Election audit webinar; GW engineering rankings
Election audit webinar; GW engineering rankings
WiE Newsletter - February 2021 - ISSUE 16
Dr. Rachelle Heller

Front and Center 

News from the Director

I know we marked the new year in last month’s newsletter, but I forgot to mention, I guess 2020 was not all that terrible!
2020 was a great year for recognizing the achievements of women in science and engineering, with a few of the year’s long-overdue nods to women who made science history.
One of these was a historic action by the National Science Foundation to name the first U.S. observatory after a woman - astronomer Vera Rubin. Dr. Rubin's career spanned several areas in observational astronomy, but she is most recognized for uncovering the discrepancy between the observed and predicted motions of matter in galaxies, interpeted as evidence for "dark matter," which exerts gravitational force but does not emit light as ordinary matter does. The observatory consists of an integrated system featuring a telescope previously named the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). 
I had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Rubin at an event held at GW's Mount Vernon Campus some years ago. The author of "Dark Matter” told the audience that when she took her position at the DC Naval Observatory – in the 1950s, as I recall – the chief of station indicated that they would have staff meetings at 5 pm. She responded, "I have to leave every day at 3 to gather my child at school, so I guess you will have to meet without me." I recall her saying she held her breath, thinking her job was over – the chief merely said “OK, we will meet earlier."
A few updates as we launched the new term:

While the WiE Mentoring Program is working well, a recent focus group of mentors shared both praise and suggestions. They appreciated the WiE mentor training materials (which include a Toolkit, Mentoring 101 Presentation and Training Webinar), the matching of mentors and mentees by academic discipline, and the diversity of the program. They emphasized the importance of sharing goals, maintaining consistent communications, and following up.

They suggested giving mentors ways to direct mentees to advice, contacts and resources on academic programs and requirements through the career office. Mentors will also be able to use the network of WiE mentors to help students seeking internships and jobs by sharing their resumes with the group.

A recent article in the GW Hatchet focused on our program. I urge you to read it and more than that, become involved. A reminder, too, that mentoring is a marathon, not a sprint, and we are ready to run!
Sign up - WiE Mentor Match
Faculty-led virtual brown-bag lunches will be launched this month. I am personally and professionally excited that we are hosting Professor Poorvi Vora as our inaugural speaker. Dr. Vora is one of the people I relied on to explain the intricacies of election audits, and she has agreed to present her work, On Securing Elections, at this brown bag lunch. Be prepared for a summary of security challenges to US elections, after which she will share her path to her most recent work: The Minerva Audit, the statistical election tabulation audits.
The webinar will be held on Wednesday, February 10 at 12:00 pm - please RSVP below.

Dr. Vora is Professor of Computer Science at GW. She serves on the Coordinating Committee of the Election Verification Network and on the Board of Directors of Verified Voting, both prominent non-partisan organizations focused on election integrity. She currently works on risk-limiting audits for elections. Previously, she has worked on end-to-end independently verifiable (E2E) voting systems which enable voters and observers to audit election outcomes without requiring them to rely on the trustworthiness of election technology or unobserved election processes.
Register - On Securing Elections
That's not all we have planned for February. As we continue to celebrate diversity and inclusion for all at GW, WiE will host a second student led webinar, A Walk in My Shoes. Mark your calendars for February 25 at noon, as undergraduate students from a variety of backgrounds and engineering disciplines share their view of engineering, what has been a great success for them, what challenges they have faced, how they overcame them, and what SEAS could do to help address these challenges. Stay tuned for details!
Shelly Heller
WiE Center Director

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A WiE Center Board Member You Should Know

SEAS Professor Shahrokh Ahmadi was at the forefront of a team that assembled a "personal lab" kit for students to enable them to receive high-quality instruction and experiences during the pandemic. The kit included portable computing devices, resistors and other components, secured on eBay and tested by faculty for the start of the fall semester last August. Read more details on GWTODAY at this link.

GW Ranks High in List of Best Online Programs

U.S. News & World Report published a new list ranking The George Washington University's B.S. in health sciences the 19th best online bachelor's program out of 337. GW was also ranked the 14th best online master's in engineering and tied for 17th best online master's in engineering management. 
SEAS Dean John Lach said "This is an increase of 41 spots in 4 years! It is particularly noteworthy that we leapfrogged University of Maryland and Virginia Tech this year and are right behind Johns Hopkins and Texas A&M. Thanks to Prof. Shahram Sarkani and the entire Online Programs team for their hard work and their success in offering such excellent programs!"
Read the full GWTODAY article here.

GW SEAS Presents

Let's Talk: Gender & Sexuality
Wednesday, February 10 - 5:30 pm - 7 pm EST
SEAS faculty and staff, as well as students, are invitd to join a conversation with Dr. Stephen Forssell, director of GW's LGBT Health Policy and Practice program. Dr. Forssell will discuss the history of LGBT Health Policy, current issues, and what the recent changes to our government mean for policy going forward.
Register at this link.

Women in Tech Summit (WITS)

Spring and Fall Virtual Summits provide hands-on tech workshops, talks and networking opportunities

You may be interested in attending the Women in Tech Summit (WITS), being held virtually in 2021. Open to female faculty, staff members and students, the summits provide attendees with a  combination of hands-on tech workshops; talks about trends in technology; information and discussions about careers in tech; and networking opportunities with other women in various aspects and careers in technology. 
More details are available at womenintechsummit.com.
image of newspaper

What We Are Reading

I am reading a Journal Cell commentary on funding Black scientists, found here. A nationwide network of BME women activists put together a quantitative analysis showing that in NIH major funding, black PIs have two times lower success rate compared to white PIs. They identify a number needed to correct this - $32 million. The NIH director has already reached out and expressed intent to find this money to address the issue.
As SEAS focuses on building a diverse and inclusive community, I am reading Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum. I suspect some of you read the earlier version, but this updated version speaks to our struggles today as we try to enable communication across racial and ethnic divides.
One of my favorite pastimes is to go to the theater and that’s been a challenge during COVID. But through virtual theater, I have thoroughly enjoyed "The Half Life of Marie Curie," as written by Lauren Gunderson and produced by Theater Squared. This is a two-person show about the friendship between Marie Curie and Hertha Ayrton. I had read a lot about Marie Curie, but I must admit, I had never thought of her as having friends and never wondered what such a friendship might be like. And, like all of us, in times of trouble, Marie Curie, who by 1912 was the object of ruthless gossip over an alleged affair with a married Frenchman, all but erasing her achievements from public memory, relied on a friend to weather the storm. The play is available on vimeo and I urge you to check it out. (And watch for productions of Ms. Gunderson’s new play The Catastrophist produced by the Marin Theater.

Along these lines, it might be too late to catch The Women Who Smashed Codes on PBS, but there are quite a few links to related material about Elizabeth Friedman.
I am listening to podcasts, including the Science of Effective Mentoring in STEMM. It might sound like a busman’s (oops, busperson’s) holiday, but it is quite engaging. So far I have heard an interview with Dr. Glida Barabino, President of Olin College, and Dr. Michael Summers, with a discussion of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC.
Happy reading!

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