a prospective grad
student. Therefore, always in a group. 

From: Meg Thacher [mthacher_at_smith.edu]

Regarding the post in last week's AASWomen newsletter regarding
professional behavior: my immediate reaction was an unequivocal 'nope'. 

In the situation described, there is always the possibility that being
invited out for coffee will be interpreted (fairly or unfairly) as being
asked out on a date. Even if it's not a date, going out for coffee would
certainly be seen by the student and the rest of the class as implied
friendship and favoritism. Unless you're willing to take the entire
class out for coffee, I'd advise waiting until the end of the
semester. They're usually only 15 weeks long, after all. As long as this
student is enrolled in your class, you are in a position of power. 

I went to grad school at a university that didn't have a written policy
forbidding student/faculty liaisons. The university's ombudsman's
advice: "I encourage you to explore the dynamics of sex and power on
your own time." i.e., not while the student is dependent on you for a
grade. It's just not professional behavior. I'm sure there are many
legal, ethical, and common-sense arguments I could make, but the fact
that you ask the question probably means that you already know the

2.  Developing a Diverse and Successful Undergraduate Program
From: Caroline Simpson [simpsonc_at_fiu.edu]

There is an article about our physics department in this month's issue of the
CSWP/COM Gazette on creating a successful undergraduate
program. Although we are a minority-serving institution, many of the
changes we implemented are applicable anywhere, as they are geared to
nuture students in general. I would urge anyone who would like more
information to contact me. 


A large part of our reform effort has come about through our involvement
with PhysTEC, and the incorporation of undergraduate Learning Assistants
in our courses. These programs have helped us develop our inclusive
culture and have proven to be a way to increase the involvment of
underrepresented minorities in the sciences. WIPHYS for this week
includes announcements about these two programs:

* PhysTEC Request for Proposals and Webinar

The 2011 solicitation for new PhyTEC sites is now available on
www.phystec.org. The PhysTEC project, a joint effort of APS and AAPT,
has a mission of improving the education of future physics teachers. We
will fund approximately three comprehensive sites ($100k/year for 3
years) and three targeted sites ($25k/year for 3 years). Comprehensive
sites will be expected to implement the full PhysTEC program and
graduate a relatively large number of students qualified to teach
physics. Targeted sites will also be expected to establish effective
physics teacher education programs, but on a smaller scale. An initial
proposal is due October 26 at 5 p.m. local time. 

A webinar on October 5 at 3 p.m. EDT will discuss the solicitation and
provide an opportunity for Q&A. If you cannot attend the webinar, a
recording will be available for viewing at a later time (you should
still register to get access). To register for the webinar, go to

* Learning Assistant Workshop: Register by October 24, 2011

The PhysTEC project will co-sponsor its third workshop focusing on the
University of Colorado's Learning Assistant program November 2 & 3, 2011
in Boulder. The Learning Assistant program is a highly supported peer
teaching experience that has been shown to improve students' learning
and attitudes toward science in undergraduate lecture classes and
recruit talented science and math students into teaching
careers. Workshop registration is free for representatives of PhysTEC
Member Institutions and Affiliates (If your institution is not a member,
learn how to join at
Please consider sending two representatives to
facilitate local planning during the workshop. Space is limited, so
register soon at 

3. Nominations for the CSWP Woman Physicist of the Month 
From: WIPHYS, Oct. 5, 2011

Beginning January 2012, the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics
(CSWP) will start featuring the CSWP Woman Physicist of the Month. The
award is intended to recognize female physicists that have positively
impacted other individual's lives and careers and/or are worthy of
recognition. The nominee does not need to be an APS member. Each CSWP
Woman Physicist of the Month will be featured on the Women in Physics
website, announced in the Gazette, and recognized at a reception at an
APS national meeting. 


4. New demographic study from U.K.
From: Rick Fienberg [rick.fienberg_at_aas.org]

Press release from the RAS, dated 6 Oct. 2011, entitled "Astronomy
and Geophysics Bring Women into Science": 

First paragraph:

Women are better represented in astronomy and solid-Earth geophysics
research than in other areas of physics, according to a major study by
the Royal Astronomical Society, with a summary published in the October
edition of the journal Astronomy and Geophysics. The RAS Demographic
Survey of Astronomy and Geophysics collected data on more than 2,000
research employees and students in astronomy and solid-Earth geophysics
in the U.K. to establish the composition of this community and better
understand its work. Less encouragingly, the survey results show how
these research areas are poor at recruiting people from black and
minority ethnic (BME) groups and that addressing this deficit remains a
significant challenge. 

Full report:
"The Demographics and Research Interests of the UK Astronomy and
Geophysics Communities"

5. Site Visit Program Offers Insights and Advice for Women & Minorities 
From: WIPHYS, Sept. 30, 2011

The APS Climate for Women in Physics Site Visit Program helps physics
departments and research facilities warm the "chilly climate"
that women in physics often experience. Visits can also be focused on
minority physicists. Conducted at the request of the department chair or
lab director, site visits aim to identify problems commonly experienced
by women and minority physicists, intervene to solve many of these
problems, and help improve the climate in the facility. 


6. Aspen Center for Physics Winter Meetings and Summer Program
From: WIPHYS, Oct. 5, 2011

The Aspen Center for Physics will hold seven winter conferences and a
summer program for 2012. The deadlines for application are October 15,
2011 (for the first three winter meetings), October 30, 2011 (for the
fourth and fifth winter meeting), November 30, 2011 (for the sixth
winter meeting) and December 1, 2011 (for the seventh winter
meeting). The summer program runs May 20-September 9, 2012, with an
application deadline of January 31, 2012.


7. 2012 Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics 
From: WIPHYS, Sept. 30, 2011

Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWIP) are three-day
regional conferences for undergraduate physics majors. The 2012
conferences will run Friday evening, January 13 through Sunday
afternoon, January 15, 2012. For 2012, there will be six regional
conferences; students are encouraged to apply to the nearest

* Case Western Reserve, Cleveland, Ohio
* Stanford University, Stanford, California
* Texas A&M in College Station, Texas
* University of Tennessee - Knoxville, Tennessee
* University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
* Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

In most cases, full support will be provided for room and board. Physics
departments are strongly encouraged to provide support for travel;
however, students should apply for travel reimbursement if their
department is unable to support them. The application deadline is
November 15, 2011. 


8. Job Opportunities

  1. Postdoctoral Research Positions, LIGO Laboratory

  2. Postdoctoral Research Associate, National Solar Observatory

  3. Tenure-Track Faculty Position, Astrophysics, Lehigh University

  4. Assistant Professor, Astrophysics, MIT

  5. Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Denison University

  6. Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Physics, Elmhurst College

  7. Assistant Professor in Astrophysics, University of Colorado,

  8. AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships 

9. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN newsletter

To submit an item to the AASWOMEN newsletter, including replies to
topics, send email to aaswomen_at_aas.org 

All material will be posted unless you tell us otherwise, including your
email address. 

Please remember to replace "_at_" in the e-mail address above.

10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter

To subscribe or unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter, please fill in
the required information at: 


If you experience any problems, please email itdept_at_aas.org

11. Access to Past Issues


Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.


AASWList mailing list

End of AASWList Digest, Vol 56, Issue 1