x Science and Technology | GeekGirlCon - Part 2

For Science! An Interview with Regina Barber DeGraaff on Bellingham’s March

The March in Progress. Image: Regina Barber DeGraaff

The March for Science took place on Earth Day in late April this year. While the main March took place in Washington D.C., there were over 600 satellite marches that took place to support the importance of science is to our health, economies, food security, and safety. One such event took place in Bellingham, WA. I spoke to one of the organizers,  Regina Barber DeGraaff, about her involvement in the March for Science in Bellingham, and the importance of science policy and communication.

Hi Regina! Tell me about yourself.

I teach Physics and Astronomy at Western Washington University (WWU).  I am also the STEM Inclusion and Outreach Specialist which is a position I created a couple of years ago.  The College of Science and Engineering Dean at the time was very supportive of equity and inclusion so she agreed to create my half time position.

I grew up in Lynden, WA which is just south of the Canadian border in the top right tip of Washington State.  I spent my summers in San Diego, CA and attended WWU as an undergrad. After completing a MS in Physics at San Diego State University, I finished my PhD in Physics at Washington State University in 2011 with a focus on Globular Clusters using Hubble Space Telescope images.  I have taught at a high school & two community colleges.  Being a women of color in STEM, my experience as a community college student in running start and teaching at various institutions is the source of my unique perspective when it comes to inclusion in STEM.

I am also very passionate about science communication.  I host and produce Spark Science which is on its 3rd Season.  The goal of the show is to make science accessible by confronting the scientist stereotype.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Women Love Pi: Training Young Women in Computer Technology Through Raspberry Pi

By Samantha Lee Donaldson, a guest writer for GeekGirlCon

In 1992, only 21% of individuals coming from families with annual incomes of $25,000 or less qualified for admission to a four-year university, and only . 8% were minority graduates. Unfortunately, the numbers have not changed nearly enough in the last decade. However, with a significant increase in female college enrollment since the 1970s and the rise of women in technology, the ability to teach skills to students from low-income neighborhoods then can be utilized to help them succeed in life on a much larger scale is extremely enticing.

Therefore, when Eben Upton and a group of his colleagues at the University of Cambridge decided to create a cheap and efficient computer that could be used to show children the power of code and computer technology, the game was changed forever. Thus, the Raspberry Pi was born.

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

Programming and Code For Low-Income Schools: It’s A Piece of Pi!

By Samantha Lee Donaldson, a guest writer for GeekGirlCon

For many students across the globe coming from low-income households, trade school courses are their life, from the first day of kindergarten to their last day of high school. The skills gap remains a global problem even now. Instead, if these students were given the ability to learn more than the basics which allow them to only receive low-wage professions, they could reverse this trend and help create an economy that reflects a growing parity in no time.

Just as doctors must take the Hippocratic oath, educators are asked to take the educator’s oath. This oath says, “I promise to seek and support policies that promote quality in teaching and learning and to provide all engaged in education the opportunity to achieve excellence.” Despite this, children who come from low-income households are often neglected and the low-income schools they attend are seldom given the amenities necessary to train these children to change the world and their lives, even though studies suggest that the key to power in the workplace is education, especially for women. Therefore, when these children are provided with sub-par education, they are ultimately set up for failure from the start and not given the tools necessary to achieve their goals in life.

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

Amazing Tales from Girls Make Games Camp!

Written by guest contributor Sharon Feliciano

“I think Kitty’s summer is kicking everyone else’s summers butt!” this statement on my Facebook page accompanied a picture of my nine year old daughter proudly standing by the door to a conference room at PopCap Games’ corporate offices.  Kitty was getting ready to start her second week of Girls Make Games, a game design camp. Our friends and family followed along enthusiastically on social media as I posted daily updates of her camp adventures.

Girls Make Games is a three week camp that was held in July at 24 locations around the world. During the camp the participants learned about different career options in the gaming industry, met people working in the field, and toured game studios. In the three weeks they attended camp they also wrote, designed and developed a playable game.

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

Going Green by Necessity

Written by GeekGirlCon Copywriter Sarah “SG-1” Grant

I don’t drive a lot anymore, which I’m finding very strange; I’ve been driving since I was 16, and had constant use of a car from the time I was 17 (with some exception during my first couple of years living on campus in college). About a year ago, my roommate/best friend got a much better job than the one I had, and it required the use of a car. So I put him on my insurance, and I got a bus pass through work. Since then, I drive the car perhaps once or twice per week, either to church in Kirkland or to the grocery store down the street (if I need more than I can comfortably carry up ten blocks of a very big hill).

I’ve discovered that I really enjoy riding the bus to work. All I have to do is show up at my bus stops on time, get on the correct bus, and get to work, get home, or get wherever else I’m going. All that riding time means I don’t have to pay attention to awful Seattle traffic, and I get to do the thing I love more than anything else: READ. If I don’t feel like reading, I just listen music on my phone. It takes the length of about a 50-60 minute album for me to get to work. It’s lovely sort of meditative time that I get to take for myself, and I don’t answer the phone in that time. I’ve grown to value it quite a bit.

I got my first car when I was in high school, one that I shared with my older brother, and used to run errands and ferry my younger sister around our hometown. It was a 1981 Chevrolet Chevette–no, not a Corvette, a Chevette, like this one, only a darker blue:

My very first car. Image source.

My very first car. Image source.

The front passenger seat had a disconcerting habit of flipping back, thereby introducing the front seat passenger abruptly to the back seat. We couldn’t do an under-body flush at the car wash, because there was a hole in the floor beneath the driver’s seat. Top speed uphill with anyone other than the driver in the car? 43 miles per hour. It shook like it was losing bolts anytime we approached 55 miles per hour. The radio only received the signal from the Milwaukee oldies station–and then only the music, not the lyrics. I loved that car.

My next car was a 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais, purchased from its original owner in 1996 (again, a darker blue than this one):

My second car. Image source.

My second car. Image source.

It was a good little car, driving me back and forth from Wisconsin to Tennessee multiple times. It was replaced by a 1999 Saturn S series in Silver Plum (the dealer was VERY specific about the color, even though I called it “purple”)–the first car I ever bought at a dealership:

My "silver plum" Saturn. Image source.

My “silver plum” Saturn. Image source.

I loved that little car so much: it had good gas mileage, it was comfortable, it had a very respectable trunk space, and it saw me safely through a five-car pileup in Nashville. It was fixed, and ran like a top for another two and a half years before I sold it. I bought my first brand new car, my current 2005 Honda Civic, from a dealer in Milwaukee before I moved to Seattle:

My current, trusty Honda Civic. Image source.

My current, trusty Honda Civic. Image source.

It’s a fantastic car; it drives well, it parks easily (not too big, not too small), and it has the two things I told my dad I wanted at the time: a CD player and air conditioning. It also survived this little incident (with me driving) back in May:


It was a rough Monday morning…

This is the car my roommate drives, and is the one I am now selling to him. And yes, we fixed the windshield.

I know that a lot of people don’t have cars, or have never had cars; I’m very aware of the privileges I’ve had in my life. I also know I’m lucky I live in an area with pretty good bus service, and that my company provides my bus pass every month. So while I went green out of necessity, it’s been a pretty positive change for me. I’m healthier from walking, I spend more time outside–which I’ve been told is good for people with depression. I also feel like I’m contributing to the success of our public transportation system, relieving a tiny bit of the nasty traffic in Seattle, and leaving my own mark on the world-wide effort to reduce climate change. Every little bit helps!

Would you switch to bus riding, if you could or had to? Let me know in the comments; I’ve love to hear your perspective!

“Rock On!”

Notable Scientists Series: Historical Chemists

Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services

Double X Science runs a series called Notable Women in Science. As the chemistry editor at Double X Science, I write the series. GeekGirlCon is excited to post the series here on our blog, with minor modifications. The first in the series was on Historical Chemists.

Each woman presented could have multiple pages written on her; however, I have limited each to a paragraph. I hope you look up more on these women.

The first historical woman in chemistry is perhaps Miriam the Alchemist, who lived in the 1st or 2nd century C.E. Her writings survived centuries. She has several aliases: Mary, Maria, and Miriam the Prophetess or Jewess. Even though she was an alchemist, which was mostly a mystical field during her time, her inventions and contributions yielded long-lived practical laboratory equipment. Miriam the Alchemist contributed major inventions and improvements to existing technology, as well as the water bath. The water bath is still in use today for many chemical experiments and was dubbed bain-marie in the 14th century.

Agnes Fay Morgan (1884-1968) was a pioneer in vitamin research [PDF]. She earned her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D.  from the University of Chicago. She also established Iota Sigma Pi, an honor society for women chemists. Morgan received the Garvan Medal and the Borden Award and was the only one of her family to attend college. Her efforts brought both nutrition and home economics to scientific disciplines. Besides her teaching position and doing research in academia, she also was an accomplished administrator and worked with the government on many occasions. She had many firsts in her research and an enormous number of publications.

Colloid Chemist Marjorie Jean Young Vold (1913-1991) was a prolific and distinguished scientist. She earned her B.S. and Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley. Vold balanced academic and industrial chemist careers spanning over five decades. At the age of 45, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but continued her dual chemistry careers despite being confined to a wheelchair. She was the LA Times Woman of the Year and received the Garvan Medal. One month before her death, Vold submitted her final paper, which was published posthumously.

Lucy Weston Pickett (1904-1997) chose a career in chemistry over marriage. She earned her B.A. and M.A. from Mt. Holyoke College and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and advanced through her academic career to become department chair. She received the Garvan Medal and two honorary D.Sc. degrees. She was so influential in her career that a fund was established in her name upon her retirement, which she requested be used to bring female speakers to the department.

Mary Lura Sherrill (1888-1968) was known for synthesis of antimalarial drugs. She earned her B.A. and M.A. from Randolph-Macon College and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Her academic career included becoming the chair of her department. She also received the Garvan Medal.

Ellen Swallow Richards

Ellen Swallow Richards

Chemist, Ecologist, and Home Economist Ellen Swallow Richards (1842-1911) was one of Vassar College’s first graduates, with an A.B. She earned her B.S. from MIT as its first woman graduate and her M.A. from Vassar College the same year. She had many firsts, including improving the standard of living by applying chemistry to sanitation, opening up science for women, and developing the home economics movement. Richards was also the first woman member of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers and first woman teacher at the MIT department of sanitary chemistry. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Smith College.

Grace Medes (1886-1967) was a pioneer in metabolism research.  She earned her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Kansas and her Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr. Her academic career progressed until she became a department head and chairman. She earned the Garvan Medal and several Distinguished Service Citations. Dr. Medes was at the forefront of cancer research and named a rare disease, tyrosinosis [PDF].

Marguerite Perey (1909-1975) was the first woman to enter the French Academy of Science in 300 years. She earned her Diplôme d’État de chimiste from École d’enseignement technique féminine and her doctorate from Sorbonne. She worked with Marie Curie and discovered the element francium. Perey received the Lavoisier Prize from the Academie des Sciences and the Silver Medal from the Societe Chimique de France.

Mary Engle Pennington

Mary Engle Pennington

Bacteriologist and Chemist Mary Engle Pennington (1872-1952) was a food preservation pioneer. Despite completing the requirements for a B.S. degree at the University of Pennsylvania, she was granted only a Certificate of Proficiency. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Pennington worked with the government although she hid her gender to receive her credentials. Called “ice woman” due to her advances in food preservation and refrigeration, she was known for a warm personality. Pennington was awarded numerous fellowships and was a member of many other professional organizations and honoraries, and received the Notable Service Medal and the Garvan Medal.

Pauline Beery Mack (1891-1974) was an instructor and publisher and loved chemistry. She earned her B.A. from Missouri State University, M.A. from Columbia University, Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State College, and a D.Sc. from Moravian College for Women, Western College for Women. She began the publication the Chemistry Leaflet which eventually became published by the American Chemical Society. She received the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania Medal, the Garvan Medal, and the Astronauts Silver Snoopy Award. Dr. Mack also maintained a busy life outside of science, including basketball and music. She taught more than 12,000 undergraduates over her 30 years at Penn State. She was adept at securing funding for her research, no small feat for a woman in the 1930s. Mack continued into an administrative career and worked full time until she was 79.


Awards Mentioned:

The Garvan Medal is an award from the American Chemical Society to recognize distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists.

The Borden Award is given in recognition of distinctive research by investigators in the United States and Canada which has emphasized the nutritive significance of milk or any of its components.

LA Times Woman of the Year began as annual awards ceremony to honor women for individual achievement and was awarded from 1950 to 1976.

Lavoisier Prize (Lavoisier Medal) is awarded by the SCF to an individual or institution to distinguish the work or activities involving the chemistry honor.

Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania are those whose achievements on a national and statewide scale have been so outstanding that they have brought honor and respect to the commonwealth.

Astronauts Silver Snoopy Award candidates will have made contributions toward enhancing the probability of mission success, or made improvements in design, administrative/technical/production techniques, business systems, flight and/or systems safety or identification and correction or preventive action for errors.

Much of the information for this post came from the book Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer.

Adrienne M Roehrich, Double X Science Chemistry Editor

Eric Mack
“Rock On!”

Join The Discussion #GeekGirlCon

Skip to content
x  Powerful Protection for WordPress, from Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security